In the first of his two starts against the Washington Nationals this season, when he was still part of the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation, 34-year-old right-hander Roberto Hernandez held the Nats scoreless over 7 ⅓ innings in Citizens Bank Park, giving up four hits and three walks in what ended up a 1-0 win.
In eight innings of work on the mound in Nationals Park on August 1st, Hernandez held the Nationals to five hits, a walk and one unearned run, but there were plenty of hard-hit balls that found their way into defenders' gloves.
"We wish we could steer it," Nats' skipper Matt Williams joked after the 2-1 loss to Hernandez and the Phillies that night in D.C.
"I think Susan Sarandon said it, 'Hit'em where they ain't.' We didn't do a very good job of that tonight. It's like, what can you do? Once you hit it, you can't steer it, they just happened to be standing there. I don't know how many, eight or nine of them probably, so that's all you can do. They squared them up tonight, they just didn't find any holes."
Williams stressed then that it wasn't necessary for Nationals' hitters to change their approach, in spite of the fact that they'd lost five of seven games while scoring one run or less in three of the five losses.
"Can't change the approach just because it's not happening," he said.
"Have to stay with it. Have to keep hitting it hard and take your chances. But if they're standing there, they've got gloves on so they can catch them. It's one of those nights."
They won the next game 11-0, pounding out 14 hits, four of them extra base hits.
On Monday night, the Nationals matched up against Hernandez again in the series opener in L.A. and knocked him around, hitting four home runs in 4 ⅓ innings before Dodgers' skipper Don Mattingly pulled the plug on the righty's outing.
The first of the four, a first-inning blast by Jayson Werth, broke a streak of 39 innings on the mound for Hernandez in which he hadn't allowed a home run going back to his next-to-last inning of work against the San Francisco Giants on July 22nd, before he was traded to Los Angeles.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Denard Span both took the Dodgers' starter deep in the third inning last night, and Span got him again in the fifth, for a two-run blast after Cabrera walked to start the frame.
After the Nationals' 6-4 win in Dodger Stadium, Williams said the Nats' hitters barreled up some pitches Hernandez left up and benefited from the weather during the early start in Chavez Ravine.
"The first time that he pitched against us in Philly, he had a really good game," the first-year skipper told reporters.
"The time he pitched against us in Washington, that was the game where we talked about you've never seen so many lineouts and balls hit hard. That was the game. So, you can't steer it when you hit it, but tonight we were able to get to him a little bit. We got the ball up in the zone. The ball was really carrying today at the start of the game. Felt like a day game out there. Warm weather, ball carries generally better here in the daytime. So, we were able to take advantage of that."
All but one of the six runs the Nationals scored came on home runs, as they continued to crush pitches after sending ten out of Safeco Field during the three-game set in Seattle this past weekend.
Anthony Rendon doubled to drive the final run the Nats scored in the seventh, bringing Gio Gonzalez in after the pitcher hit a leadoff double to center to start the top of the inning.
As Williams has said repeatedly throughout his first season on the bench, however, stringing together hits and putting together patient at bats is a more reliable way to score runs.
"It's not something that we live by," he said of all the home runs they've hit recently.
"We manufacture better than we hit homers. But we'll take them. You can't give them back. We'll continue to try to win games however we can."
As for the recent power that Span, in particular, has shown, with three home runs in his last five games and 22 plate appearances, after he hit just one in his first 122 games and 559 PAs this season, Williams said he didn't really think Span's swing was made for power though he can hit the right pitch out.
"I don't think that's his swing path, his plane," the former major league slugger explained. "If he gets a ball in and gets the head on it he's got strength, but it's not his path. His path is more middle of the diamond."
• We talked about all the home runs, Span's big night and Gio Gonzalez's outing on Nats Nightly after Monday night's win: