Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Like Old Times
He looked so right standing there, so natural, so correct. Livan Hernandez on the mound at Wrigley Field in Chicago wearing a Gray Washington Away Jersey and sporting Number 61. "It's almost as if he just went on sabbatical and now has returned," stated The African Queen.
Like Old Times.
And when Livo stood in the on deck circle in the top of the 2nd inning chatting with Arsenio Hall in the first row watching, his return was officially complete. He hadn't changed one bit.
Three Years and 20 days since pitching his final game as a member of Our Washington Nationals, Livo re-debuted this evening on the North Side of one of America's Greatest Cities and it seemed as if he had never left D.C. beforehand. For six innings, he threw that off-speed junk that keeps opposing batters ducking and twirling their bodies at the plate in vain. Hernandez had good enough speed on his fastball and just enough difference in his change up to strike out six. This was typical Livan--throw a lot of pitches, let runners get on base, then pitch for the big out when in trouble. And occasionally give up the big fly. A two run homer to Milton Bradley in the bottom of the third with two outs.
For 117 tosses, Ole' Number 61 battled like his old self. Unfortunately, his teammates couldn't provide enough offensive support to let him leave with the lead. Instead, a tie ball game heading to the 7th that became a train wreck when Our Bullpen couldn't keep the game close. Nobody worse than "Jesus Colome, Jr.", who was flat out awful. When Jorge Sosa was finally replaced in the bottom of the 8th after just 1/3rd official inning pitched, he had allowed five runs on four hits, two walks, two wild pitches and was left playing spectator on a fine defensive play by Adam Dunn. Chicago's Jeff Baker slicing a hard hit baseball down the first base line. Big Number 44 made a terrific effort to get his body in front of the fast moving baseball, juggled it, and still had enough time to throw out Baker at 1st. The only problem was Sosa decided to play witness, not participant to the out--and what should have been the 2nd out of the inning--turned into the turning point of The Cubbie's game distancing rally.
Down just one heading to the bottom of the 8th, Our Washington Nationals found themselves in a seven run deficit hole by the time Saul Rivera replaced Sosa and induced the inning ending double play. Far too late to save this affair from becoming loss number 82, but enjoyable enough to again watch the wizardry that continues to be Livan Hernandez.
Most likely, Livo will never pitch a no-hitter in his Major League career. Our Renewed Number 61 has never been overpowering. But he battles, fields his position and acts like every professional player should out there on the mound. Hernandez always gives an honest effort--win or lose. The all-important competitiveness which some of our young pitching staff members need to learn.
Far from the best in the game these days, Livan Hernandez showed tonight in Wrigley Field, he can still hold his own. Because The Big Cuban never gives up and is always willing to challenge every single opposing batter that steps to the plate to face him. Livo may not sport a winning record this year, but he plays the game the right way. Even at 34 Years Of Age there is still a young boy's look to his eyes. The amusement and delight that comes from playing a baseball game while confronting any threat and testing any provocation.
No, Livan Hernandez did not win this evening in Chicago, nor did he lose. But what he brought to Our Washington Nationals was a sense of relief. The good feelings remembered by Sohna and I over his 18 months spent as an Original National. And the hope he can take his Larger Than Life image to help improve and stabilize our now very young and relatively inexperienced pitching staff.
Final Score from Wrigley Field were Our Bullpen absolutely imploded tonight: The Chicago Cubs 9 and Our Washington Nationals 4. Hard to believe this was a one run game heading to the 8th. A possible Curly "W" to be put in the books. But evaporated, when Jorge Sosa--with assists from Jason Bergmann and Ron Villone--completely lost control to put any chance of victory away for Washington.
Yes, The African Queen was right, it was like old times tonight with Our Washington Nationals. Like as if Hernandez had never left. Livan helping us to recall so many good memories from 2005 & 2006 when Major League Baseball was again new to Washington, D.C. The very times when Old Section 320 at RFK was rocking like no place in baseball (and you can ask anybody about that fact) and Our Washington Nationals first called The Nation's Capital their very own home.
PS--Elijah Dukes needs to remember to control his temper. He muffed a fly ball that should have been an easy out hit by Derrek Lee in the 3rd, immediately after Bradley's two run homer off Livan. Then, when Aramis Ramirez skied a high fly down the right field line, moments later, that both Dukes & Alberto Gonzalez had a play own--Elijah called for the ball, as did Alberto. But Dukes just powered his way through Our Number 12 to catch the baseball because he wanted to catch the out and jaw away at 1st Base Umpire Bill Welke for not calling his muffed catch an out. Elijah, you have got to stop that stuff. It is not going to get you anywhere and only hurt you in the long run.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Charles Rex Arbogast (AP)