The Washington Nationals ended their two-game losing streak last night topping the Braves 6-3 in their return to Nats Park. While the game was a battle early on, the Nationals took control scoring one run in each of the last four innings, helping the club improve to 14-12 on the young season.
The Nationals got run support from their middle infield. Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman combined to go four for eight with a run and three RBI. The combo, which was the topic of much debate entering the season, has proven to be solid as they have received contributions from Guzman, Desmond, and Kennedy.
The man who has asserted himself as the Nationals ace early this season, Livan Hernandez, scattered five hits over 5.1 innings pitched, striking out one and only allowing one earned run. He got himself into trouble with his control however, giving five free passes to a Braves lineup that has struggled to score runs. When it counted though, Livan got the outs the Nationals needed and for the fifth straight start put the Nationals in a position to win.
In total he threw a massive 123 pitches in only five innings of worked, a strong indicator that while he only allowed one earned run, he struggled to earn his fifth win of the season. His fastball only averaged 84.6 MPH on the night, and he only threw it for strikes 47% of the time. For a junkballer like Livan to be successful, that fastball needs to be located perfectly. Because in order to get major league batters to chase the junk, you have to get ahead in the count with a well placed fastball.
Whether yesterdays performance was an indicator of impending doom or not, the end results were positive. Livan has now had five quality starts in a row, going 4-1 in those games, and still has retained an ERA below one. While the Nationals may not have Strasburg in the majors yet, they're getting just about as good an output from Livan Hernandez as they could expect from any pitcher anywhere.
-In the top bottom of the fourth Josh Willingham hit a one-out solo homer (.106 WPA) improving the Nats WE to 52.9. Ian Desmond hit a single two batters later to drive in Ivan Rodriguez, giving the Nationals a 2-1 lead (.067 WPA) catapulting the Nats WE to 68.5.
-Jason Heyward launched his eighth homer of the year off of Livan Hernandez with no outs in the top of the fourth (.118 WPA). The homer tied the game at 2-2 and evened up the Braves WE to 50%.
-The game stayed gridlocked until the bottom of the fifth when Ian Desmond led off the inning with a bomb of Kawakami (.135 WPA). The homer was the rookie's first shot of the season and improved the clubs WE to 70.4.
-Adam Dunn all but locked up the game for the Nationals as he led off the top of the inning with a solo homer off O'Flaherty, his fifth of the season (.104 WPA). The shot improved the clubs WE to 84.