Livan Hernandez
Livan Hernandez holds the Braves to one run in eight innings on Tuesday.
AP
Correction to This Article
A July 27 Sports article incorrectly indicated that Washington Nationals reliever Chad Cordero pitched against the Atlanta Braves in the top of the ninth inning of the previous day's game. Cordero pitched in the bottom of the ninth for the visiting Nationals.
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With Walk, Nats Tumble From First

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Not that it mattered, for in the 10th, the Braves put runners on first and third off Stanton. With two outs, Robinson called for Ayala, who threw six balls in seven pitches -- hitting Marcus Giles to load the bases and walking Andruw Jones on four throws to end the night.

Later Robinson threw up his hands over Ayala's last pitch.

"It was 3-0," he said of the count. "You think [Jones] is swinging 3-0? No. If he is, let him. To me it looked like he was trying to make a perfect pitch on the corner. It was 3-0. Where are you going 3-0?"

Then he slumped in his chair.

The bullpen squandered one of Hernandez's best outings of the year. A game in which the big right-hander labored through a thick, stagnant night, throwing every pitch he had to seemingly out-duel Smoltz, 2-1. Hernandez threw 105 pitches in the sweltering evening.

After the eighth, which he ended with an 89-mph fastball that touched the corner, striking out Giles, he walked off the mound thinking he could go another inning. But with his knees sore all year and Cordero firing fastballs in the bullpen, he looked at Robinson and said, "That's it."

"You have the best closer in the game," Hernandez said.

Only this time Cordero could not do what he had done so many times already this year and finish off yet another one-run game.

Sometime afterward, after most of the clubhouse had emptied of players, Robinson was asked if his offense had maybe once again failed the Nationals. The manager wiped his head with a towel and said no.

"We got eight hits," he said. "We had enough runs to win this game tonight. You've got to get three outs and we didn't get them."

Cordero was not around after reporters left Robinson's office. Maybe there wasn't much he could say. He seemed so shocked by the three rockets off three pitches that perhaps he might still have been stunned.

From in front of a nearby locker, Stanton said he wouldn't be worried about the closer who just had his first taste of true adversity.

"I doubt it will affect him too much," Stanton said. "He's got a pretty stable personality."

They have to hope he's right.


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