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Soriano hits three homers to lead Nationals

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Alfonso Soriano is starting to get a little more comfortable in the outfield. At the plate, he's as confident as he has ever been.

The reluctant left fielder roughed up John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves on Friday night, hitting three homers for the first time and matching his career high with five RBIs in the Washington Nationals' 7-3 home victory.

Soriano came to the Nationals in an offseason trade with Texas and balked when asked to shift from second base to left field. He even skipped what had been announced as his spring training debut, and general manager Jim Bowden threatened to put Soriano on the disqualified list, withholding pay, if he didn't agree to switch positions.

``I feel like I'm a Nationals player. The only thing is I didn't feel like I'm an outfielder. But I always feel like part of the group,'' Soriano said.

Soriano hit leadoff homers off Smoltz in the first and third innings to become only the fifth player _ and first since 1999 _ to hit two homers off the Atlanta ace in a game. In the eighth, Soriano added a three-run shot off Oscar Villareal to become the first Expos-Nationals player to hit three homers in a game since Montreal's Tim Wallach did it against the Braves on May 4, 1987.

``Big home run. Big, big, big home run in the eighth inning,'' Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. ``The other two were big, too.''

Soriano also became the first Nationals slugger to hit two homers in a game at RFK Stadium, which some players have complained is too big.

``Not tonight for me,'' Soriano said.

Mike Stanton (1-2) was the winner in the game that started 2 hours, 18 minutes late because of rain. Lance Cormier (0-1) took the loss.

In other National League games Friday night, it was: Houston 3, Pittsburgh 2; St. Louis 9, Chicago 3; San Diego 2, New York 1 in 14 innings; Colorado 9, San Francisco 8; Cincinnati 3, Milwaukee 1; Los Angeles 6, Arizona 3; and Florida 4, Philadelphia 3.

Morgan Ensberg and Albert Pujols also hit big homers in home victories.

Ensberg homered in his franchise-record sixth straight game to help Houston beat Pittsburgh, while Pujols hit a two-run shot in the first inning for his 1,000th hit and finished with four RBIs in St. Louis' win.

Ensberg hit a two-run shot in the first to back Wandy Rodriguez (3-0).

The Astros' slugger has seven home runs in the last six games and leads all major league third basemen with eight. He also leads the majors with a .411 average.

``Doesn't mean anything to me,'' Ensberg said. ``What I thought was really awesome was for us to get out in front and hold on to the lead.''

Also in Houston, Rodriguez allowed five hits, including Jason Bay's solo homer, in six innings, and Brad Lidge finished for his sixth save. Jason Lane homered off Zach Duke (1-2) in the sixth to push the Astros' lead to 3-1.

In St. Louis, Pujols tied Colorado' Todd Helton as the second-fastest active player to reach 1,000 hits with his 11th homer. Pujols and Helton needed 3,003 at-bats, 26 more than Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki.

``It's great to have my name with those guys, the superstars, great players, all-stars,'' Pujols said. ``But my job is to help my team to win and that's what I did.''

Mark Mulder (2-0) worked eight strong innings and Jim Edmonds homered for the second straight game for the Cardinals, who have won five of six.

Michael Barrett hit a three-run homer for the Cubs, playing their first game since losing NL batting champion Derrek Lee for at least two months with two broken bones above his wrist. Jerome Williams (0-2) was the loser.

Padres 2, Mets 1, 14 innings

At San Diego, Brian Giles doubled in the winning run in the 14th inning.

Geoff Blum led off the 14th with a single off Chad Bradford (0-1), and Giles sliced the first pitch down the left-field line and all the way to the fence.

Brian Sweeney (1-0) pitched three scoreless innings for the win.

The Mets took a 1-0 lead on Carlos Delgado's home run leading off the third, and the Padres tied it in the fifth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI single.

Rockies 9, Giants 8

At Denver, Garrett Atkins' RBI single capped the Rockies' four-run ninth.

San Francisco took an 8-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but Tim Worrell (2-1) failed to record an out and was tagged for four earned runs.

Eli Marrero led off the ninth with a homer, and Matt Holliday also connected in the game. David Cortes (2-0) was the winner.

The Giants' Pedro Feliz had two homers and five RBIs. Barry Bonds went 0-for-2 with three walks, extending his homerless start to 12 games and 30 at-bats.

Reds 3, Brewers 1

At Milwaukee, Bronson Arroyo struck out eight in eight innings for the Brewers.

Arroyo (3-0) allowed Gabe Gross' home run on his first pitch, then limited the Brewers to five hits the rest of his outing. Arroyo retired 10 in a row at one point to pin the loss on Ben Sheets (0-2), who struck out 10 in seven innings.

David Weathers pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 3

At Los Angeles, J.D. Drew homered and drove in three runs, Odalis Perez pitched six innings of four-hit ball to improve to 3-0 for the Dodgers.

Danys Baez worked the ninth for his fourth save. Orlando Hernandez (1-3) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings for Arizona.

Marlins 4, Phillies 3

At Philadelphia, Scott Olsen limited the Phillies to one earned run in 6 2-3 innings, and Dan Uggla stole home to help Florida take a 4-0 lead in the fifth.

The 22-year-old Olsen (1-1) allowed eight hits, seven of them singles. Joe Borowski worked the ninth for his second save. Jon Lieber (0-4) was the loser.
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