Page 2 of 2   <      

Another Bad Loss Caps Even Worse Start for Nats

Livan Hernandez
Livan Hernandez, who threw the first pitch in Nationals history, didn't allow a hit Sunday until Ryan Zimmerman's ground-rule double with two outs in the sixth. (Lawrence Jackson - AP)

And by "every day," he means every day. The cumulative elapsed time of the Nationals' leads is perhaps one second, the time it took rookie Kory Casto to step on home plate with the winning run in Wednesday's bottom-of-the-ninth victory over Florida. How much does this team need a lead?

"I don't even know what that is," center fielder Ryan Church said.

Hernandez, though, was handed one, and he took advantage. He is little different from the pitcher who dazzled his way to the All-Star Game wearing a Nationals uniform two seasons ago, mixing in a 63-mph curveball with a fastball that didn't push past the mid-80s. Yet through his seven innings, Washington managed only Ryan Zimmerman's double with two outs in the sixth, then a pair of singles to Church and Ronnie Belliard to lead off the seventh.

At that point, it was still 2-0, courtesy of Hill's fine 6 2/3 -inning outing. Initially, Acta had first baseman Robert Fick try to bunt the tying runs into scoring position. Fick fouled off the attempt. The bunt then was called off, and Fick flied out softly to center, breaking his bat in frustration as he ran to first.

That inability to execute set up the rest of the inning for Hernandez. He got the one break he needed when pinch hitter Dmitri Young drove the ball to left field directly at Scott Hairston, and Schneider tapped out meekly to second to end the threat.

"I'm not the kind of guy that's going to go and try to beat [a team] because I get traded last year," Hernandez said. "I go outside and do my job because I play for a different team now."

In the other clubhouse, Matt Chico -- one of two then-minor leaguers for whom Hernandez was traded last August -- packed his bag, preparing for his first major league road trip. He will start against the Braves tomorrow. Hernandez was asked if he saw any hope for his former team.

"The Nationals now have a couple of situations with the pitchers," he said. "It's a young team, and they're going to be all right. Manny knows about baseball, and he knows the way you can handle the situation like this. They're going to be all right."

Which is, roughly, the same assessment emanating from the Nationals' clubhouse. Rough week? Sure. Long season? Absolutely.

"We're going to be fine," Acta said. "We're not the only team that has started with one win in the first week of the season. Everybody goes through those stretches. . . . We're going to reel off a few wins, too."

<       2

© 2007 The Washington Post Company