"It's nice. I want to come back and pitch in the city. I love the city and playing there. Always the Nationals are my first option and it's something I want to do a long time."-- Livan Hernandez, on his return to D.C., Aug. 26, 2009.
THE RESULT: Livan Hernandez returned to the Washington Nationals rotation, and did to the Chicago Cubs what he had done so many times against the Nats while he was gone. But the bullpen ruined the feel-good story, giving up seven runs in the seventh and eighth innings, as the Cubbies took a 9-4 win before 36,562 at Wrigley Field.
Hernandez was vintage, throwing 116 pitches through six innings, and allowing just two earned runs on five hits and two walks. He even struck out six for good measure.
The only runs he allowed were on a Milton Bradley two-run shot in the third inning.
Hernandez (7-8, 5.36) was released by the Mets last week following three shaky starts in which he yielded 26 hits and 18 earned runs in 14.1 innings. He was signed by the Nationals as a free agent after their 15-6 victory Tuesday night.
"Livan did a real good job. It was kind of vintage Livan, mixing his pitches up. You know we use that phrase a lot 'changing speeds,' but he really does," interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
"He's a complete guy out there. He can handle the bat and I'm glad we got him."
Unfortunately, Jason Bergmann, Ron Villone and Jorge Sosa could not keep a tied game tied in the late-going.
With the score tied at two in the seventh inning, reliever Jason Bergmann (L, 2-3, 5.60) gave up singles to Koyie Hill and Ryan Theriot. With runners at the corners, Bradley hit a slow roller to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whose throw home was high and late, giving the Cubs the lead.
Then the real fireworks started.
Villone was brought in to face left-handed batter Kosuke Fukudome and did not do his job, as Fukudome singled up the middle on a broken bat.
Sosa was then called upon to shut things down. He only managed to record one out though among the seven hitters he faced, as he started with a strikeout of Alfonso Soriano. He would not get anyone else out though, as he gave up five hits, two walks and two wild pitches, leading to five earned runs...and the end of the competitive part of the ballgame.
Washington did not muster much of an attack either against a quartet of Cubs hurlers. Seven hits and five walks were only turned into four runs, two of which were scored with two outs in the ninth inning.
Willie Harris, subbing for the ill Nyjer Morgan in center, had two hits, along with Ryan Zimmerman. Adam Dunn went 0-for-5 with two Ks and five left on base.
THE TAKEAWAY: Welcome back Livan. Your numbers and fastball velocity (only around 82-83 MPH all night) tell us one thing: You're near the end of a pretty remarkable career.
But your effort and your words last night tell us something different: You care. A lot.
In this day and age, it's common for athletes to be known as mercenaries, especially in baseball. Hernandez has bounced around quite a bit since he left D.C., with stops in Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado and New York Mets. So he didn't have to say the things he did about the Nationals organization, especially considering he knows how unlikely it is that he'll return next year.
They were classy words spoken by a classy guy, and his results the rest of the way are immaterial. If he can show one of these young arms the right way to conduct your business as a big league pitcher while he's here, he's done his job.
The Nationals all-time wins leader, and the man that threw the first pitch in Washington Nationals history, is back where he belongs.
THE GOOD: Livan! 6 IP, 116 pitches, 71 for strikes. Two earned on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
THE BAD: Adam Dunn. 0-for-4, two Ks, five left on base.
THE UGLY: Jorge Sosa. Riggs had no one else warming up, so Sosa knew he had a job to do. And he failed, miserably. One-third of a inning, five earned on four hits, two walks and two wild pitches. Yuck.
NEXT GAME: Matinee from Wrigley, as the creator envisioned it. 2:20 pm ET start time. J.D. Martin (2-3, 4.76) faces Randy Wells (9-6, 2.84). Take a late lunch and enjoy baseball in the sunshine amidst the ivy.