Livan Hernandez is quietly enjoying a dominating second half.
The NL pitcher of the month for July, Hernandez has gone 5-1 with a 1.74 ERA in seven starts since July 1.
He rebounded from a 2-1 complete game loss to St. Louis on July 29, in which he allowed just five hits and struck out eight, with Sunday’s 4-2 win over Milwaukee.
“Last time, we wasted a good performance by him,” Expos shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. “This time we put a couple of hits together and scored a lot of runs for him, enough runs for him to win the game.”
Hernandez yielded one run and five hits over seven innings, allowing only Royce Clayton’s solo homer in the fourth. He struck out seven and walked one, leaving after he pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh.
“Another solid outing—just a fantastic performance,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said, “especially late in the ballgame with the bases loaded.”
The Expos have dropped four straight, including Friday’s 5-1 loss in the series opener.
“It feels good to do something to help our team get a win,” Merced said. “I was trying to make contact to get a run in and I got a little better pitch and was able to drive it over the fence.”
Berkman is hitting .364 (36-for-99) with six homers, 21 RBIs and 20 runs over his last 29 games for the NL Central-leading Astros, who have alternated wins and losses since July 30.
Houston hasn’t won consecutive games since July 22-23.
STANDINGS: Expos - 4th place, 18 1/2 GB, NL East. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Hernandez (11-7, 3.32 ERA). Hernandez is 6-3 with a 3.56 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Jared Fernandez (1-0, 1.69 ERA). Fernandez pitched 5 1-3 solid innings in his season debut, allowing one run and three hits over 5 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Florida. The knuckleballer, who was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on July 31 to replace right-hander Pete Munro, struck out four and walked one. Fernandez has yielded just two hits over two scoreless innings of relief in two career appearances against Montreal.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Expos - Jose Vidro, .317 avg.; Cabrera, 16 HRs, 65 RBIs, 75 runs and 18 SBs. Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .318 avg.; Jeff Bagwell, 27 HRs, 70 RBIs and 76 runs; Bagwell and Adam Everett, 6 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 2-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Expos - Montreal has lost 12 of its last 13 road games. … SS Cabrera has been successful in 39 of his last 40 stolen base attempts, dating to last season. … OF Vladimir Guerrero is hitting .352 (19-for-54) with five homers and 12 RBIs over his last 14 games. Astros - 2B Jeff Kent is hitting .429 in seven career at-bats against RHP Hernandez with one double, one homer and one RBI. … 1B Bagwell is hitting .299 (26-for-87) over his last 25 games with 12 homers and 26 RBIs. … The Astros are 55-2 this season when leading after eight innings.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Expos - 22-36 on the road; Astros - 35-22 at home.
INJURIES: Expos - C Michael Barrett (hip), 15-day DL; 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Scott Stewart (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL. Astros - INF Jose Vizcaino (wrist), 15-day DL; LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Roy Oswalt (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL.