Reds 4, Nationals 2

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WASHINGTON – Elizardo Ramirez pitched effectively into the eighth inning for his first major league win and the Cincinnati Reds rode some early offense to a 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals on Monday night.

Washington fell to 1-5 at home this season, and the announced crowd of 19,264 was the smallest at 46,382-capacity RFK Stadium since baseball returned to the capital, eclipsing Sunday night’s previous low of 21,569.

The 23-year-old Ramirez (1-0) was called up from Triple-A Louisville to make his first appearance for the Reds since a spot start on July 4, 2005. Throwing mostly in the high 80s and low 90s, the right-hander allowed two runs and six hits, five singles, in seven-plus innings. He walked one and even got his first big league hit.

The Reds, who have won five of six, did more damage against Hernandez (1-3) in the opening inning alone, taking a 3-0 lead against the All-Star by stringing together four hits, including doubles by Felipe Lopez and Edwin Encarnacion. They were helped by an error on right fielder Jose Guillen, who had trouble picking up the ball when Lopez’s hit caromed off a wall.

Hernandez has allowed 12 first-inning runs in five starts, and the Reds tacked on another in the second. Javier Valentin tripled past a diving Alfonso Soriano in left and scored on Lopez’s single.

Hernandez went seven innings, allowing four runs and eight hits. His ERA actually dropped, from 7.11 to 6.68. Washington has lost eight of his last 10 starts dating to Sept. 1, 2005.

Things began a tad roughly for Ramirez, who was 0-3 in 13 previous appearances in the majors for Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

The first batter he faced, Soriano, singled to center, then tagged up and took second on a flyout and scored on Nick Johnson’s single. But Ramirez set down the next 12 hitters in a row. The Nationals scored again off him in the sixth, but two hits, a walk, and a throwing error on third baseman Encarnacion all added up to a solitary run on Guillen’s RBI single.

Ramirez stayed ahead of hitters all night, and left after giving up Soriano’s single leading off the eighth on his 94th pitch. Brian Shackelford and Todd Coffey finished that inning, and David Weathers pitched the ninth for his fifth save.

The effort most likely earned Ramirez another start and was another example of the Nationals struggling against an unheralded pitcher.

While Washington has won games started by Houston’s Roy Oswalt and Atlanta’s John Smoltz this season, it also managed just three hits over seven innings against Mets rookie Brian Bannister when he earned his first major league victory April 11.

Notes: Ramirez singled off Hernandez in the seventh. … Nationals INF-OF Marlon Anderson flied out in the seventh, making him 0-for-11 as a pinch-hitter since getting a hit on opening day. … Ramirez took the roster spot of LHP Eric Milton, who had knee surgery Monday and went on the 15-day DL. … The Reds acquired OF Cody Ross from the Dodgers for a player to be named. They designated INF Tony Womack for assignment. … Reds 2B Brandon Phillips was honored as NL player of the week. His 17 RBIs led the NL and were the most for a Reds player in a seven-day span since Ray Knight had 18 in 1979.

AP-ES-04-24-06 2200EDT

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