Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Magic Was Back

After taking a personal moment while the Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! were heard overhead; and seconds after hugging Pudge Rodriguez while celebrating with all of his teammates and coaches on the field--Livan Hernandez turned toward the still standing and appreciative crowd at Nationals Park to take in the love. Having just completed one of the finest games pitched in the short history Our Washington Nationals, The Big Cuban proceeded forward with that patented slow stroll of his from the field. Understanding the moment, he knew what was coming next.

And how to respond.

As the cheering grew ever louder, Livo raised his right hand, removed his Red Curly "W" Cap from his rather large head, and waved it toward every single person embracing him along the 3rd base side of South Capitol Street.

Our Fans went wild!!

Not done yet, Ole' Number 61 nodded his head in appreciation, smiled jubilantly, and turned his attention toward the 1st Base Side of Nationals Park. And now, with his big, strong, right hand still waving that cap proudly into the afternoon sky, Livan pointed his Red Curly "W" Cap decidedly toward those admirers too--in kind appreciation.

A thrust of thanks that erupted Nationals Park in a manner not seen or heard since Justin Maxwell's walkoff homer to close the 2009 home season against The New York Mets. The fireworks were long over, but the celebration continued. Livan Hernandez nodded, raised his head back in another moment of thought, grinned like a little boy, and stepped down into Our Washington Nationals Dugout--away from public view.

His Grand Return finally done.

Everyone cheering for Washington--loved it!!

No one could have written a better script.

Since baseball returned to The Nation's Capital in 2005, no one player has ever captured Washington's Fans imaginations more then Livan Hernandez. No, not Alfonso Soriano. No, not even Ryan Zimmerman just yet. From Day One just over five years ago, the charismatic Livo embraced our city. And the Washington, D.C. Area returned that affection in kind. Even after being traded in late 2006, Hernandez pawned to return to a place he feels most comfortable. He did so finally last year in late 2009, but today's complete game shutout of The Milwaukee Brewers etched that relationship in stone--most likely--FOREVER.

Whether he's Houdini, a Mastermind, Wizard--or just simply brawny at times, Hernandez's work of magic today recaptured the imagination of thousands. Most everyone remaining in the announced crowd of 18,673 wanted to see him go the distance. Our Fans stood and cheered as Livan sauntered from the mound after finishing eight complete. They roared with delight when Our Manager Jim Riggleman sent the burly 35-Year-Old to the plate to bat for himself moments later. And they stood the entire 9th inning--from the very moment--Livan Hernandez strolled to the mound to complete his assigned duty.

A touch of magic returned to Major League Baseball in Washington this spring day. And Livo had most everything to do with it.

Yes, Our Washington Nationals scored a bunch of runs in his support. And yes, except for Cristian Guzman's error late--Washington's defense held its ground. But when all was said and done this sunny but chilly Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park--Livan Hernandez stood in the bright sunlight, glowing over a redemption few thought possible. Remember, no one, including Our Washington Nationals, really wanted him for 2010. And only if, better options were not available.

Ole' Number 61 signed late after Spring Training began. He wasn't promised a roster spot. And he didn't even make The Opening Day Roster. Yet, 11 games into a new season--Livan Hernandez is now the defacto team pitching ace. A moniker usually bestowed on a hot young and hard throwing hurler--not an aging veteran that, at times, can't break 66 miles per hour on his pitches. And that's not a testament to the quality of Washington's current pitching staff. It's more a compliment toward someone who never gives up, never backs down, and challenges every single person that steps to the plate to face him.

Win or lose--Livan Hernandez goes down in a fight. That's a trademark every single pitcher for Our Washington Nationals needs to embrace. Much like Our Fans did late today in appreciation of a Big Cuban Righthander that battles like few others in the game today. The scoring summary plus game notes and highlights to follow, but this story really is only about One Man--Ole' Number 61 on your scorecard.

Final score from Nationals Park where Livan Hernandez came home again and sparked images of 2005 anew: Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Milwaukee Brewers ZERO. Curly "W" Number Six of 2010 put D.C.'s Team above .500 after 11 games played. And The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! rekindled a spirit not seen since Washington was on top of the leaderboard at the All-Star Break in 2005.

Returning to the city he's always loved; playing before the fans that have always adored him--Livan Hernandez's Triumphant Return to The Nation's Capital today reset a new bar for success with Our Washington Nationals. The Curly "W's" really do count and whether D.C.'s team trots out the better talent or not on the field of play each and every game--Livan showed that believing in one's self --can conquer all.

Few days in the short history of Nationals Park have ever felt close to those first 81 exhilarating games Our Washington Nationals ever played at RFK Stadium. This one did.

The Magic Was Back.

And Everyone Knew It.

Game Notes & Highlights

Livan Hernandez only got in trouble really one time. Early in the top of the second inning, he walked Milwaukee's Corey Hart and George Kotteras back to back with one out. Feeling the heat, Livo promptly forced The Brewers Pitcher, Randy Wolf, to chop a grounder right back to him--whereupon a quick toss to Pudge Rodriguez at home, followed by a relay to Adam Dunn at 1st Base, converted the 1-2-3 Double Play to end the threat. From then on out--Hernandez was totally in control. Livo tossed 112 pitches. He allowed only four hits and two walks. And after that second inning, Milwaukee really never pressured him. No one watching wanted Riggleman to take him out of the game. The man's pitched 16 innings so far in 2010 and has yet to allow a run.

There have been three complete game shutouts pitched by Our Washington Nationals before today. On August 4th, 2005, John Patterson probably pitched the greatest game to date of any D.C. Hurler when he shutout The Los Angeles Dodgers at RFK Stadium. After so much injury failure previously, J-Patt arrived that night. He was the talk of baseball after. Three years later, he was out of the game--sadly. But what a performance--never to be forgotten. August 4th, 2005 was also the night of the very first grand slam in Nationals History--off the bat of Brad Wilkerson.

On one of those humid Washington summer nights--August 15th, 2006--Pedro Astacio was unstoppable by The Atlanta Braves. Still, one of the most amazing one time pitching performances over the past five-plus seasons of D.C. Baseball. And last year--on July 21st, 2009--John Lannan pitched a gem of a game at Nationals Park against The New York Mets.

Where Livan was in the trouble in the 2nd and got out of it, Randy Wolf had a completely different ending. After Josh Willingham led off the bottom of the 2nd frame with a walk, Ian Desmond advanced him to second base on a sacrifice. It was at this moment, the game changed momentum. Pudge Rodriquez sliced a liner to shortstop. What appeared to be a sure out if caught by The Brew Crew's Fielder--Craig Counsell. Somehow, Counsell whiffed on the catch as the baseball scooted right past his open glove. A mental error ruled a base hit that scored Willingham with the game's first run. Maybe flustered, Wolf then delivered a fastball right over the middle of the plate that Justin Maxwell absolutely launched into the Red Porch Seats in left centerfield. That ball was SMASHED. And went out like a rocket for a two-run homer. Good for J-Maxx.

Ryan Zimmerman knocked a beautifully lifted double off his bat down the leftfield line in the bottom of the 5th to score "The Guz" who had singled and stolen second base before him. Pudge Rodriguez ripped a double to right center scoring Josh Willingham and Ian Desmond in the 6th. Pudge then advanced to 3rd Base when The Brewers Jim Edmonds made a throwing error from centerfield. J-Maxx knocked him home for Washington's 7th run on a sacrifice fly. And the Z-Man finished off the scoring when he absolutely hammered a Chris Narveson pitch to the wall in right center scoring Guzman again in the 7th.

Our Number 11 showing no ill affects of his tweaked left hamstring. Two hits, two rbi, and two wonderful defensive plays at 3rd base. The first one his patented rushing in on a weak grounder hit by Ryan Braun in the top of the 6th inning. Nobody picks up a slow moving baseball and, all in one motion, hurls it to first base quite like Zimmerman. Picture Perfect. And then The Defensive Play Of This Game when he dove, stretched out, to his right for a hot shot down the left field line stroked by Casey McGehee in the top of the 9th. Ryan knocking down the hard smash, getting up off-balance and then lofting a throw that JUST beat McGehee to the bag. Adam Kennedy catching to complete The Defensive Play Of This Stellar Game.

Pudge continuing his hot start: two hits, three rbi and two runs scored. And yet, he grounded into an inning ending double play in the 7th when Washington was threatening again. Rodriguez was on the cusp of a huge day at the plate.

Finally, the Fake Milwaukee Racing Sausages (Officially called Un-Racing Sausages, apparently) were tackled again during today's Presidents Race by Teddy & his friends. The Chorizo taking the biggest hit by Abe as Tom took the checkered flag.

Today's In-Game Photos--Cliff Owen (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Unknown said...

I think this is the third best game I've seen in Nats Park 1) J-Max's walkoff to end last season 2) Belliard's Sunday walkoff against the O's in 08' I was also fortinuate enough to be in attendance for Astacio's complete game shutout, which ranked up there with today's game. I hope this gets Livan the respect he has deserved; too many people have written him off and see him as nothing more than a gap filler, but he has been by far the best pitcher on our staff this year.
P.S. I think the President's race got a little violent with knocking the sausages into the walls, and running them over. I'm always happy to see something different in the race, but I think they took it too far today.

natsfan1a said...

I'd talked my husband into going yesterday, and we were both very glad we had. That is officially one of my fave in-person games ever, and I love Livo more than ever. It was apropos for him to be on the mound as the team went over .500 for the first time in two years, I think.

I was also at the two games William mentioned, as well as the Patterson shutout (sad how it ended for him). Agree that all were great.

Unknown said...

Great Game yesterday, great Nats site.