The combination of Justin Verlander, Brandon Boesch and a poor effort by Livan Hernandez led to the demise of the Nationals tonight, falling 8-3 to the Detroit Tigers.
Livan Hernandez had his poorest outing of the year thus far for the Nationals by doubling his season-high in earned runs allowed in a single start tonight. Hernandez lasted into the seventh, giving up eight earned runs only seven hits on the evening. However, he also walked a season-high six Tigers, contributing greatly to the eight runs he surrendered.
However, the play to keep Livan in for the seventh inning is one that manager Jim Riggleman even questioned himself. Entering the inning, the Nationals were trailing 5-3. Livan quickly got two outs in the inning, forcing Don Kelly to ground out and Johnny Damon to line out to second. Facing the heart of the order with two outs and nobody on, Hernandez gave up back-to-back singles to Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. Rookie phenom Brandon Boesch capitalized, scorching a bomb to right field for a three-run home run and to break open the game.
To complicate matters, Justin Verlander was on his game tonight. Verlander lasted eight innings tonight, striking out 11 without giving up a walk. He gave up three runs, two of which came in the form of solo home runs from Adam Dunn and Roger Bernadina. The old adage is good pitching will beat good hitting any day, and on this night, Verlander was just better than the Nationals offense.
The Nationals remain in last place, falling seven games behind the Braves and Mets in the loss column. The team is 4-6 in their last 10 games, and 5-9 in the month of June. However, after their day game tomorrow against the Tigers, the Nationals have nine consecutive games against lower American League competition in the form o f the White Sox, Royals and Orioles.
I said in a recent post that Livan Hernandez was going to come back to Earth after his hot start, but this was not exactly what I meant. In all honesty, I believe realistic Livan is somewhere in the neighborhood of his first six innings of work tonight. He will always pitch to contact, maybe walk a few hitters along the way, but not six in one game. Typical, reliable Livan should sit somewhere between 5-7 innings and surrendering 2-4 runs a game. Those numbers will keep the Nationals in the games deep, which is all you can ask for when the heart of the order is clicking.
At 31-35 and struggling in June, things aren't looking promising tonight. But, like I mentioned, easier competition the Nats should be able to beat up on is forthcoming. Tomorrow afternoon, the Nationals look to avoid the sweep with Luis Atilano (5-3, 4.34) facing off against Jeremy Bonderman (2-4, 4.21).