Nationals avoid sweep in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Washington Nationals had the right pitcher
on the mound to end their five-game losing streak.

Livan Hernandez wrapped up the first five-victory month of his
career to become the NL's second eight-game winner and Brad
Wilkerson tied a franchise record with three doubles, helping the
Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on Sunday.

"Livan did a great job keeping us off-balance," Jim Edmonds
said. "Like he always does."

Jamey Carroll's RBI single capped a three-run fifth for the
Nationals (25-25), who avoided getting swept for the second
straight series.

Edmonds homered for the third straight game and Abraham Nunez
had an RBI single in the first inning for the Cardinals, who
finished a 5-1 homestand in front of a sellout crowd of 47,012. The
actual attendance was 50,111, the largest of the season.

"It feels great," Edmonds said. "We were looking at 6-0 and
that would have been a lot better."

Hernandez (8-2) was 5-0 in May with a 2.76 ERA to join Dontrelle
Willis of the Marlins as the NL's only eight-game winners. He's
also 6-0 with a 2.84 ERA in seven starts against teams outside the
NL East, and he's 7-0 in his last eight starts overall.

"The only thing I can say is it's not easy," Hernandez said.
"To win five or six in a row is something else because you see all
the teams now, everybody is competitive and teams are good.

"So, I'll take it."

Hernandez gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings. Chad
Cordero worked the ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances.

"We had a real, real, real, real, real gutty performance from
Livan," manager Frank Robinson said. "He hung tight and was able
to keep the score down."

In the finale of a 2-7 trip, Hernandez beat seven-game winner
Chris Carpenter, who gave up three runs and eight hits in seven
innings. Carpenter, who had won his three previous starts, had
eight strikeouts and no walks.

Wilkerson's three doubles tied the record set by Jose Vidro in
2001, and his two-run double in the fifth tied the score at 2. He
entered the game second in the NL with 18 doubles.

"I made three bad pitches to him," Carpenter said. "I threw a
fastball down the middle the first time, a cutter that didn't cut
the second time and I hung a curveball the third time."

Wilkerson said he didn't know about the record.

"He was throwing his curveball a lot," Wilkerson said. "I
just said, get the ball in the strike zone and make a good swing at
it and it was a pretty good pitch."

David Eckstein tripled to start the bottom of the first and
scored on Nunez's single to give the Cardinals the lead.

Edmonds, who entered the series in a 1-for-14 slump, homered off
a 2-1 breaking ball from Hernandez in the third to give the
Cardinals a 2-0 lead. He also singled and walked twice and has
reached base safely in nine of his last 12 plate appearances.

The Cardinals elected to pitch to Wilkerson, who had doubled his
first two at-bats, in the fifth and Carpenter (7-3) paid for it.
Wilkerson's third double on an 0-2 pitch drove in two runs and
Carroll followed with an RBI single to put the Nationals ahead.

"I didn't think loading the bases was a good thing," manager
Tony La Russa said. "I felt like we could get him out."

Hernandez played a role in the rally with a two-strike sacrifice
bunt that had put the runners on second and third.

Game notes
Cardinals C Yadier Molina is 8-for-14 throwing out
basestealers after getting Nick Johnson trying for second to end
the fourth. ... Johnson singled in the fourth and has reached base
in 47 of 49 games. ... Hernandez beat the Cardinals for the first
time since June 22, 2001, in St. Louis when he pitched for the
Giants. He's 2-2 at Busch Stadium in his career in seven starts.
... Carpenter lost for the first time in eight career starts
against Washington/Montreal. He had entered the game 5-0.