Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
After last night's craziness, Livan Hernandez looks to be a calming presence tonight.
Hernandez's task is simple: Keep doing what he's been doing all season and give the Nats a chance to beat a really tough opponent in Tim Hudson, who in his career against the Expos/Nationals franchise is merely 9-1 with a 1.51 ERA. He also outdueled Stephen Strasburg last month in Atlanta, tossing seven scoreless innings.
As I mentioned earlier today, Josh Willingham is not in the starting lineup. Why? Probably because he's a career 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts against Hudson. (He also appeared to jam his leg sliding into second base on his sixth-inning stolen base last night.) Who on the Nats' roster does have a record of success against him? Ivan Rodriguez (13-for-29).
Check back throughout the afternoon and evening for updates...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 91 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
RF Roger Bernadina
C Ivan Rodriguez
LF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez
2B Martin Prado
RF Jason Heyward
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
LF Eric Hinske
1B Troy Glaus
SS Alex Gonzalez
CF Melky Cabrera
P Tim Hudson
6:19 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman had some interesting things to say about Josh Willingham's playing time. Sounds like he may get more days off moving forward. "With Josh, we kind of came into this season feeling like we overdid it with him a little bit last season," the manager said. "He's been so good, it's hard to sit him down. But he came into the season feeling no matter if he's hot or cold, there's going to be times where he has to sit. We think he's going to be a better producer for us with 500 at-bats than 600 at-bats. We'll just take these opportunities where there's a particular matchup and hopefully something comes up in the game where I can get him up in the spot to pinch-hit."
7:06 p.m. -- This game is underway with a strike from Livan Hernandez to Martin Prado. Much smaller crowd than last night; the place isn't even half-full at the moment. If you haven't seen them yet, check the homepage for updates on Stephen Strasburg and Scott Olsen, who will start tomorrow's series finale.
7:20 p.m. -- Not exactly an enthralling top of the first for Livo. Prado singled and Jason Heyward doubled to get things started, then Chipper Jones drove in a run with a sac fly. A Brian McCann walk put runners on the corners, and that's when things really got ugly. The Braves called for a double steal, and the Nats played it poorly to say the least. The ball went from Pudge to Desmond to Dunn to Pudge, and the end result was that nobody was out. Dunn's throw to the plate was low and a bit offline, and Heyward did a nice job sliding around the tag. So before they've stepped to the plate, the Nats are in a 2-0 hole.
7:31 p.m. -- Significantly better second inning for Hernandez, who retired the side. Struck out Alex Gonzalez, then got two groundball outs from the bottom of the order. The Nats didn't do much in the bottom of the first, getting only a one-out single from Adam Kennedy. Now it's that fearsome 5-6-7 of Bernadina-Rodriguez-Harris due up in the bottom of the second.
7:39 p.m. -- And to no one's surprise, Hudson set those three guys down on two strikeouts and a groundout. Braves still lead 2-0 after two.
7:54 p.m. -- This just in: Adam Kennedy is slow. I mean, really slow. Adam Dunn has insisted all year that he and Kennedy run at the same speed, yet Kennedy often is sent in to pinch-run for Dunn. Well, that lack of speed may have cost the Nats a run in the third. With runners on the corners and one out, Kennedy grounded to the first. Troy Glaus started a 3-6-3 double play that took considerable skill on his part to pull off but probably wouldn't have been completed with a faster guy coming out of the box. Nevertheless, the Nats failed to score in the third and thus still trail 2-0 heading to the fourth.
8:06 p.m. -- Livo has certainly gotten himself back in form. Since that shaky first, he's scattered two singles and nothing else. Struck out Melky Cabrera to end the fourth and keep the deficit at 2-0.
8:35 p.m. -- Well, so much for Livan Hernandez turning this into a quality start. After giving up two hits and a walk in the fifth, Livo got a quick hook from Jim Riggleman, who decided to go with Doug Slaten against Brian McCann. The move worked; McCann lined out. Tyler Clippard then entered in a double switch -- with Michael Morse taking over in right field! -- and got Hinske to fly out to end the inning with the Braves up only 3-0. Still, a strange exit for Livo, who only threw 85 pitches over 4 1/3 innings.
8:43 p.m. -- The Nats are on the board, thanks to an RBI single from ... you guessed it: Michael Morse! It's 3-1 after five. On the bright side, Morse should get a couple more at-bats tonight (unless Riggleman double-switches him for Wil Nieves or something).
8:59 p.m. -- It appears Tyler Clippard is refashioning himself quite nicely as a guy who can thrive when pitching when his team is trailing. Not exactly the spot the Nats want him to be in, but the bespectacled one just turned in another nice performance down two runs. He retried four of five batters faced and struck out three.
9:15 p.m. -- Joel Peralta put a couple of guys on in the seventh but managed to prevent the Braves from scoring. So it remains 3-1 as we hit the stretch. Nats have nine outs to try to score two runs. Harris, Desmond and Morse due up.
9:30 p.m. -- Two scoreless innings from Peralta, who really has done a bang-up job since joining the bullpen. Of course, none of this matters if the Nats can't get something going at the plate. Hudson is taking the mound for the eighth, still cruising along, still up 3-1.
9:39 p.m. -- Hudson is finally out of the game. After a two-out walk of Zimmerman, Bobby Cox summons lefty Johnny Venters to face Adam Dunn.
9:44 p.m. -- And Venters strikes Dunn out to end the eighth. Ugh.
9:52 p.m. -- A thought, before we get to the bottom of the ninth: Livan Hernandez only threw 85 pitches today. Perhaps the Nats are planning to bring him back on short rest to start Sunday in Stephen Strasburg's slot. They would then need someone to start Monday in Arizona. A strong possibility: Jason Marquis, who just threw five innings tonight for Syracuse. Marquis allowed a grand slam in the first inning but then shut out Indianapolis the rest of the way, striking out seven. Seems like a logical choice to pitch five days from now against the Diamondbacks.
10:01 p.m. -- That's it. It's over. Billy Wagner shuts the Nats down in the bottom of the ninth, sealing a 3-1 Braves win. Tim Hudson continues to absolutely own the Nationals. In 16 starts against Washington (he pitched once in 2003 against the Expos, so I'm not counting that) he's now 9-1 with a 1.50 ERA.