“I think I made it [to] second base in 18 seconds,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez ambled to third base when Ian Desmond singled, which is where he stood when Zimmerman blasted a deep fly ball to right-center field. Third base coach Bo Porter told Hernandez, “Tag up.”
“No,” Hernandez replied. “I’m just gonna jog home.”
When Zimmerman’s drive landed two rows deep, Porter could only shake his head and laugh.
“I’m a pitcher,” Hernandez said. “So I know when the ball is a home run.”
On Monday, the Nationals’ off day, Hernandez played golf with six teammates and Manager Davey Johnson. He swung way past parallel, out-drove everyone and carded the best score. He showed up Tuesday without any idea that the Braves had not played in three days because of Hurricane Irene.
“When I get out of the stadium, it’s difficult watching baseball,” Hernandez said. “I watch MTV.”
He cares deeply about the game when he walks into the stadium. His milestone offered another reminder that hundreds of pitchers better than him will come along, but none quite like him. Hernandez, 36, persists with his mid-80s fastballs and cartoon curveballs.
“Hitting, pitching, everything,” Zimmerman said. “He kept them off balance. He can go in, go out. That’s him. You can’t survive in this league as long as he has without being able to do that stuff.”
Hernandez, simply, will take the ball and soak up innings. Over the past five seasons, 98 pitchers who have thrown at least 500 innings have a better ERA than Hernandez’s 4.84 during that span. But only 14 have thrown more than his 9492
“His confidence in his stuff, it’s been a joy for me to watch him this year,” Nix said. “I’m really glad I’ve got to spend a year with him and get a real appreciation for what he does, in every facet of the game. He’s a confident player.”
Hernandez walked out of the clubhouse late Tuesday night, a designer leather bag slung over a red T-shirt with the word “REBEL” spelled out in black, speckled with faux jewels. He had hopes for next season, but he did not know what they held. He knew only what he has always known. Five days, he will take the tall and throw more pitches.