Nationals 5, Blue Jays 2
Hernandez won his career-best 10th straight decision, and the Nationals extended their home winning streak to 12 by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 Saturday night.
Hernandez (11-2) improved to 10-0 in his last 13 starts, though he was uncharacteristically wild. He allowed two runs and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings, walked three, struck out four, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.
“He knows how to pitch under difficult circumstances,” manager Frank Robinson said.
The right-hander won nine straight decisions from June 28-Sept. 6, 1997, during his rookie season with the Florida Marlins.
“It means a lot,” Hernandez said when asked about his streak. “It means I pitched good.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had more praise for Hernandez.
“He cuts the plate up. He’s got that fastball and he hits you with that big hook. It’s just an off-speed pitch, but it’s awful tough,” Gibbons said. “He can fall behind, but when he needs a strike, he can get that inside corner on lefties, he’ll get it every time he needs it. He’s a proven winner. He knows what he’s doing.”
Ted Lilly (5-8) fell to 0-6 in seven road starts as Toronto lost its second straight game. Lilly allowed four runs and four hits in four innings.
“Is it going to do any good for me to think about it?” Lilly said. “I know it’s not good. Even if it was above .500, I still wouldn’t be satisfied.”
The Nationals made the most of six hits, riding their workhorse to a win.
“We don’t kill people with our offense,” Robinson said. “Tonight we maximized our hits, to say the least.”
Staked to a 4-0 lead after three innings, Hernandez cruised as the NL East-leading Nationals (44-40) moved a season-high 14 games over .500 for the first time since May 25, 2003, when the Montreal Expos were 32-18.
Washington is one game shy of matching the franchise record for consecutive home wins, set by the Expos at Olympic Stadium from Aug. 28-Sept. 15, 1979.
Hernandez got a 2-0 cushion in the first. Brad Wilkerson drew a leadoff walk, went to third on Junior Spivey’s double, then scored on Nick Johnson’s one-out single. Byrd’s bloop single to center scored Spivey for a 2-0 lead.
A run-scoring groundout by Byrd and Vinny Castilla’s RBI single made it 4-0 in the third.
Hernandez wiggled out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the fourth after singles by Vernon Wells, Shea Hillenbrand and Gregg Zaun. Hernandez got Alex Rios to hit a comebacker to the mound, and the pitcher dropped the ball before throwing home for a forceout. He then induced Orlando Hudson to bounce into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Toronto avoided its second straight shutout and chased Hernandez in the eighth.
Hillenbrand was hit by a pitch with one out, Eric Hinske singled and Zaun hit an RBI single. Luis Ayala replaced Hernandez and yielded a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Rios before being pulled in favor of Cordero.
Washington made it 5-2 in the bottom half. Johnson doubled with one out, took third on Byrd’s single and scored when Zaun overthrew second for an error on Byrd’s steal attempt.
Hernandez is one shy on Dennis Martinez’s franchise record of 11 straight winning decisions from May 9-July 29, 1989. … Hernandez hit Frank Catalanotto and Hillenbrand with pitches, giving the Blue Jays a major league-leading 42 hit batters. Hillenbrand has been plunked an AL-high 13 times, and Hernandez has hit a team-high seven batters.