Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Pitching on short rest, Livan Hernandez notched another quality start.
There was no wig for Livo, no player-of-the-game designation, not even a "W." Make no mistake, though, the wily old veteran earned MVP honors in the Nats' 5-3 victory over the Mets.
Most Valiant Performance.
There were so many storylines to this crazy game, one of the wildest of the season. Storen's first win. Matt Capps' 15th save. A perfect eighth inning from Tyler Clippard. A game-saving fouled-off suicide squeeze bunt by Adam Kennedy on a pitchout.
Oh yeah, and an inside-the-park homer followed by a triple play, both involving Mets center fielder Angel Pagan.
But the Nationals would not have won this game, would not have snapped their five-game losing streak, would not have kept their record over .500 if not for the courageous pitching performance of Hernandez on three days' rest.
"It may be out of your guys' attention, but not ours," Kennedy said. "He's tremendous. You wouldn't expect anything less of him."
Maybe that's why it seemed almost an afterthought. We've just come to expect these kinds of things from the man who has thrown more pitches in the last decade than anyone else in the majors. Plus, Livo shrugs these things off himself.
Jim Riggleman and Steve McCatty didn't even need to ask Hernandez to come back on short rest. On Sunday, less than 24 hours after tossing 100 pitches in the first half of a doubleheader against the Rockies, Livo walked into the manager's office and offered to do it.
"I know that somebody's got to pitch today, and somebody's got to make a decision," Hernandez said. "I go over there and I say, 'Hey, you need somebody to pitch. I'm ready.'
"Everything came out perfect."
Yes, it did. Hernandez tossed 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball. He didn't allow his first hit until his 14th batter of the night (Pagan's inside-the-parker). He tossed 94 pitches, barely breaking a sweat along the way.
"That was huge," Riggleman said. "If I could do anything different, maybe I wouldn't have sent him out there for that seventh inning because I knew if someone got on I was going to take him out. But it's hard to take him out. He's just done such a great job, you feel as confident with him as anybody you have."
Hernandez has pitched eight times now this season. He's recorded seven quality starts.
Go back to late last summer, when the Nats re-acquired the right-hander, and he's posted a combined 3.36 ERA over 16 starts, 13 of them quality starts.
And he hasn't complained once about anything. Not the fact he had to pitch on short rest. Not the fact he had to do it after landing in D.C. at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday following a late-night flight from St. Louis. Not the fact he wasn't credited with a win for his performance.
Not the fact he got caught in no-man's land on Cristian Guzman's sinking liner to center field in the fifth, the one that produced the first triple play in the Nats' brief history.
"I'm at third base, and I think he dropped the ball," Hernandez said. "When I see the umpire called out, I said, 'Uh-oh.' And when I see [Nyjer] Morgan at second base, I say, 'Uh-oh.' I say, 'We in trouble.'"
Yeah, Livo was caught in a triple play, but he most definitely wasn't in trouble. Not the way he pitched on a night when the Nationals desperately needed his services.
"I mean, my win, coming in and just throwing two-thirds of an inning after he goes on three days' rest and has a solid outing," Storen said, "it's kind of unfair for me to take that win away from him."
Don't worry, Drew. Everyone inside the Nats clubhouse knew who really earned tonight's win.