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)


JayB said...

"Elijah Dukes needs to remember to control his temper"........good one SBF!

Rizzo is going to ship Dukes out as soon as he can. Dukes is just not the type of player Rizzo likes. Dukes is too concerned with looking cool as he goes after a ball that he should catch easily....Too Milledge like for Rizzo's taste.

Chris Needham said...

On the Dukes thing, I got the impression he wasn't yelling at the ump, but at Gonzo for not backing off when he called the ball and had priority for it.

SenatorNat said...

Dukes is a project that has not worked out - as said, his path to the ball is often Milledgesque and his Church-like swinging at sliders falling off the outside table is maddening. Rizzo intends to shore-up right field with best available free agent in all probability. Team is equally frustrated with Gonzo - he is unlikely to be on the team next year, due to his lack of progress at the plate. Again, Rizzo definitely intends to go after best young superb defensive second baseman available who can also play short to bat 8th, but be a longterm upgrade - akin to Morgan in center.

Bullpen 2010: Beimel getting $2 million proves team can shore up this disaster by budgeting $3-5 million to get two solid relievers. I would plan on Stammen replacing Bergmann, too, as long reliever, and pencil in Storen to join team after the All-Star Break. Keeping Burnett and MacDougal (only), team could actually show the most improvement in an area where it has been the weakest, weaker even than defense and starting pitching (which is saying a lot!).

Starters 2010: presuming team is willing to go $8 million, combined, for right fielder and second baseman, and $4 million for two relievers, leaves $8 million for two starters, based on my presumption that they have a net of $20 m to work with and still keep payroll about the same as this year (Cabrera; Johnson; Young; Beimel; Belliard; Kearns, Bard, etc. $28-30 m minus Z and Strasburg's pro rated K's, etc.) or a bit more.

Team had success this year with emerging solid longtime star at third; powerful first-baseman; exciting lead-off hitter and excellent centerfielder; wonderful perfect 6th hitter in left in a great line-up; and terrific younger starter returning strong for 2011 (pray) with third baseman's surname.

Team failed: young starters did not emerge or show any real promise other than the one seriously injured; relief corps will need to be built from the ground-up; no right-fielder or second baseman and a shortstop with increasingly limited range contributing to worse overall defense in the Majors.

Team promise: Flores returns to man catching; Riggleman likely to return as manager with his .450 career leadership, which looks like up from here; Storen may be the real deal; Strasburg likely to get a few 2010 starts; Olsen could return to form in 2010; Lerners appear to want to do more than merely make 20% ROI and they will write checks based on Kasten/Rizzo recommendations, up to a point, to help field a team which is credible. Team effort and defense should improve by 20% or more, too.

Team will be negotiating with Boras for that young man Harper in Las Vegas to boot. All fun.

natsfan1a said...

It looked to me that Dukes was jawing at the ump, given that he was looking towards him and pantomiming taking the ball out of the glove.

natsfan1a said...

It was great to see Livo back in a Nats jersey!