Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Livo At His Best

Livan Hernandez pitched a terrific game tonight, unfortunately, he was wearing the uniform of the Nationals rival, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Livo going 8 strong innings, giving up just 6 hits, 2 to former batterymate Brian Schneider and no walks. I guess having Hernandez on your team, and not facing him at the plate, made it difficult for Washington batters to be ready for his assortment of off-speed and more off speed junk. One Livo pitch lofting in at 59MPH.

Far better than Nats Starter Tony Armas, Jr., who once again could not make it out of the 4th inning. Allowing 4 solo home runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. The most frustrating starting pitcher in the game. A waste of good talent. Armas has buried the Nationals in the second half of the season. The 4 home runs to Conor Jackson, Orlando Hudson, Stephen Drew and Chris Snyder put Washington in a hole, that on this night, a hole they were unable to climb out of, with Livan on his game.

Schneider had a very nice game at the plate, and if not for Carlos Quentin jumping and reaching over the fence on a drive to right in the 2nd inning, Brian would have homered to put the Nats out in front at that point. Quentin, a very promising young player, made a nice grab. But, you could tell the entire night was uncomfortable for both Livan and Brian. Friends and teammates for the past 4 seasons. They know each others game intimately. Schneider knows everything in Hernandez bag of goodies. And, it showed with Schneider's fine night at the plate. The only Nat to really get to Livo.

Alfonso Soriano continued to press for the 40th steal, to make him the 4th, 40 Home Run, 40 Steal Man. Alfonso, once again, killing a rally, this time in the first, after a leadoff single, followed by a Felipe Lopez single, Soriano ranged too far off the bag, Hudson took a whirling pickoff throw from Hernandez, Alfonso taking off for 3rd and was nailed on the toss to Chad Tracey. You could tell Frank Robinson was mighty upset in the Nats Dugout. Whether he talked to Alfonso after that one, I don't know. But, Soriano is pressing, big time, and he needs to calm down, or the final few weeks of this season are going to be a disaster for him.

Nook Logan again showed that he can make the fine running catch, but if a blooper happens and other teammates are converging on the ball, he doesn't take control. In the 5th, Jackson popped up to shallow center, Jose Vidro first calling for the ball, but Logan, it appeared called Jose off, then as Vidro veered off, Nook held up, the ball dropping in for a ridiculous single. After a one out walk, putting runners on 1st and second, Beltran Perez got lucky when Carlos Quentin hammered a line drive, right at Lopez, with the runners on the move, for a easy inning ending double play.

The Nats only other real chance came in the 8th, with Livan cruising along. With one out, Schneider would line a single to right, and Logan followed with a drag bunt, hard tapped, down the first base line. It wasn't a good bunt and Jackson was on it quickly, only Logan's speed got him around the tag for a safe call from 1st Base Umpire, Sam Holbrook. Robert Fick would then pinch hit for Ryan Wagner, and slam a 0-1 pitch to left center, the ball rolling all the way to the wall, Schneider and Logan scored easily, making the score 4-2. Maybe, just maybe, the Nats could come from behind again to be the Dbacks. But, it was not to be tonight.

Soriano was next--LOOKING FOR THE HOME RUN. Livan looked rattled, for the only time today. Alfonso worked a 2-2 count, Soriano expecting a fastball for some reason, Livo throwing a slop pitch at 61MPH. Soriano hitched his swing to hold up, then swung with all his might, launching the ball toward deep left field. I thought it might go, but Alfonso knew otherwise. The ball landing on the warning track, caught by Luis Gonzalez. It that ball is thrown a little bit harder by Hernandez, that ball goes out of the park. But this is where Livo is stellar, getting batters off kilter in the box. He can be a master at it. FLop was next and popped to center to finally kill the rally.

The Nats had one last shot when Ryan Zimmerman led off the 9th, singling to left off Arizona's Jose Valverde--a very hitable pitcher. But, Nick Johnson would JUST MISS on a drive to left center, hauled in by Chris Young. Austin Kearns and Vidro striking out badly to finish the game.

I would have liked the Nats to get the Season Series Sweep, but it didn't happen. Felt good for Livan, despite the loss. Ryan Wagner pitched another solid 2 innings of relief. To me, Nook Logan, is not the answer in center. He is mediocre. That's why he was given away by Detroit for peanuts. Soriano needs to haul himself in and be a little more patient. Of course, it will be nice to see him break the 40-40 barrier this weekend against the Brewers at RFK. Giving the home faithful something really good to cheer about.

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