Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
After getting swept by the Tigers and White Sox, the Nats try to rebound against the Royals.
That said, Hernandez's last outing for the Nationals -- he was tagged by the Tigers for eight runs while issuing six walks -- was way out of character. He hadn't allowed more than four runs in any of his previous 12 starts this season, and he hadn't walked that many batters in three years.
Livo has always been known for the occasional meltdown on the mound, and he's also always been known for bouncing back from those rough outings and getting back on track. Thus, the expectation tonight is that he will put together a strong performance against the Royals.
The Nats had better hope Hernandez does come through. They need a well-pitched game in the worst way. They also need an offensive outburst in the worst way. Put the two of those together, and they just might manage to snap a season-wost, six-game losing streak.
Check back for updates throughout...
ROYALS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 88 degrees, Wind 6 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez
LF Scott Podsednik
C Jason Kendall
CF David DeJesus
1B Billy Butler
RF Jose Guillen
3B Alberto Callaspo
2B Mike Aviles
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
P Bruce Chen
6:19 p.m. -- If anyone hasn't seen it yet, check the homepage for news about John Lannan getting optioned to Class AA Harrisburg and reliever Joel Peralta getting called up from Class AAA Syracuse to take his roster spot for now. The Nats can go until next Tuesday (June 29) before they need a fifth starter again, so they'll go with eight relievers until then. Sounds like the candidates to take over for Lannan would be Craig Stammen and Matt Chico. Ross Detwiler, who has been reinstated from the 60-day DL but optioned to Harrisburg, still needs a little more time to build up his stamina and precision.
6:21 p.m. -- If you're wondering how all this might affect Stephen Strasburg's schedule ... it won't. He'll still go every fifth day for a couple more weeks (Wednesday vs. Kansas City, June 28 at Atlanta, July 3 vs. the Mets). But Jim Riggleman did say Strasburg will likely get an extra day off before his final start of the season's first half. That means he'll go Friday, July 9 against the Giants. Then he'll get the All-Star break off (unless he's selected to the team) and get a nice, long break until he returns to the rotation. Sounds like the Nats will wait to bring him back in the fourth or fifth spot coming out of the break, buying even more time. That means his first start coming out of the All-Star break will likely come in Cincinnati (either July 19 or 20). All this is, as always, subject to weather, injuries and other factors that can change a pitching schedule.
7:09 p.m. -- Livan Hernandez starts Scott Podsednik off with a fastball for strike one. Very small crowd here for this Monday night interleague matchup.
7:14 p.m. -- Very efficient first inning for Hernandez. He allowed a leadoff single to Scott Podsednik, but Ivan Rodriguez gunned him down trying to steal second. So Livo managed to face the minimum and threw only 11 pitches (seven strikes) in the process. Nats coming up to face Bruce Chen in the bottom of the first.
7:23 p.m. -- Oh, that Nyjer Morgan. Leads off with a single, then (after Cristian Guzman flies out to center on the first pitch he sees) gets picked off trying to steal second. That's Morgan's NL-leading 11th caught stealing. Unreal. Scoreless after one.
7:33 p.m. -- Remember Jose Guillen? Apparently, not many of those in attendance tonight do. The former National (a key figure on the 2005 and 2006 squads, both for good and bad reasons) barely got a reaction when he came up to bat in the second. A couple of cheers. A couple of boos. Mostly nothing. He grounded out to Livo, by the way, who pitched his way around a leadoff double by Billy Butler to keep the game scoreless.
7:40 p.m. -- Michael Morse continues to mash the ball. He just crushed a 1-0 pitch from Chen well over the left-field bleachers, nearly onto the MASN set on the outfield concourse. Morse's fourth homer of the season puts the Nationals up 1-0 after two.
7:49 p.m. -- If there is a bright spot to Nyjer Morgan's game, he has begun to play a much better center field over the last week or so. He made a great running catch yesterday against the White Sox and he just hauled in a drive to the warning track by David DeJesus, slamming into the fence right after making the play. Saved another run from scoring after Yuniesky Betancourt came home on Jason Kendall's grounder. It's now 1-1 in the third.
7:58 p.m. -- I'm just going to let this one stand on it's own merits: Nyjer Morgan draws a one-out walk. Cristian Guzman grounds into an inning-ending double play.
8:36 p.m. -- Is it safe to say the Nats are officially in an offensive funk right now? They're getting two-hit by Bruce Chen through five innings. If that doesn't qualify as panic-button material, I don't know what does. Livan Hernandez has pitched just fine; he's put a bunch of men on base but has gotten out when he's needed to, keeping the Royals to one run. Now, if only his teammates could get anything going against Chen. It's 1-1 in the sixth.
8:46 p.m. -- Whoa, Cristian Guzman just homered. First of the season. First since Aug. 23, 2009 off the Brewers' Manny Parra. Nats lead 2-1 in the sixth. Who'd have thunk it?
8:58 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 13,592. Smallest crowd in a while.
9:02 p.m. -- Livo pitches his way out of another jam. Had first and second with no one out. But thanks to a pickoff throw from Pudge to Ian Desmond (who blocked second base from Alberto Callaspo), the threat was quashed. Hernandez then got Betancourt to fly out and got pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit looking at strike three. Bruce Chen is out for the Royals as the Nats come to bat in the seventh, up 2-1.
9:12 p.m. -- That's it for Livo. "Peaches" Clippard is on to pitch the eighth, protecting the one-run lead. Roger Bernadina has also replaced Michael Morse in right field. Hernandez's final line: 7 ip, 8 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 5 k. 99 pitches, 65 strikes. Boy, did the Nats need that from the big guy.
9:22 p.m. -- One scoreless inning from Clippard, and the Nats are three outs from stopping this six-game losing streak in its tracks. Matt Capps currently warming to pitch the ninth. Guillen, Callaspo and Aviles due up for KC.
9:34 p.m. -- Here we go ... it's the Final Countdown.
9:48 p.m. -- It's over. The ballgame and the losing streak. Nats win, 2-1. Livo improves to 6-4. Capps gets his 21st save. First Nats win in a game started by someone other than Stephen Strasburg since June 10 vs. Pittsburgh.