Nats ride Soriano, Livan past Giants to sixth straight win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Just as he has every day for the better part of a week, Alfonso Soriano showed up at RFK Stadium, answered dozens of questions about the likelihood he'll be traded, sparked the Washington Nationals to a win and then talked some more about his uncertain future.

Possibly playing his final home game in D.C., Soriano homered in his first at-bat Thursday, and the Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5 for their season-high sixth consecutive victory.

"I don't know what happens tomorrow, but I'm still here," Soriano said after helping the franchise complete its first undefeated homestand of at least six games since the Montreal Expos went 6-0 from Sept. 6-12, 1993.

"It's a very good feeling, especially if it's my last game -- I hit a leadoff homer for my fans here in D.C.," he added. "I'm going to be very sad if I have to leave."

What a change from spring training, when he balked at switching from second base to left field: On Thursday, fans kept yelling at him not to leave, and he waved his glove toward the standing ovation that ushered him and his teammates off the field.

What happens next, though, is up to general manager Jim Bowden; Soriano did say he probably wouldn't consider re-signing with Washington if he's traded and then becomes a free agent.

Soriano's 32nd homer, off Matt Cain (7-7), was his sixth leadoff shot of the season, tying for the major-league lead. He's at the center of talks as Monday's trade deadline approaches, and the Nationals now embark on a nine-game road trip.

"He's been upbeat. He's the same. He's cheery. He's, 'Let's go! Let's win a ballgame!' And I think the team has fed off of that, been very upbeat," manager Frank Robinson said. "If he's going to go, they want to send him out on a good note or they want to put a lot of pressure on management to keep him here by winning ballgames."

Another candidate to leave in the coming days is Livan Hernandez (8-8), the workhorse of the franchise's rotation since arriving from San Francisco before the 2003 season. The burly right-hander made the first start in Nationals history last year and was the leader of a surprising run to first place during the first half of 2005, opening 12-2 and making the NL All-Star team.

Hernandez has tried to put the thought of a trade out of his mind, but if he is dealt, he said, "I'm not going to feel good. I've got to say the truth. I want to be there. I want to be in the new stadium [in 2008]. ... It's hard for me. It's hard to leave because I don't want to."

If this was his final start for Washington, Hernandez left on a strong note, retiring the last 10 batters he faced.

Troubled by his right knee, which had offseason surgery, Hernandez struggled for much of this season. But he said after his last start that his knee has improved, and he's 3-0 over his last six starts, despite a 5.88 ERA over that span.

"He could have a good second half," Robinson said, "because he's consistently throwing the ball better."

Chad Cordero recorded his 17th save despite giving up a two-run shot to Eliezer Alfonzo in the ninth, his second homer of the game. But Cordero struck out Todd Greene to end the game and deal San Francisco its fourth loss in a row.

"We always play good against the good teams. But the teams that are under .500, we don't play too well," said Jose Vizcaino, who started for injured shortstop Omar Vizquel and then left in the eighth with a hurt shoulder. "If we want to win, we have to beat those teams that we're supposed to beat."

The Nationals are within 10 games of .500 for the first time since June 21, and Soriano's been leading the way, hitting .422 with five homers, seven RBI and 14 runs in 12 games since the All-Star break.

"His name's out there every day. To do what he's doing, it's not easy, and it's pretty fun to watch," said Austin Kearns, who went 3-for-4 for his first multihit game since joining the Nationals from the Reds in a trade July 13.

Said catcher Robert Fick: "I know it's weighing on Sori -- but you can't tell."

About an hour after the game, Soriano headed toward the team bus, dressed in a taupe suit and striped tie. Before walking through the home clubhouse door for what could be the last time -- with Hernandez a few steps behind -- Soriano stopped and turned.

"I'll see you, fellas!" he yelled and smiled.

Game notes
Barry Bonds was out of San Francisco's lineup, as he usually is for a day game after a night game, and manager Felipe Alou didn't consider using him as a pinch-hitter. "I saw him as the game was being finished with a bat in the tunnel. But by that time, the game was over," Alou said. ... Nationals rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit his 13th homer.