David Hernandez picked up his first win of the season against… (AP photo )
WASHINGTON — — David Hernandez didn't know the exact number of consecutive losses he had heading into Friday night;s game against the Washington Nationals, but the young right-hander knew what was at stake.
He knew he had to prove that he still belongs in the rotation.
Hernandez, who won the club's fifth starter role out of spring training but has scuffled with his command much of the season, pitched a one-hitter as the Orioles beat the Nationals 5-3 in front of 27,378 fans at Nationals Park.
"I figured I had to start showing something," said Hernandez (1-5), who walked five and allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings. "I definitely didn't pitch deep enough like I wanted to do, but I put zeroes up on the board. And that's really what I was trying to do."
Hernandez 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 Hernandez's first win since beating Oakland on Aug. 11, 2009.
"It feels good, I can't lie," Hernandez said. "It does feel good to get a win, especially in the big leagues. They're not easy to come by."
He also gave the Orioles (14-29) their first victory 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.
More important for Hernandez, he seemingly kept his rotation spot for another day. He admitted that he knew he had to pitch well because Triple-A Norfolk starters Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta have been dominating in the minors.
"He helped his cause tremendously," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley.
Hernandez missed his last start with shoulder soreness, and hadn't pitched since May 11. He said the rest helped strengthen his shoulder, but he also felt like it cost him because his fastball command wasn't as good as it should be. He threw 105 pitches, and only 59 were strikes.
But Trembley was impressed with the way Hernandez bounced back after the brief hiatus.
"I think it verifies the decision that was made by all of us to skip him a start, to back him off, to get him some rest, to let the medical people work on him," Trembley said. "I think from both a physical and mental standpoint it was necessary. And the results speak for themselves tonight for what he did."
Hernandez carried a no-hitter into the fifth, when with two outs he gave up a single to pitcher Miguel Bautista, who had replaced Nationals starter Scott Olsen (2-2), who left after three innings with left shoulder tightness.
"I was mad when a relief pitcher breaks it up," said catcher Craig Tatum, who learned Friday morning that he'd be starting because Matt Wieters had a bruised right knee.
Tatum made the most of his eighth start, collecting two hits including a two-run single in the third that gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead. Tatum had just one hit in his first 17 at-bats, but he's had five in his past seven.
"I know my job and the good thing about it was to help contribute with the bat tonight," Tatum said. "It seems like at the beginning of the year, I wasn't ever going to get a hit. But the good thing lately is I've been having good at-bats and sticking with my approach."
The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the second when Adam Jones hit a two-run homer, his first since April 24.
"That felt good. It's been a struggle," Jones said. "It's been difficult so far this year, but the name of the game is keep swinging the bat, so I kept swinging it."
Jones left the game before the bottom of the third after experiencing cramps in his right leg. But he said he expects to play on Saturday.
"I am fine," he said. "It was just a cramp. It went away."
The Nationals, however, hung around. They got within in one run in the seventh when former Oriole Willie Harris crushed a two-run homer against reliever Matt Albers.
The Orioles picked up 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, RBI single to Corey Patterson.
Reliever Cla Meredith and Alfredo Simon (sixth save) each pitched scoreless innings to secure the win and give the Orioles a 13-12 advantage in the all-time series against the Nationals.
It also helped wipe out an ugly 13-7 loss Thursday against the Texas Rangers -- while giving Hernandez something to smile about after nearly a year without a win.
"I was sweating (the win) out for the team," Hernandez said." It was a tough series in Texas and I was trying to set the tone here."