Davey Johnson has nothing but respect for former Washington Nationals' starter Livan Hernandez, who gave up five hits and six runs in 0.2 IP on Saturday in the Milwaukee Brewers' 10-4 loss in the nation's capital. The 37-year-old veteran of 17 MLB seasons spent five of those years in the majors in D.C., (two in Montreal) and made 129 starts in a Nats uniform between 2005-2011. "I love Livo," Johnson said after the game, "He's a true professional. Great teammate. Had some great years here playing baseball. But he was wearing a different uniform. I had no sympathy." The Nats' 69-year-old skipper laughed after he said it, but he wasn't joking.
The Nationals' manager also explained that all the games Hernandez pitched in front of the current Nats' infielders put him at a distinct disadvantage. "I've always [said], being a middle infielder, any time you play behind somebody, you know what they're going to throw, cause you live it," Johnson explained. "Anywhere I ever went and I faced guys that I played behind, I wore'em out."
Ryan Zimmerman spent considerable time behind Livan Hernandez over the course of each of their careers. Entering play on Sunday, the Nats' '05 1st Round pick was 7 for 26 with two doubles and two home runs off Hernandez. Zimmerman hit a three-run HR off Hernandez in the third at bat of the fourth, turning a 3-0 lead into a 6-0 lead with one swing. Ian Desmond, who debuted in 2009, was 0 for 3 vs Hernandez before Saturday, but he had spent plenty of time playing short behind Hernandez. The Nats' infielder took his former teammate deep for a 407 ft, three-run blast over the GEICO sign to the right of center field that capped off the Nationals' six-run fourth.
"I'm sure Desi knew every sequence that was coming," Davey Johnson told reporters, "Slow hook, high fastball, slider, when he's coming in. I told [former Orioles' teammate Jim] Palmer that, I said, 'I know how you pitch. I'm going to wear you out,' and the first time I faced him in Spring Training I hit one over the light tower in New Orleans. And Darold Knowles. You just know. Darold Knowles was similar to Livo, all kinds of tricky pitches, setting up different pitches. It's a great advantage to play behind a pitcher."
Desmond took a hack at the slider Hernandez started him with and fouled it off, then took two pitches out of the zone before fouling off a 1-2 breaking ball. The Brewers' starter came back with another slider, outside and low and Desmond went down for it and crushed it, sending a high fly to center that cleared the right-center wall. After the blast, he told his manager he knew what was coming. "Desi, on the home run he hit, he said, 'I knew he was going away. And I was looking out there,'" Johnson said in the post game, "That's good hitting. He's in a good spot by the way."
The Nationals' manager uttered that last line as he was walking away from the podium, quickly drawing attention to the fact that his shortstop, who was 3 for 4 Saturday, is on a bit of a tear. Over his last 10 games, Desmond's 13 for 36. So far in September, the recently-turned-27-year-old shortstop is 27 for 75 (.360/.400/.640) with six doubles and five home runs in 19 games. On the year, the fourth-year pro now has a .298/.335/.522 line with 31 doubles and 24 HR's in a what's been another level of breakout season for the former Montreal Expos' draft pick.