WASHINGTON (AP)—After weaving his way in and out of trouble over seven innings, Livan Hernandez knew there was still work to be done—on the mound, sure, but also beforehand in the dugout.
He had to persuade Nationals manager Frank Robinson to leave him in for one more inning.
Hernandez took care of that task with a quick talk, then went out and let two more runners reach base before completing a 130-pitch outing that he burnished with a home run of his own, leading Washington past the New York Mets 5-1 Friday night.
“He tells the truth. If he’s had enough, he’ll tell you he’s had enough,” Robinson said. “But it took a lot of convincing on his part tonight.”
Jose Guillen delivered his team-leading sixth homer hours after the Nationals announced they were exercising his $4 million contract option for 2006, and Brian Schneider also hit a solo shot. Vinny Castilla added a two-run ground-rule double.
For Guillen, it was his first homer at RFK Stadium—a drought of 13 games.
“That’s good to hit a homer in this ballpark,” Guillen said. “On the road, I’ve been hitting great. Hopefully this is a good sign.”
The top of the first was not promising for Hernandez (3-2). Half of his first 16 pitches were balls, and he spent a lot of time tugging at his cap, prowling around the mound, and kicking dirt. He also allowed a run.
But Hernandez, who led the NL in complete games and innings the last two seasons, kept escaping. He gave up nine hits and two walks, and his only 1-2-3 inning was the third, but he chewed up innings.
“It’s almost like it’s by design. He knows what he’s doing, he knows how to throw strikes when he needs to and how to add and subtract,” said Mets manager Willie Randolph, whose team has lost four of five.
“Livan has a way of kind of lulling you to sleep a little bit. When you think you’ve got him, that’s when he makes a good pitch.”
Such as in the sixth, when Floyd’s roller along the third-base line was ruled fair, and Doug Mientkiewicz followed with a single. After Hernandez struck out David Wright, a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. But Hernandez struck out Victor Diaz, and pinch-hitter Eric Valent sent a sinking liner to center that Brad Wilkerson slid to catch.
“You can’t read scouting reports on Livan Hernandez,” said Wright, who had two doubles. “He’s very intelligent, very smart on the mound, he just goes out there and battles and fights and keeps his team in it.”
In the eighth, Floyd led off with a single, but Hernandez helped himself by starting a 1-6-3 double play on a grounder by Mientkiewicz. Then, Hernandez put another runner on by hitting Wright, but ended his work by striking out Diaz with final pitch.
“I get into a lot of situations. I don’t like it, but it’s happened to me all my career,” Hernandez said. “So I’m not nervous.”
“I hit the ball, and that’s it,” Hernandez said. “He threw me a changeup down the middle.”
Seo, who beat the Nationals last week with six innings of one-run ball, allowed just three hits Friday—but all cleared the wall.
Guillen’s homer came in the fourth, a liner into the Nationals’ bullpen in left, and Schneider made it 2-1 the next inning on a mirror-image shot, this one down the right-field line and into the visitor’s bullpen. Hernandez’s sixth career homer came one out later and landed where his team’s relievers warm up.
Not much help was needed from them on this night.
“When guys are throwing back-to-back, or three days in a row, it’s great to have a workhorse that can give the bullpen a rest,” reliever Gary Majewski said.
Robinson was asked whether he would have heeded another’s plea to stay in.
“No. I know him, and if he tells me he’s got another inning, I believe him,” the manager said. “His tank was almost on empty, and he reached back and got something extra and finished off the inning.”
“The frustrating part is not winning,” said Floyd, who went 2-for-4 to stretch his hitting streak to 15 games, a club record for April. “We just have to find a way to get some consistency and go out there and win a game.”
Washington 1B Nick Johnson went 0-for-4, ending his career-high hitting streak at 16 games. … Seo left after 71 pitches.