Washington (77-72) at San Diego (73-74)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: San Diego, CA
Temp: 72° F
  • Game info: 4:05 pm EDT Sun Sep 18, 2005
  • TV: WDCA, Ch4
Preview | Box Score | Recap

San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy certainly likes having Ramon Hernandez’s bat in the lineup.

Hernandez hopes to maintain his hot hitting when the first-place Padres play the rubber game of a three-game series with the Washington Nationals.

The Padres’ starting catcher is hitting .417 (15-for-36) over his last nine games despite missing 1 1/2 months due to left wrist surgery. He is 7-for-15 while batting in the No. 3 spot the last three games.

“It really doesn’t change anything,” Hernandez said. “To me, it only matters that I’m in the lineup. I’m ready for anything.”

Hernandez’s three-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning capped San Diego’s wild 8-5 victory on Saturday. The Padres trailed 5-0 entering the bottom of the ninth before rallying to tie the game on Khalil Greene’s two-out, grand slam off Nationals closer Chad Cordero.

The Padres managed only one run through the first 17 innings of the series before getting five in the ninth. The lack of offense is a major concern.

“We’re looking for any little spark to help us get going,” Bochy said.

San Diego remained 5 1/2 games ahead of second-place San Francisco in the NL West race.

Pedro Astacio makes his first start since Aug. 28 for San Diego on Sunday.

Astacio was activated off the disabled list on Tuesday after being out of action due to a strained right quadriceps muscle.

The veteran right-hander suffered the injury while giving up two runs and five hits over seven innings in a 4-3 win over Colorado on Aug. 28. Astacio is unbeaten in his last four outings, going 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA.

This is Astacio’s second start this season against Washington. He earned his first win as a Padre on Aug. 6, allowing allowing two runs and four hits over six innings in a 3-2 victory at RFK Stadium.

Astacio is 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA at Petco Park in five appearances this season, including three starts.

The Nationals appeared to be on their way to improving to 5-0 on a six-game road trip before collapsing in the ninth inning on Saturday. Washington dropped 3 1/2 games behind NL wild card-leading Houston.

Washington starter Esteban Loaiza is pitching on three days rest for the third time this season after allowing three runs and seven hits over seven innings in a 6-3 victory over the New York Mets on Wednesday. Loaiza is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his first two outings on short rest.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and went to Mar Vista High School in nearby Imperial Beach, Calif. He is expected to have a number of his friends in attendance in his first career start at Petco Park, although Loaiza is 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA against the Padres in 10 career appearances—including seven starts.

Washington starters have a 3.09 ERA on the road trip after Hector Carrasco pitched six scoreless innings in Saturday’s loss.

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Starting Pitchers

E. Loaiza CWS vs. P. Astacio Was
12-10 Record 6-10
3.77 ERA 4.69
173 K 78
55 BB 37
1.30 WHIP 1.34