WASHINGTON — Livan Hernandez had his season-low in innings and his season-high in pitches, yet he still managed to keep his ERA below 1.00 as he pitched the Washington Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
The 35-year-old right-hander allowed two runs — one earned — while throwing 123 pitches over 5 1-3 innings for the Nationals, who moved back to two games above .500 (14-12) and are making a run for first place in May, rare territory for the franchise in recent years.
Hernandez (4-1) walked five, and the earned run he allowed — a homer by rookie Jason Heyward — raised his ERA from 0.87 all the way to 0.99. Matt Capps earned his majors-leading 11th save in 11 tries.
Josh Willingham, Ian Desmond and Adam Dunn hit solo home runs as the Nationals snapped Atlanta's three-game winning streak and handed the Braves their eighth straight road loss, the franchise's longest road skid since 1996. Every starting position player for Washington except Ryan Zimmerman had at least one hit, and Ivan Rodriguez singled twice to raise his average to .406.
Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami (0-5), seeking his first win since Aug. 31, allowed three runs and seven hits — including the homers to Willingham and Dunn — over five innings.
Heyward homered on the day he was chosen the NL's rookie of the month, then did something that really shows he's becoming hot stuff: He drew his first intentional walk.
Heyward muscled an outside 3-2 pitch over the center field fence to lead off the third inning, padding his league-leading rookie totals in homers (8) and RBIs (24). Then, in the fifth inning, the Nationals gave him an intentional pass with two outs and a runner on second, opting instead to pitch to Melky Cabrera, who flied out to end the inning.
Atlanta's other run off Hernandez came in the first, when the Nationals starter needed 41 pitches to retire the side. Roger Bernadina dropped a sinking liner in right field for an error that helped lead to Troy Glaus' sacrifice fly — which appeared to be a certain bases-clearing double until Nyjer Morgan tracked it down just before hitting the center field wall.
The Braves got a run in the ninth off reliever Miguel Batista. Capps, entering with one out and a runner on first, ended the game by getting Glaus to hit into a double play.
Notes: Hernandez had lasted at least seven innings in each of his four previous starts this season. ... SS Desmond made a throwing error in the fifth, ending his streak of 18 games without a miscue. ... Atlanta's Brooks Conrad got the first stolen base of his career. ... The Nationals promoted No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg to Triple-A Syracuse. He went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts with Double-A Harrisburg. ... Washington LHP John Lannan will skip his next start to rest his throwing arm, which has some swelling that has affected his sinker and changeup. ... The Braves placed SS Yunel Escobar on the 15-day DL and purchased the contract of INF Brandon Hicks from Triple-A Gwinnett. Escobar has a strain on the inside of his left thigh. ... Atlanta manager Bobby Cox spent the morning on Capitol Hill, where he received framed copies of statements placed into the Congressional Record by a pair of senators honoring his career. ... The huge Nationals Park scoreboard — the team's pride and joy — went blank in the bottom of the sixth. It was off and on the rest of the evening, so the public address announcer called out balls and strikes for the fans in attendance who don't actually watch the game.