Hernandez, Montreal’s most consistent pitcher all year, has won nine of 11 decisions since July 2, including Friday’s 6-2 victory over Florida.
The Cuban right-hander yielded just one run and seven hits over eight strong innings, striking out five and walking three to reach 15 wins for the second time in his eight full seasons in the majors. He went a career-best 17-11 with San Francisco.
The Expos have dropped three straight since Hernandez’s victory against the Marlins, including a 4-3 setback in Tuesday’s series opener. Montreal has dropped six of seven in September, falling eight games behind Philadelphia and Florida in the NL wild-card hunt.
Hernandez, who helped pitch San Francisco into the World Series last year, is enjoying his time in Montreal despite the team’s recent struggles.
“I hope to stay here next year and try to help the younger guys,” he said. “Let’s see what happens. This is a good group of guys. It’s perfect. Everybody plays hard and tries to win.”
Moises Alou delivered a tiebreaking two-run single in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s win as Chicago remained in a tie with Houston atop the NL Central. St. Louis is third in the division, 2 1/2 games back.
The Cubs have won a season-high six in a row and eight of nine in September.
Chicago did have a scary moment in Tuesday’s game as slugger Sammy Sosa was beaned in the helmet by Montreal starter Zach Day in the fourth inning. But Sosa got on his feet, went to first and scored on a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
In April, Sosa was hit in the helmet by a pitch thrown by Pittsburgh’s Salomon Torres. That time, the ball’s impact was so severe it ripped a large hole in front of his left ear flap.
“This wasn’t nearly as serious as the last one,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s still kind of frightening. You have flashbacks to what happened last time.”
STANDINGS: Cubs - 1st place (tied), NL Central. Expos - 4th place, 19 GB, NL East.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Matt Clement (12-11, 4.12 ERA). The right-hander allowed four runs and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings, but did not receive a decision in the Cubs’ 8-7 win over the Cardinals on Wednesday. Clement had won back-to-back starts prior to that effort. He has made nine career starts against the Expos, going 2-4 with a 4.22 ERA.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Hernandez (15-8, 2.86 ERA). Hernandez is 6-5 with a 4.48 ERA in 13 career starts against the Expos.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Mark Grudzielanek, .307 avg.; Sosa, 34 HRs and 92 RBIs; Sosa and Kenny Lofton, 85 runs; Lofton, 29 SBs. Expos - Vladimir Guerrero, .326 avg. and 23 HRs; Orlando Cabrera, 71 RBIs, 87 runs and 22 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 3-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - OF Sosa is hitting .395 (15-for-38) with six home runs and 14 RBIs in his career against RHP Hernandez. … RHP Clement is 4-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 13 road starts this season. … 1B Eric Karros is hitting .305 (12-for-39) in his career against Hernandez. Expos - OF Guerrero is hitting .364 (8-for-22) with three home runs and seven RBIs in his career against Clement. … Hernandez is 11-4 with a 2.03 ERA at home this season. … SS Cabrera has just two hits in 13 career at-bats against Clement.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 40-32 on the road; Expos - 47-26 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 60-day DL; CF Corey Patterson (knee), 60-day DL. Expos - C Michael Barrett (hip), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Scott Stewart (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP Claudio Vargas (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 60-day DL; 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 60-day DL.