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Armas Baffles Braves for Nationals

May 14, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) _ Tony Armas pitched three-hit ball over seven innings, Alfonso Soriano homered for the second straight game and the Washington Nationals took advantage of a careless defensive play by Adam LaRoche in an 8-1 rout of the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

Armas (4-2) dominated a team that scored 14 runs while winning the first two games of the series. He gave up three singles, struck out six and escaped his only serious jam by striking out Chipper Jones with the bases loaded in the third.

Soriano led off the third inning with his 12th homer, on the heels of a two-run shot the previous night. He singled in two more runs in the sixth, clearly relishing the leadoff spot he was moved to at the beginning of the series.

The Nationals blew it open against John Thomson (1-3) with four unearned runs in the fifth _ all of them scoring after LaRoche fielded a routine grounder but nonchalantly jogged to first base on what should have been the third out.

Nick Johnson hustled down the line, and first-base umpire Mark Carlson ruled the runner safe. Television replays were inconclusive, showing LaRoche stepping on the bag at about the same time as Johnson.

LaRoche turned around in disbelief when Carlson made the safe call, and manager Bobby Cox came out to argue. Cox was ejected after the inning, clearly disgusted that the Nationals followed LaRoche’s error with three straight hits. Jose Guillen doubled in a run, Ryan Church singled in two more and Ryan Zimmerman made it 5-0 with an RBI single.

Cox, who rarely calls out his players in public, decided not to yank LaRoche for his mental lapse. The manager did that to Andruw Jones early in his career, pulling him out of a 1998 game in the middle of the inning when Cox felt the center fielder loafed after a ball that fell in front of him.

Maybe Cox felt the best punishment for LaRoche was to leave him in the game the rest of the way. The first baseman was booed loudly by the Turner Field crowd the last two times he came to the plate and every time he touched the ball in the field.

It was a miserable day all around for LaRoche, who failed to get a ball out of the infield while going 0-for-3 and had to play out Washington’s biggest win of the year. The Nationals snapped a four-game losing streak.

The Nationals poured it on in the sixth after Peter Moylan took over for Thomson, who surrendered eight hits but actually dropped his NL-leading ERA to 1.87. Wiki Gonzalez, who was called up from Triple-A New Orleans before the game, led off with his third straight single and got to third on Royce Clayton’s double.

Armas struck out, but Soriano brought both runners home with a double to right. Moylan lasted only two-thirds of an inning before he was replaced by Macay McBride, who gave up an RBI single to Johnson.

Wilson Betemit hit a solo homer in the ninth inning for the Braves’ lone run.

Notes: Gonzalez was called up one day after C Brian Schneider went on the 15-day DL with an injured hamstring. ... To make room for Gonzalez, RHP Jason Bergmann (0-0, 5.91 in 11 games) was optioned to New Orleans. ... Julian Perez, an international scout for the Braves based in Puerto Rico, was killed Sunday morning in a car accident. He was 51. Perez had been in the organization since 1992.

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