Nats fall, 3-2, may lose Hernandez

Pitcher hits 4, could end season with knee surgery

July 21, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - It was a wild night at RFK Stadium. And not just the game. Livan Hernandez, too.

Washington's starter, the most reliable pitcher in the Nationals' rotation, threw 104 pitches, and 100 of them didn't hit anybody. But the four that did allowed Hernandez - who delivered the stunning news afterward that he's contemplating season-ending knee surgery - to set a club record and match a modern major league mark for most hit batters by one pitcher in a game.

The errant pitches contributed to a 3-2 loss to the last- place Colorado Rockies, who took two of three games from the Nationals.

Afterward, Hernandez offered information that could have more dire consequences for the team than any of his errant pitches.

"I'm not happy for three years. After the season, I'm going to tell you" why, said Hernandez, 12-4 with a 3.44 ERA.

"It's 99.9 percent I'm not going to pitch no more" this season, he said. "I'm done, I think, so let's see what happens. ... I'll go to sleep, and I'm going to make a decision tonight."

His right knee has been a problem all year, and it was drained May 16. But Hernandez said it's not bothering him enough to affect his pitching - nor was he told to have the knee worked on.

"It's not the doctors. It's me. I'm the doctor. I don't need it, but I'm going to" have an operation, he said.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson didn't mention anything about Hernandez's possible surgery during his post-game news conference. Later, Robinson said he didn't want to say much without hearing directly from his pitcher. "I have no idea who he's mad at," Robinson said.

Washington, which entered the game with baseball's best home winning percentage, dropped its fourth series in a row and second in a row at RFK.

Before last night's game, the Nationals had won 15 of Hernandez's 20 starts, and he led the league in innings pitched.

On at least one of Hernandez's hit batters, Robinson argued that the batter hadn't moved to evade the pitch. "The rule says you have to make an attempt to get out of the way," he said.

Hernandez surrendered only three runs in seven innings, but his wildness cost the Nationals.

With Washington ahead 2-1 in the sixth, Hernandez hit leadoff hitter Desi Relaford. J.D. Closser followed with a home run to right - just the 46th homer this season at RFK, fewest in the majors by far.

Trailing 3-2, Washington put runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings but could not score.

Colorado reliever Brian Fuentes surrendered a two-out dou-ble in the ninth to Ryan Church, who took third on a wild pitch. After Carlos Baerga was hit by a pitch, pinch hitter Vinny Castilla lined to short to end the game.

Even with Hernandez's occasional troubles, Washington had seemed in command.

By the fourth inning, the Nationals had shut out the Rockies for 13 straight innings extending back to the previous game.

But when is life ever easy for a club that seems to relish putting itself in difficult straits and then battling back?

Robinson said his hitters seemed to be pressing in clutch situations. "We're trying too hard," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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