Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Master At His Craft

The outwardly shown nonchalance demeanor of Livan Hernandez juxtaposes perfectly with his heartfelt compassion for the game of baseball. The contrast could not be more striking. And the results sometimes special.

A master worked his craft last night at Turner Field.

Ole Number 61 was his usual casual self starting his 30th game of the 2010 Season for Our Washington Nationals. When he strolled to the mound to face The Atlanta Braves in the bottom of the 1st inning, there was nary the appearance of worry on his mind. Many times with The Big Cuban, what you see is not what you get. Livan Hernandez can focus like few pitchers in this game. Look at his eyes the next time you watch him throw on television. There's a fervor inside Livo. When he's spotting his fastball, using his off-speed junk to keep hitters off-balance, there are few hurlers more fun, more enjoyable, to watch.

When Livo struck out Atlanta's Omar Infante on his patented Woop-Di-Doo slow curveball well off the plate in the bottom of the 8th--you knew Ole Number 61 was smiling inside despite the fact Hernandez rarely shows much emotion. There's a tiger inside his rather large tank and The Braves found out last evening Livan can be just as baffling these days at the age of 35 as he was in 1997 when he helped The Florida Marlins win their first World Series Title at the age of 22.

"The Art Of Pitching" Radio Broadcaster Dave Jageler perfectly called Livan Hernandez's performance last night. Washington's most consistent starter proving again that it's not how hard you throw--but how well you place your pitches. With eight shutout innings of five hit, two walk baseball, Livo was never seriously in trouble all evening. For once, he even had a big lead. Three home runs swatted out of Turner Field by Our Washington Nationals. One by Hernandez himself. And one by Adam Dunn that not only went over the right centerfield wall in the top of the 2nd off Jair Jurrjens but onto the centerfield concourse and near fans sitting at an in-stadium restaurant and others lined up at a concession stand.

Dunn's 35th Homer of 2010 with Ryan Zimmerman on base in front of him was officially announced as traveling 455 Feet. But the baseball landed well past the fans sitting at a table which displayed a "460 Feet" from home plate sign. Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler estimated possibly 475 to 500 as the actual distance. Either way though, Adam's home run was one of the longest ever stroked in Turner Field history. Yet Our Number 44 didn't even swing hard. Jurrjens had laid the pitch right over the middle of the plate and Dunn just popped it out of the park.

Another impressive showing at the plate for the big slugger, much like Livan Hernandez's distinctive quality displayed on the mound this evening in Atlanta. In fact, Livo might well have pitched even better in this affair with The Braves than he did when he brought the magic back to Nationals Park against The Milwaukee Brewers in April.

Ole Number 61 was that good. It's just too bad that after 118 pitches thrown, Our Manager Jim Riggleman removed him from the game before the bottom of the 9th inning began. If Livo had gone the distance, he would have done so for the 3rd time this season. The only D.C. Starting Pitcher to accomplish the feat even once.

Final Score from Turner Field where what you see visibly is many times not what you get with Livan Hernandez: Our Washington Nationals 6 and The Atlanta Braves Zero. Curly "W" Number 62 of 2010 stopped a six game losing streak, but in doing so proved again what D.C.'s Team is capable of if they are playing solid baseball. They can beat the good teams like The Atlanta Braves--one that is in playoff contention. Livan shut them down all evening and he did so with that nonchalance demeanor he's become famous for in the game.

Outwardly, nothing bothers The Big Cuban, but inside, clearly the fires burn brightly. Livan Hernandez's 10th personal win of 2010 and 165th of his Major League career was a gem. One of those performances you look back on and recall saying: That man really knows how to pitch. How did he do that?

Well Ole Number 61 does that by pitching without a worry in the world. Livan Hernandez is a student of the game. And sometimes, like last night--he is a master at his craft.

PS--Livan's solo home run was his 10th career and 4th as a National. There have only been five homers hit by D.C. Pitchers since baseball returned in 2005. Ramon Oritz has the other--the last one stroked by a pitcher before tonight--on Labor Day, 2006 at RFK Stadium--the very day Ortiz took a no-hitter into the 9th inning before Aaron Miles singled up the middle for The St.Louis Cardinals. A game in which current National Jason Marquis started for The Cards.

Livan also doubled in Nyjer Morgan in the top of the 3rd inning. A two-rbi night for Hernandez.

Last Night's InGame Photos--John Bazemore (AP)

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