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Vintage Livan. Vintage Bullpen.

If the baseball Gods were sentimentalists, the Nationals would have won Wednesday night, and the storyline would have been simple: See Livo, swinging through the old saloon doors. See Livo, gutting out six innings, throwing 116 pitches, K'ing Derek Lee with absurd 65 mph curveballs. See Livo, winning his first game back with the Nats.

Instead, we were presented with some late-inning bullpen brutality, and Jorge Sosa's seven-batter, five earned-run meltdown -- would it have been worse if the Nats had used, say, Rick Eckstein from behind an L screen? Rob Dibble? -- assured the outcome. Cubs 9, Nats 4. Livo pitched like a winner, but wasn't one.

But for a moment, let's cast aside all the late-inning ugliness. We've seen it before; we'll see it again. Hernandez looked good. Six innings, just five hits and two runs. He struck out six, and threw more pitches than any previous Nats starter this year. A few observations from a relatively new Livo observer: The guy does the little things well. He bunts. He fields his position. To borrow Jim Riggleman's phrasing, "He is a complete guy out there."

Or at least a complete guy with an 84 mph fastball.

For instance, check out Livan in the top of the third. After a leadoff hit by No. 8 hitter Koyie Hill, Rich Harden dropped down a bunt -- a bit hard off the bat, back at the mound. Most pitchers would have fielded and taken the out at first. A few might have hurried a risky throw to second. Hernandez? He played it perfectly, turning a risk into a non-risk. From the second he came off the mound, he knew his destination, second base. He never hurried his movements. He was calm the whole time. After a few purposeful steps off the mound, he was there picking up the ball, and his feet were already positioned for a throw to second base.

"I thought when he picked up the bunt, I didn't think he should be throwing to second base," Jim Riggleman said. "Next thing you know, it's not even close down there. They got him easy. He had a real good feel for who the runner was, how quick he got off the mound. He knew he was on it quick, and if he just makes a nice, easy throw we'll get an easy out at second base."

These are little things but they matter. Later that inning, Milton Bradley mashed a home run down the RF line, really the only mistake of Hernandez's outing. But let's just say he had fired that bunt play throw into center, or thrown too late to nail Hill. Then Bradley would have hit a three-run homer, not a two-run shot.

One other observation:

Hernandez might just be the Nats' biggest fan. He admitted, in his post-game interview, that he's followed the Nationals closely since his departure. And he always wanted to return.

"It's something very nice," Hernandez said. "Always I think I would come back one day. And when I got released and I got a chance to come back, I said, 'Yeah, it's my first choice. I'll be there.' It's something, I feel proud when I put the hat today and the uniform. Trust me, it's very nice. You want to do something and it happened today, it's a dream come true."

By Chico Harlan  |  August 27, 2009; 12:08 AM ET
 
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Next: Lineups From Wrigley

Comments

we're only 3.5 up on KC in the Harper sweepstakes. As much as winning now would be nice, getting Harper would be much nicer.

Posted by: imlazar | August 27, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

"we're only 3.5 up on KC in the Harper sweepstakes. As much as winning now would be nice, getting Harper would be much nicer.

Posted by: imlazar | August 27, 2009"

JUST A JUNIOR in high school when he graduates. It will likely be five years before he can legally drink a beer and play for a major league club. I can't wait that long.

Let's not and say we did. Let's win NOW and let it carry into the next season.

Posted by: periculum | August 27, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Storen and Strasburg or at least next year. FIVE YEARS from the end of next year to Harper. Guess what my choice is?

Posted by: periculum | August 27, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Win Livan, do your best to get us a win. The rest will follow.

Posted by: periculum | August 27, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Sosa!....future face of Nats baseball!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | August 27, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Periculum,

Wasn't Sosa one of your AAA wonders? Sort of like Padilla. Do you now understand what AAAA means? I doubt it.

Posted by: WashOut | August 27, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

I like Livan's comments. Very nice.

Posted by: samantha7 | August 27, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

"Wasn't Sosa one of your AAA wonders? Sort of like Padilla. Do you now understand what AAAA means? I doubt it.

Posted by: WashOut | August 27, 2009"

Nope. Sorry to disappoint you.

He wasn't all that hot in Syracuse. I was surprised that he did so well here. Clippard was a lot better while he was there. If anything Sosa is reverting to form as one of Syracuse's closers. McDougal wasn't bad. Looks like Clippard and Wilkie have done the best .. so far.

Posted by: periculum | August 27, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

"Do you now understand what AAAA means? I doubt it."

I doubt that you even know what you are blathering about most of the time. You act like you are a crazy alcoholic who follows this blog between shots or bottles of beer.

Prefer BinM or Brian Oliver to your sagging IQ score.

Posted by: periculum | August 27, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse

#@&%#@#& Sosa!!!!
Doesn't he know how a Hollywood script is written? ("...Livo wins in nostalgic return!")
Put him on the pre-dawn bus to Palookaville.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | August 27, 2009 1:04 AM | Report abuse

milton bradley is a 2 year old

Posted by: formerlylove1 | August 27, 2009 1:15 AM | Report abuse

Right now it looks like Logan Kensing is working as a closer in SYR. That's not a hopeful sign ...

Posted by: periculum | August 27, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

On the topic of potential "AAAA players" I'd like to see in September at shortstop and/or second base :

In Syracuse he has improved markedly ...

Ian Desmond : .346 avg, 10 doubles, 2 triples, 6 SB in 146 at bats, .346/OPB .422/SLG .449/OPS .871/

Posted by: periculum | August 27, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

I guess now we know. Tavarez likes J-Lo, Livan likes 600 pound gorillas. Way to go Livan!

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | August 27, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

How great to watch Livan work his magic for us! I never wanted Livan to leave. Every once in a while, this blog produces a gem - and fluffy's is one of them. Keep in mind, 15 of Livan's 35 wins were for the light-hitting D'backs, 10 for the Twins, 3 for the Rockies and 7 for this year's Mets.
***************************************************************
Livan went 24-18 in '05 and '06 with the Nats before he was traded for Matt Chico and Garret Mock. Barry thought it was a smart trade. I asked him in this space at the time how long he thought it would take Messrs. Chico and Mock to accumulate 24 wins combined for the Nats. He didn't reply. So far, they're a combined 11-23, while Livan has gone 35-35 since he left. I don't know why it always seems to be "wise" for teams going nowhere to trade veterans for young "talent" with "potential." Okay, the jury may still be out on Mock. But, I ask again, how long will it take for him to win the 35 games Livan has already won since the trade?

Posted by: fluffy4 | August 26, 2009 3:12 PM

Posted by: flynnie321 | August 27, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Just catching up on postings from last night.

Bummer that Livo's comeback was tarnished by vintage 'pen, misplays, etc. I didn't see the carnage as I fell asleep in front of the telly and had to retire.

Depending on how they handle the rotation, I figure that Livo might start for us at home on September 6. If I didn't already have tix for John Lannan bobblehead night at the Pfitz, I'd be at Nats Park to welcome him home. As it is, guess I'll have to wear my #61 jersey pin to the P-Nats game. Ha-hah! I *knew* it would come in handy.

In other news, nice stream of consciousness, sec3, but you got something against Hemingway? ;-)

p.s. Thanks to the guys who stood up for Debbi Taylor and female sports reporters generally. Loved this postscript by IHW:

"Also: Don't worry, I won't be reporting this incident to the blogmom."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 27, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Actually, "vintage" bullpen would have been good. The 1st few seasons here, the bullpen was all the Nats had going for them. Current bullpen, or bullpen as usual would have been more appropriate.

Posted by: futbolclif | August 27, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back Livo!

Where was our gun last night. I love to see the speed on those big curves. He can hit 59 with them, but Dibbs said 64 last night reporting on the Cubs gun.

The memories streamed back at the start of the game. The wins, especially opening day, how mad he got at Frank when he was taken out of the game, throwing his hat and other stuff to fans over the dug out as he left he field. How he walked so slowly across the diamond after making an out. The smile and the chatter in the dugout. My wife looked at me like I was nuts as I was almost giddy at the start of the game.

Great comments from him how he wanted to get back to the Nats. Remember that big picture of him when you turned the corner from the subway station at RFK.

Go Nats, beat the stinkin' Cubbies today!

Posted by: alm1000 | August 27, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Good point, futbolclif. The 'pen vintage is of a shorter duration.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 27, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

alm1000, I was at the June 7 game where Livo started for the Mets against us and my seatmate and I were laughing at the his speeds on the radar gun.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 27, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

"the" or "his" speeds. Pick one.

Also, was that actually Arsenio chatting up Livo last night?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 27, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Last night shows us all what a veteran pitcher is, it is what Riggs and Chico call a complete player, he has been there and done that, there is probably no situation that he has not already faced. who cares that his fastball tops out at 84, Moyer, Wakefield and a few others cannot even throw that fast yet they win games, pitching is not all about speed, 102 on the gun is nice but if speed were the skill that makes successful pitchers then Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Zumaya would be the best pitchers the game have ever seen but they are not, they are one trick ponies. We need more Livos! I hope the bullpen apologized to him after the game. Welcome back Livo, hope you get to stay in 2010.

Posted by: markfd | August 27, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Loved watching the man last night, and his remarks bring a tear to the eye. There is just something engaging about the way he goes about his work. What a pro.

Posted by: markfromark | August 27, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

So if we hate Thrilledge and FLop forever, it's wonderful to see the reception for Livo. Will we be seeing Nick J back in the spring?

Welcome home, Livan Hernandez. Hope you prosper--and teach them young 'uns.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 27, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

With regard to Nick Johnson as a possible return, I would certainly love to have him on the team, but we need Dunn's bat in the lineup and his glove out of left field. IMO, Dunn is a defensive liability at 1B too, but to a much smaller degree.

I note that both Belliard and Bard are free agents this winter. With Bard's injurry, he is almost guaranteed to remain with the Nationals through the end of the year. No one else is taking him on now. Belliard though has been hot and though the playoff races are not looking particularly strong this year, the likely playoff teams could easily use him in the post-season. A single A or double A prospect might still be possible. And whether you are a Belliard lover or hater, you are not keeping him locked up by not trading him. He's free to sign or not sign.

Posted by: natbiscuits | August 27, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Biscuits, I agree with you, I was being semi-facetious. Much as I like Nick--and I do--we just don't have a spot for him right now. Adam is REALLY trying at 1B, you sense that every day. Sorry he didn't do much last night, but who could with Sosa up there?

Why do we have such lousy luck with pitchers? Seriously, I'd love one of the stats guys to run a comparison against "average" for injuries and DFA's. Is it training, drafting, coaching, bringing them up too soon? Can't ALL be bad luck.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 27, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't complain at all about injuries this year. Compared to last year's injuries, all we've had this year is maybe a hangnail or stubbed toe.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 27, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

NatsNut: agree--except for Olsen and JZimmermann. I count those as more than hangnails.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 27, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Way to bring it all home. Post of the day.

-----

I guess now we know. Tavarez likes J-Lo, Livan likes 600 pound gorillas. Way to go Livan!

Posted by: JohninMpls | August 27, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"NatsNut: agree--except for Olsen and JZimmermann. I count those as more than hangnails."

Add Flores to that list. But don't worry about adding Kearns.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | August 27, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The Red Sox have released Brad Penny (7-8, 5.61 ERA). Could he fill a "Veteran starting pitcher" role for the Nats? He's a former Marlin and familiar with the NL East.

Posted by: leetee1955 | August 27, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Chico says re Livo: "... his feet were already positioned for a throw to second base."

Livo can, and will, help our vast stable of mediocre righthanders, but would someone please let him help Ian Desmond with the atrocioius footwork, the panicked approach, and the scatter arm?

Posted by: nova_g_man | August 27, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Chico, how is Nyjer feeling? Tell him to take care of himself and not come back too soon, but WE MISS YOU TONY P.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 27, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Eclipse: Agreed. (I seem to be so agreeable this morning.)

=============================================================
Add Flores to that list. But don't worry about adding Kearns.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 27, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

NatsLady - Last night Carpenter said Riggo held TPlush out, but he could have played. He should be in his customary spot today.

Posted by: dand187 | August 27, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Brad Penny Ahhhh No! we've' got enough of those near .500 high era fire starters on this staff.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 27, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I am shocked by how happy Livo is to go to a last place team but his happiness makes me overjoyed to have him back I hope they sign him for next year as well, we need an innings eater and a mentor for the young guys to show them how to be pros and Livo covers both of those bases.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | August 27, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Petey: Y'know, I thought about that too. But as you get older (he's 37, right) and you recognize that you are maybe not going to be a Tom Glavine or a CC Sabathia, you think about other job benefits, like being in a good clubhouse, fans that like you, opportunity to teach your skill, a city where you have friends...

There are a lot of major league teams. You get paid to play on all of them. Do your job for the fans, we appreciate it. Yes, we would LOVE a World Series here--but think of the traffic!

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 27, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

LeeTee, I'd love to see us sign Penny - he's a better version of what Livan could be in 2010. Penny's ERA is ugly, but his peripherals (K/9, BB/9, etc.) are all pretty good. Move him back to the NL and you might get somebody who could be more than an innings-eating mentor - you might actually get some use there. As for the ERA, it's worth noting that he's still paying the price for a lousy April and a few bad recent starts (the 8ER/4IP in the 20-11 Yanks loss, for one). He lowered his ERA by three full runs in May-June. He's not what he once was - but I'll take a low-risk chance on a guy who's got Jason Schmidt and Kevin Brown as two of his top at-age comps.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | August 27, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Aww, we love you too, Livo!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | August 27, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Very nice to hear Livo's comments about his return, and I'm glad he did well last night. I hope he proves me wrong, although I'd still like his starts to go to Martis, Ballester and/or Detwiler.

And I agree totally with Highway295 on Penny.

Posted by: nats24 | August 27, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, looking forward to seeing about 1/2 hour of the game (then, grrrrrrr, work).

========================================================

NatsLady - Last night Carpenter said Riggo held TPlush out, but he could have played. He should be in his customary spot today.

Posted by: dand187 | August 27, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 27, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Are you ready for some baseball? Lineups are in new post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 27, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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