Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A valiant effort from Livo

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Pitching on short rest, Livan Hernandez notched another quality start.
As Drew Storen donned the silver Elvis wig and answered a parade of questions about the first win of his 3-day-old big-league career, Livan Hernandez quietly made his way to his locker on the other side of the Nationals' clubhouse.

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.


Anonymous said...

I was at the game. When they ran that thing on the scoreboard asking fans to vote for the player of the game, I was disappointed it went to Guzman.

Question for Mark or anyone: Do you think opposing team's are stealing our signals? We had guys gunned down on steals two games in a row on called pitchouts...and tonight they pitched out on the exact play we called the squeeze. It make me wonder if they're stealing our signals.

Spike94wl said...

I think today's game showed us two things.

1) We are one SP (Strasburg not included) and one big bat away from being true contenders.

2) We NEED Adam Dunn in the line-up.

I feel like the difference between the Nats pre-losing streak and the Nats during the losing streak was Pudge. He has just totally been totally cold recently and having lost his near .400 bat has cost us. Obviosuly when Zim, Pudge (who won't be around too long), Hammer, or Dunn (or worse, both) are out of the line-up, this offense struggles. We need at least an average (20 HR's, 80 RBI) bat in RF and then we can have enough depth to get by with any injuries or other issues that occur.

I also think this proves why Adam Dunn needs to be given a contract extension. He makes Zim and Willingham sooo much better just from a protection stand point.

We're almost there guys, just a couple more pieces...

Anonymous said...

can we discuss how completely elijah dukes has fallen off the planet?

Anonymous said...

There's not really much TO discuss there...

Anonymous said...

Great analysis Mark. Most people will think the story of the game is breaking a losing streak but delving deeper into things, what a gutsy effort from Livo. It's that kind of attitude that will make the D.C. summer more interesting.

Anonymous said...

I was unable to see the game - can someone describe the squeeze play?


George Abbot said...

MVP Pudge and Livo. Maybe there should be a clever slogan for them like clip and save. Surely they deserve one?

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how Livo is doing what he's doing--I expect it's a combination of ridiculous luck and pitchers just not being able to adjust to his style of pitching this early, when most pitchers are throwing heat--but I hope it continues for a long time to come.

Anonymous said...

haha yeah cant imagine discussing a player who went from starting on a major league team to crazy

Grandstander said...

Livo is my Hero!

There's obviously a lot to talk about with this game, Storen's first win, Clippard back on track, Capps' 15th save, Pagan's ridiculousness, etc.

But to me, and Mark highlighted it in his excellent writeup, it's the changed attitude. We dropped a rough 5 games there, all winnable, and there was no finger-pointing, no prolonged slump, no shakeups, no whining.

Livo goes, you need a guy on short rest, I'll do it! Guzman, who has been hot, asserted his place in the lineup and showed why he should be there, the team fought out a hard win. You could just tell they were gonna win this game.

To me, the star of this game wasn't a player, it's the general attitude of this squad, which can be attributed to all players. It's almost become redundant, but last year, this game was a loss.

Positively Half St. said...

I would like to discuss the better Nats player who went from the Major Leagues to disappearing. Given all of the hype in Asia which surrounds him, I am surprised we don't hear more updates on the progress of Chien-Ming Wang. I sure would like to. Mark, could you please ask someone what his current rehab schedule looks like? I am still excited to have him join the pitching staff. The Nats just released the news that Detwiler is ready to pitch again (rehab assignment), but what about Wang?

natsfan1a said...

Yeah, we all know who deserved the W. ;-) Is it just me, or when Livo meanders off the mound to field a ground ball, does he kinda remind you of a guy strolling out in his bathrobe to pick up the morning paper? "Hey, you kids: get off my lawn!" Love ya, Livo.

Re. the changed attitude, after the inside-the-parker and triple play, my husband says, "Last year, they don't come back from that." We both thought that this team could, and they did.

Mary / Springfield said...

the squeeze play, from what I recall: Bernadina led off with a double, and Desmond sac bunted him to 3rd ... Morse was on desk to PH, but was switched for Kennedy. The pitch was far outside, and since Bernie had started for the plate Kennedy had to make contact / foul it off to avoid Bernie being caught out. The thing was, the pitch was so far outside that Kennedy had to stick the bat out literally at full arms-length to make contact. It worked, and the ball fell foul near the plate and Bernie safely returned to 3rd. MASN had a nice overhead shot of the play.

MikeHarris said...

Love Livo. My question: Why wasn't he sent back a day early so he wouldn't have to arrive at 4:45 a.m.? Do teams still do that?

K.D. said...

Spike94...Where do you think this team would be without Pudge? That is why they call it a team, when Pudge was hot, Dunn was cold, Zimmerman wasn't hitting. Now it is time for someone else to get pick it up at the plate. Livo is awesome, he may struggle later in the season. That won't cancel out his great start. Yesterday is why I love baseball, it could be a snooze of a game or it could be filled with drama and oddities like last night. Good article.

Anonymous said...

Desmond failed twice to bunt Bernadina to third so instead gronded to the right side and got the job done.

Mark Zuckerman said...

+1/2St.: I ask about Wang every week or two, and it's the same response: He's not ready to start his rehab assignment yet. Once he goes on rehab, it'll be one month til he's back in the big leagues. So it's going to be July at the earliest before we see him in D.C.

MikeHarris: I actually asked Livo about that the other day in St. Louis. He said he doesn't like flying home early. Doesn't like abandoning the team, and he doesn't like dealing with the hassles of commercial flight. Told a story from his Expos days when Javier Vazquez tried to leave the day before and wound up arriving back home AFTER the team charter did because of delays.

Anonymous8 said...


1) Livo showed he is a team player and a mentor

2) Good bounce back from TClip

3) Adam Dunn showed you his value just by being in the lineup that makes everyone around him better. Also made some nice defensive plays


1) Team is struggling bunting

2) Nyjer Morgan played that inside-the-park-HR ball poorly as he has done on many over his head this year as well as balls he has dived on and missed

3) Nyjer Morgan baserunning blunder on the triple play that should have been a double play. Ball is hit in front of him. He needed to freeze and get back to first when he saw the ball was caught.

It worked tonight but I am concerned that the relievers are throwing nothing but fastballs and like Tatis did, those can be hit a long way when you make solid contact.

Anonymous8 said...

Did you hear about Posada? Has been out of the Yankees lineup for weeks with a foot injury, has a MRI yesterday which reveals a broken bone in his foot and is now on the DL.

Reminds me of the Nationals in 2008.

Doc said...

Livo's pitching status can be summed up as the prowess ov a very good athlete. It's easy to forget about finess, given the flame throwers of the game, and the over-emphasis on velocity. But most of the great pitchers of the game have always depended on location.

In addition to location, of course, Livo has great movement on the ball, which is a testimony to his athleticism. This is one guy who really wanted to be a National, and for that he has a special place in all our NatsFans' hearts.

FOTB said...

Great write-up of a great game, as usual, Mark.
Hate to be negative, but I agree with Anonymous8 that Nyjer misplayed the inside-the-park HR. Not saying he could have or should have caught it, but he did not play it well. Also, I know we love Willie Harris, but I thought he could have made a better effort on the Tatis HR in the Ninth. The ball landed right on top of the wall and the wall isn't too high for him to go up and snag that one or at least keep it in the park. In my book, Willie gets a pass, because he is not an everyday outfielder, but Nyjer doesn't, because he is.

Knoxville Nat said...

Watching Morgan misplay Pagan's inside the park HR last night I had to ask myself how long does Riggleman give him before trying a lineup with Bernadina in CF and Morse in RF? Lately Nyjer has not been hitting, running the bases very well (when he does get on base)and his defense has seemed a bit suspect to me. A little "time off" to sort it all out in his head and in the batting cage might be a good thing right now for Morgan.

Anonymous8 said...

FOTB/Knoxville - Thanks. I will further the point about watching an outfielder that thinks of outcomes.

If Nyjer stops at the warning track and plays it off the wall, it is a stand-up double. Why continue and climb the wall with your hands flailing and your back facing the field of play. It is like when a ball is hit in front of him and he dives and misses and the ball becomes a double or triple (as he has done) instead of a single.

I take Nyjer's pluses and minuses and they add up to a scary reminder of Lastings Milledge. Bad baserunning. Bad routes and decisions on balls. Poor on-base percentage and his bunting of late has been horrible.

Knoxville is getting to the point, how long do you go with this guy?

BTW, Bernadina makes that catch at the wall just like he did playing CF against the Cardinals.

Anonymous said...

I won $10 betting that Ollie would walk Dunn. The most walkingest pitchers vs. the most walkingest batter, easy money.

Slidell said...

Agree re Livo. IMO he's just as important as Pudge regarding the massive improvement in the team's sticktoitiveness (what a word!).
Agree also re Nyjer. He does great stuff now and then but at present takes away as much or more as he gives.
Was at the game; I have a feeling that Bernadina has a real chance of solving the RF (or CF) problem. He did however misjudge a soft fly ball which his speed enabled him to catch up to.
I also felt early that Dickey (appropriate last name for a NY player) wouldn't make it through the lineup twice without problems. Occasionally, my gut is right.

Steve M. said...

Slidell said...Agree also re Nyjer. He does great stuff now and then but at present takes away as much or more as he gives.
Was at the game; I have a feeling that Bernadina has a real chance of solving the RF (or CF) problem. He did however misjudge a soft fly ball which his speed enabled him to catch up to.

On the Bernadian/Guzman signals crossed, I believe Roger thought Guzman called for the ball and sped up when he saw he didn't which turned into a highlight catch.

On Nyjer, yes, he is more Tony Flush this year and agree -unfortunately- that he is doing a good Milledge imitation.

As a fan of the Nats, I dont like ragging on a player but when a player just constantly is screwing up (like Milledge did) it is a problem. Then in his postgame interview on the triple play Nyjer defended himself saying, "I was just waiting for the call but in my view, it just kind of looked like the ball hit the ground before it went into his mitt."

Come on, Nyjer, you were about 70 feet away and you couldn't see it?

Anonymous said...

With all the negative comments above re Nyjer I've gotta chime in. Nyjer Morgan is a huge plus for the team in many ways IMO. He brings a leadoff presence to a team that sorely needed it. Okay, he's made a few bad plays lately along with the good ones, but he's just getting started as a CFer and as the Nats leadoff threat. And he seems to help with team chemistry on a team with lots of quiet guys. He's OBP needs to go up 50 points, as Bob Carpenter mentioned last night, but let's give the man some room to develop. Let's back off the quick-trigger negative comments on Mark's blog. Let's use MLB for that!

Steve M. said...

Hey Anon @1:21, don't worry as JayB isn't calling for his head to roll like he did correctly with Milledge but you have to be concerned as a Nats fan.

The guy has been playing the outfield for years and running bases so this isnt about getting acclamated to CF. He has to screw on his head as these mental mistakes are adding up.

He would have been picked off in the Cardinals game in the 9th inning on Tuesday in a 1 run game if Radison didn't talk to him so sometimes he has lucked out and these mental errors usually dont show up in the box scores.

His energy level is great until it becomes showboating and you cant back it up with the stats and quickly the teammates will turn on you and team chemistry gets FLUSHED in the toilet.

If he was hitting .280 with a .375 OBP than the positives would probably outweigh the negatives but he also leads the league with 8 caught stealing too so you can Sabre that as a huge negative so really, is he a leadoff threat???

Errors will be made, just dont make the same ones twice.

Cwj said...

Morgan's in what is known as a slump. It seems to happen to every player on every team, every year.
The Nats are enjoying a nice start to the season so whoever isn't producing is fair game for the naysayers. Kudos to the fans who pay attention to all the positives on this team. Some fans are so fickle it's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Cwj said...
Morgan's in what is known as a slump.

Nobody is complaining about a batting slump. The complaint is about his mental slump. You need to re-read every post again if that was your takeaway.

Anonymous said...

Yes, what is wrong with nyjer?

Can't hit
Can't field
Can't steal
Can't run the bases
Can't even bunt

he's become a 5 tool guy in reverse

Posted by: swanni | May 20, 2010 10:34 AM

CWJ - It is brutal in the Natmosphere today about Nyjer.

I am hoping he turns this around, quickly!

To analyze a quote on there about a true OBP. Can you in theory as a manager start to analyze the caught stealings and subtract an on-base opportunity when you are caught stealing as this shows:

If you subtract 8 caught stealing from his OBP percentage his OBP drops from .337 to .289.

That is a troublesome stat for a leadoff man. He is in fact after a pickoff/caught stealing taking himself off the basepaths and putting up an out every time he is caught stealing.

Steve M. said...

Right now this team has a shortage of outfielders so Nyjer is here to stay. I think the coaches and manager and GM need to see what they can do on coaching young Nyjer about staying aggressive but doing it smart.

Today is a new day. Here's to Nyjer getting on base 3 times today!!!!

Anonymous said...

Livo hangs around in case he's called to pinch hit. Regarding the vanished Dukes: I saw him up close in spring baseball make a jaw dropping throw from the fence. Absolutely stunning.

Cwj said...

I never said it was simply a hitting slump. Stats never lie, but he was safe on about 3 of his caught stealing attempts (as they frequently show on MASN, pretty good replays on there btw. I'll give MASN some credit for that.)
Anyway, haha, Morgan is in an "all encompassing" slump.
He'll be fine.
I'm just excited to see Storen and can't wait for Strasburg. Very entertaining team they've fielded this year.

Cwj said...

Regarding Morgan's poor SB/CS ratio, I can't help but wonder if the coaches have tinkered a bit too much with his approach. He sometimes looks a little confused on the field. But that's probably reading way to much into it.

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