Sunday, April 11, 2010
Livan Hernandez thinks on the mound--always watching the entire game playing out in front of him. It's why he's survived so long in the Major Leagues. Take this afternoon as another example at Citi Field in Queens. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Livo was up 5-0 but was in a little bit of a jam. David Wright was standing on second base, Jeff Francoeur at the plate for The New York Mets looking to put the hurt on Hernandez. New York's Rightfielder can drive the baseball out of any ballpark. Ole' Number 61 knew this. He also understood Gary Matthews, Jr. waiting in the on-deck circle and next up for The New York Mets--probably could not.
In these types of situations, Livan Hernandez is special. Wily like few others, he's willing to put extra runners on the base path to receive a more favorable match up. Livo understood his chances for getting out of this frame were better served pitching to Gary Matthews, Jr.--not Jeff Francoeur--who Hernandez proceeded to walk on four straight pitches--one of those intentional, unintentional walks. Then, two pitches later, Livan Hernandez was slowly walking off the mound--in triumph--looking around Citi Field satisfied, and knowing, he had succeeded again with his game strategy. Gary Matthews, Jr. had popped up weakly to Ian Desmond at shortstop for the final out.
Livan Hernandez is a thinking man's pitcher. He's not out there to throw a baseball past every hitter. Ole' Number 61 gathers himself on the mound to outthink his opponents. And when he is on--as Livo was this gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Queens, he outwitted The New York Mets. Back in 2005, during the Inaugural Season for Our Washington Nationals, Livan threw in the exact same manner--every single time out on the mound. And even though Hernandez officially just joined Washington's team today--he responded with that veteran effort that every other hurler sitting in our dugout must look up to and respect. Livan Hernandez is never afraid to throw strikes. He's never afraid to mix up his pitches. And he's never afraid to occasionally just let someone get on base. For Livo, it's all about the match ups and turning the house odds more in his own favor.
He knows how to survive. Today, seven complete innings of shutout ball. And thanks to a first inning TV Replay Grand Slam Home Run off the bat of Josh Willingham--cruised to victory.
Final Score from Citi Field where Livan Hernandez used his mind and his ability to be the difference today: Our Washington Nationals 5 and The New York Mets 2. Ole' Number 61 wearing Washington's Gray Away Jersey was in top form this afternoon. Curly "W" Number Three of 2010 proved you can never quite put push Livo out of your mind even when he's on the downside of his career because, at 35-Years Of Age, Livan Hernandez can still pitch himself effectively out of most any situation in the Major Leagues. There is no question, the Big Cuban is not strong, nor fast.
But he can still outthink, outwit and outplay them all.
Livan Hernandez is a Survivor.
Fun to watch too.
Game Notes & Highlights
Livo also needs to credit Jason Bergmann and Matt Capps for saving his first personal victory of 2010 (and 27th overall--a team high in Washington Nationals History). Brian Bruney walked David Wright, allowed a two run homer to The Mets Mike Jacobs in the bottom of the 8th. And after Bruney allowed Jeff Francoeur to single with two outs--Our Manager Jim Riggleman went to the bullpen for Jason Bergmann who proceeded to strike out Gary Matthews, Jr. on three straight pitches to end the rally. Capps was anything but "Cardiac" with a six pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th to record his third save and second in as many days at Citi Field.
Wllingham knocked in all five Washington runs today when he added an rbi double scoring Cristian Guzman in the top of the 3rd. Willingham's Grand Slam off Johan Santana scoring Adam Dunn, Willy Taveras and Nyjer Morgan before him was disputed because, somehow, 2nd Base Umpire Jim Wolf clearly missed Josh's drive bouncing off the centerfield wall of the batter's eye--to the right of an orange line dictating Home Run. Even live on TV--it seemed like a no brainer. Yet, the umpires first called the ball in-play and after Josh Willingham attempted to score on an Inside-The-Park Grand Slam and was thrown out at the plate--Jim Riggleman rightly argued for a reversal and got it.
With today's victory, Washington evened their season record at 3-3. Since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005, Washington has only played .500 or better baseball after six games two other times: The Inaugural Season and 2008 only. Think about that for a moment.
Santana wasn't sharp early and only lasted five innings giving up five runs on five hits and three walks. Coming back from surgery--Johan not in peak form yet.
Finally, when Willie Harris walked to plate to hit in the top of the 9th, the Citi Field crowd actually booed him for robbing The New York Mets from a potential victory yesterday. Then, New York's Francisco Rodriguez plunked him on a pitch inside. Willie said something under his breath, and K-Rod responded with what appeared to be a curse. Both players momentarily headed in each other's direction. The benches emptied, but cooler heads prevailed and nothing really came of it. No punches were thrown.
In Game Photos--Kathy Willens (AP)