07/20/09 10:37 PM ET
Mets bust out to take opener from Nats
Handed early lead, Hernandez cruises to a win
By Mark Selig / MLB.com
No, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, et al are not magically healthy.
But this cure -- call it Washington Nationals M.D. -- provided just the right therapy for the team's on-field maladies in Monday's 6-2 Mets victory at Nationals Park.
Inability to score runs? Heal that problem by facing a 26-year-old, debut-making pitching opponent. The effects were immediate, as Daniel Murphy and Jeff Francoeur belted RBI doubles off Nationals rookie J.D. Martin for a pair of first-inning runs. In the next frame, Angel Pagan, Luis Castillo and Murphy knocked consecutive two-out RBI singles.
"It was important for us to come out and score some runs tonight," Francoeur said. "You never know what you're going to get [with a debut pitcher], but we were able to jump on him early, make him feel uncomfortable."
Inflammation of the ERA? Take a wily starter, in this case Livan Hernandez, and give him a healthy dose of impatient, undistinguished batters to throw against.
Hernandez cruised through seven innings, giving up just two runs to his former team, against which he has picked up eight consecutive wins, including three this year, with a 1.17 ERA.
"The last three times, I pitched different to these guys," Hernandez said. "You know the hitters are going to make adjustments based off last time, so what I do is pitch backward this time."
Periodically shaky defense? The symptom quickly subsided. Murphy, playing first base, made an early throwing error to second but it was immediately erased by an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play. Murphy later had to make a similar play to second, and that time nailed it, initiating a double play to retire slugger Adam Dunn and squelch a Nats rally in the bottom of the eighth inning.
"I'm always going to err on the side of aggressiveness," Murphy said. "It was a 5-2 ballgame, that's the guy they want up in that spot, and I was excited to execute in that spot."
The Mets clicked on all cylinders, a refreshing response after losing three of four in Atlanta.
Francoeur homered in the top of the ninth to give his team its sixth run -- a scoring plateau the Mets have reached only three times this month.
Manager Jerry Manuel called the four two-out RBIs "momentum shifters," as the Mets only left two men on base on Monday.
With the early cushion, Hernandez was able to cruise through seven innings. He got into trouble in the fourth, allowing a two-run double to Josh Bard, but pitched six scoreless frames aside from that.
"He is just the ultimate pro," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "He changes speeds. He has movement. He cuts the ball. He's a thinking man's pitcher. He gave them a great effort tonight."
After Hernandez exited, Pedro Feliciano and Sean Green combined to get out of the eighth without any damage, thanks in part to the double play that Murphy started.
In a non-save situation, closer Francisco Rodriguez easily dispatched three Nationals hitters in the ninth.
Mark Selig is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.