Hernandez wins first of the year as O's beat Nationals

RHP leaves game in sixth with a one-hitter

May 21, 2010|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

WASHINGTON — When asked during his pre-game media conference about the importance of David Hernandez's start against the Washington Nationals on Friday, Orioles manager Dave Trembley offered four words.

"It speaks for itself."

Trembley wouldn't specifically say that Hernandez needed to pitch well to keep his rotation spot and hold off Triple-A Norfolk starters Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta. But the implication was made.

What Trembley and the Orioles witnessed in their 5-3 win over the Nationals was the best and worst of the 25-year-old right-hander. Using his mid-90s fastball, Hernandez didn't yield a hit until the fifth, and left the game in the sixth with a one-hitter.

Hernandez (1-5) snapped his personal losing streak of 11 straight decisions, longest active in the majors and second longest in Orioles history behind Mike Boddicker's 13 consecutive losses in 1987-88. It was his first win since Aug. 2009.

He also gave the Orioles (14-29) their first win on this abbreviated five-game road trip while dropping the Nationals (21-22) to under .500 for the first time since April 15, the ninth game of the season. The first game of the I-95 rivalry drew 27,378 to Nationals Park.

But it wasn't a perfect night for Hernandez, who hadn't pitched since May 11 due to shoulder soreness.

Like he has for much of the early season, Hernandez struggled with his command. He walked five -- including consecutive batters to chase him in the sixth -- and threw 105 pitches (69 strikes) in just 5 1/3 innings.

He was charged with one run, when Ivan Rodriguez hit a RBI groundout against Orioles reliever Matt Albers.

Albers wiggled out of the jam in the sixth, but he allowed the Nationals back into the game in the seventh. With one out, he gave up a double to pinch-hitter Nyjer Morgan and then former Oriole Willie Harris crushed a fastball off the mezzanine facing in right to close the gap to 4-3.

Before the game, Trembley said he needed a strong beginning from Hernandez and the offense to wipe away Thursday night's 13-7 pummeling by the Texas Rangers.

"Get through the first inning, that's what I need from Hernandez. Get through the first inning and offensively what we need is to get ahead, not play from behind. Especially when you come off a game like [Thursday] night, the last thing in the world you want is to play from behind."

Trembley got his wish, as Hernandez retired the Nationals in order in the first and the Orioles scored two in the second against Scott Olsen (2-2) on Adam Jones' fourth homer of the season.

They added two more against Olsen in the third when reserve catcher Craig Tatum hit a two-out, two-run single. Tatum, who was starting only because Matt Wieters was out with a sore knee, had his fifth hit in six at-bats after starting the season 1-for-17.

The Orioles got a much needed insurance run in the eighth against Washington's ballyhooed young reliever Drew Storen, who walked Tatum and served up a two-out single to Corey Patterson.

Reliever Cla Meredith pitched a scoreless eighth and Alfredo Simon picked up his sixth save of the season.

By the fourth inning, both Olsen (shoulder stiffness) and Jones (right leg cramps) had left the game.

They weren't around to see the Orioles hang on for the win and go up 13-12 all-time in the series between the two teams.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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