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Washington Nationals (1-3) at Houston Astros (3-1)

Game No. 5: April 8, 7:05 pm; MASN, WTWP, XM 187
¡Livan! Hernandez (0-1, 4.50) vs. Roy Oswalt (1-0, 0.00)

The Nats continue a wrap-around weekend set against the Astros, taking the field in game two of four at Minute Maid Park. Last night, Tony Armas comported himself quite well in his first trip to the mound, allowing five baserunners in five innings. I didn't watch the game (obviously!), and also did not get to listen to it. However, Capitol Punishment provided an encouraging scouting report:

Tony Armas looked excellent. His fastball was up in the low 90s, a speed he couldn't reach last year even if throwing from a roof. What's important about that is that he was actually able to get the ball past hitters for once. An Armas start last year was tortuous because of his dreadfully slow pace and the hundreds of foul balls opposing batters would hit, simply because he lacked the juice to get it by their bats. At least for one start, that wasn't a problem.

His pace was way up, too. Between pitches last year, he'd walk off the mound, shout something to Vinny at third, trudge up the mound, and annoy all the paying fans. Last night he was quick, getting the ball, and settling in fairly quickly. No one's going to confuse him with Mark Buehrle, but it's better than last year.

Chris noted Armas had a bit of trouble locating, but had enough life on his pitches to get away with it, which is an encouraging sign.

All the same, Armas allowed two runs, and the Nats fell, 6-1, as Jason Bergmann went all Mel Rojas on us in the bottom of the sixth. [editor's note, by Basil] A commenter in a subsequent thread castigates me for throwing an entire stinky net around Rojas, who was a good pitcher for several years. I should have been clearer---I meant "Mel Rojas, 1997-99," or just "Mel Rojas, 1999." Game over, man, game over.

That's the last we will see of Bergmann for awhile, as he is set to be demoted to New Orleans, to be replaced on the active roster by Ryan Drese, Sunday's starter. It's an unfortunate impression to leave; I started following Bergmann last season, when I was tracking fellow reliever Danny Rueckel's season at Harrisburg. Bergmann was phenomenal, earning a call-up to New Orleans, and subsequently pitched well in September for the Nationals. The next time Bergmann is up, he won't retain a 54.00 ERA for long.

One would hope.

* * * *

Tonight's game is a match-up of the inspiration for the Livanometer and the current standard-bearer, Roy Oswalt. In his first time out---against the Marlins, but still---Oswalt tossed an eight-inning gem, allowing no runs on five hits, while walking one and fanning eight. If I were planning on righting the ship after a shaky 1-3 start, I'd rank---say---Wandy Rodriguez ahead of Oswalt on the list of pitchers I'd want to see.

Nat at Bat: ¡Livan!. With Felix Rodriguez facing an impending three-game suspension for sticking up for his teammates, the bullpen could use a little preemptive rest. Seven strong from Hernandez would suit the bill. Plus, given the struggles of the bottom of the order, a timely hit could be a boon to the offense.