for this game

Soriano reaches another milestone to lift Nationals

Sep 23, 2006 - 2:09 AM FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- Since hosting a grand party earlier in the week, the New York Mets have been relatively quiet. Instead it was Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman who had something to celebrate.

Soriano became the first 40-40-40 player in major league history and Zimmerman reached 100 RBI as the Washington Nationals defeated the Mets, 3-2, in the opener of a four-game series.

The Mets have lost three of four games since clinching the National League East title on Monday with a victory over the Florida Marlins at Shea Stadium. New York has lost six of its last eight games overall.

"We'd like to win all the time, but it's really not a big deal," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "As long as we're playing well, I'm not concerned."

Soriano became the first player to collect 40 homers, 40 steals and 40 doubles in a season. He reached his milestone when he lined a double to left field off Orlando Hernandez to lead off the fifth.

"I'm happy with what I put up this year," Soriano said. "It was a difficult year for me with switching to a new position (left field). I believe in myself and I know I can do a lot of things in this game."

The Nationals have won nine straight one-run games. Former Met Pedro Astacio (5-5) pitched 6 1/3 strong innings for the win, allowing two runs and nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts. One of the hits was a pinch-hit home run by Ricky Ledee in the seventh, the 10th pinch homer of his career.

Saul Rivera recorded the final two outs of the seventh, Jon Rauch retired the side in order in the eighth and Chad Cordero pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 28th save.

One bright spot for the Mets was seven solid innings by Hernandez (10-11), who took the loss despite allowing just three runs and six hits. He walked just one and struck out eight.

"I'm pitching good. I'm feeling good," Hernandez said.

The Nationals scored twice off Hernandez in the third. Soriano was hit by a pitch, stole second and went to third when the throw by Mike DiFelice went into center field. Felipe Lopez followed with an RBI single.

Lopez stole the second base of the inning for Washington and Zimmerman brought him home with a single to right field. Zimmerman is only the third NL rookie in the last century to drive in 100 runs, joining Mike Piazza (1993) and Albert Pujols (2001).

"I didn't really set a goal (for RBI) at the beginning of the season. If I did, it wouldn't have been 100, that's a pretty high mark," Zimmerman said. "I'm lucky to have Sorie and Felipe Lopez behind me."

Austin Kearns hit his 24th homer in the sixth to increase Washington's lead to 3-1.

"Big mistake there," Hernandez said of the home run pitch.

Endy Chavez, who had three hits, drove in the first New York run with an RBI single in the fifth that scored Chris Woodward, who had doubled.

Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran sat out his fourth straight game has not played since the division clincher Monday due a minor quadriceps strain.

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