Commentary

Hernandez serves one up to good friend Torrealba

Originally Published: October 14, 2007
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

DENVER -- All night, he flirted with speeds lower than his uniform number and turned in a playoff effort most would expect from a Hernandez brother. But when the game was on the line, Livan Hernandez let one pitch slip away to one of his best friends, and the Diamondbacks took a hit from which they might not recover.

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When Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba smashed a full-count Hernandez sinker over the left-field fence for a three-run home run, Colorado took its final lead Sunday night en route to a 4-1 win over the Diamondbacks and a commanding 3-0 National League Championship Series advantage.

"This happens when it's somebody you know for a long time," Hernandez said, "and when it's one of your best friends in baseball."

Hernandez entered the game with a 7-2 record and a 3.75 ERA in his postseason career. But even with those sparkling credentials, Hernandez couldn't carry his team to a win. The loss left him one win short of tying Curt Schilling as the only two postseason pitchers with at least 10 decisions to have a lifetime winning percentage of .800 or above.

"People say I have a lot of heart," Hernandez said, explaining his playoff prowess. "The numbers talk."

His older brother, Orlando, has numbers that speak even louder; he's 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA in the postseason. But the family magic was flat this night.

Livan Hernandez
Jerry Lai/US PresswireLivan Hernandez couldn't bear to watch after surrendering Yorvit Torrealba's crushing three-run home run in the sixth inning.

El Duque's 32-year-old sibling took the approach of throwing different pitches at different speeds in different counts all night. Livan Hernandez even admitted on Saturday that he pitches that way because "you don't want to lose the game on one pitch."

But that's exactly what happened.

The at-bat against Torrealba -- Hernandez's teammate in San Francisco for less than two seasons -- was a shining example of how Hernandez likes to change speeds and mess with hitters' heads.

It came in the sixth inning with two outs and the score tied at 1, with runners on first and second. Hernandez, who wears No. 61, started off with an 83-mph fastball, followed by a 77-mph slider, then -- best of all -- a 58-mph breaking ball for a called strike.

"It just made me laugh; it looked like a softball," Torrealba said. "But he's really a smart pitcher and he knows when to put something on it and he knows when to take it off."

Hernandez was up 1-2 in the count, with the momentum in his favor. Then he threw two straight balls before Torrealba was able to catch up to a 60-mph breaking ball and foul it away. The next pitch came inside at 82 mph, and Torrealba jacked it out to left field.

"We tried everything," catcher Miguel Montero said. "Unfortunately, he got the hit."

Hernandez said his friendship with Torrealba should have prepared him.

"I know he can hit the fastball inside," said Hernandez, who's a free agent after the season. "Trust me."

It had been five years since Hernandez last pitched in the NLCS. Pitching for the Giants in the 2002 edition, he allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings and got a no-decision against the Cardinals in Game 4, which San Francisco won 4-2. The Giants went on to the World Series, only to lose to the Angels in seven games.

But that wasn't Hernandez's only World Series appearance; in fact, he is the only player between the Diamondbacks and the Rockies who has won a ring, earning World Series MVP honors for the 1997 Marlins.

On Sunday, he was on his way to another great postseason performance -- until his close friend outsmarted one of the game's smartest pitchers.

"He's my boy," Torrealba said. "I really appreciate the fact the way he treated me when I was in San Francisco; he put me under his wing. He took care of me. You're never gonna forget a person who did that for you."

And on the eve of his team potentially advancing to its first World Series, Torrealba will never forget when he took his good friend out of the park on a foggy Sunday night.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

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