Glavine, Mets end Hernandez streak, 5-3

Nationals starter loses after 11 straight wins as N.Y. rallies from 3-1 deficit

Baseball

July 07, 2005|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Every five days for the past 2 1/2 months, Livan Hernandez has taken the mound for the Washington Nationals and done something for his team that, prior to the season, would have seemed unlikely, if not altogether absurd.

He given the Nationals the arrogance of a winner.

And so last night against the New York Mets, when Hernandez's pitches weren't quite as sharp, and his decisions weren't always perfect, it was somewhat unsettling for a team still getting used to its status as a division leader. And as a result, it was the Mets who used timely hitting and solid relief pitching - two Washington staples this season - to walk away with a 5-3 victory in front of 38,148 at RFK Stadium.

The loss was the first for Hernandez (12-3) since April 19, and it broke his streak of 11 consecutive wins, the longest for a pitcher in Major League Baseball this season. It was also the Mets' second win in the four-game series, meaning the Nationals won't win a home series for the first time since Philadelphia took two of three in late April. The Nationals have a 30-12 record at RFK, still the best home record in baseball.

"Livo was human tonight," said Nationals manager Frank Robinson, "and we didn't pick him up. He wasn't real sharp, but he battled. It felt like one of our games from early in the season. We had two or three big at-bats where we needed a big hit, and we didn't get it tonight."

Hernandez, who was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game next week, wasn't awful. He gave up five runs on eight hits over seven innings, throwing 125 pitches.

He even seemed to settle down after giving up a first-inning home run to Mike Cameron. But in the sixth, with the Nationals clinging to a 3-1 lead, the Mets finally wedged themselves through a crack in his armor.

Carlos Beltran led off with a double, and Cliff Floyd and David Wright followed with a single and a walk to load the bases. What happened next was mostly bad luck, something Hernandez has avoided this season. Marlon Anderson broke his bat on a Hernandez fastball, but the ball trickled down the third base line just slowly enough that Vinny Castilla was unable to do anything with it.

Beltran scored, and when the next batter, Ramon Castro, lined a single just past the outstretched glove of Nats shortstop Jamey Carroll, Floyd and Wright scored the eventual winning runs. "I felt like that was the game, the at-bat with [Castro]," Hernandez said. "I didn't have my best stuff, but I still felt good. He just got a hit."

Hernandez's struggles helped bail out Mets pitcher Tom Glavine (6-7), who gave up nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. None of those nine hits were for extra bases, however, and when the night was over, Washington had stranded nine runners. Brad Wilkerson singled in the fourth, driving in two runs and giving Washington a 3-1 lead, but Aaron Heilman was able to get New York out of a major jam in the sixth inning without giving up any runs.

Braden Looper came on and pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 19th save.

"Give their bullpen credit," Wilkerson said. "It seemed like every time we got something going, they came up with a double-play ball."

Robinson said he wasn't happy with the way the Nationals approached Glavine, who beat the Nationals earlier this year and now has 268 career victories, tying Jim Palmer for 31st on the career list.

"We were still going up there trying to pull the ball, and that's how [Glavine] kills you," Robinson said. "He's made a living off of that for a long time."

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