ATLANTA (AP) -- With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth
inning, Washington closer Chad Cordero remembered other recent
close games against the Atlanta Braves.
Too many of them ended in Atlanta wins, including one last month
when Cordero gave up a ninth-inning grand slam and lost the game.This time, Cordero and the Nationals held on. Cordero escaped a
bases-loaded ninth-inning jam by retiring Adam LaRoche on a
grounder to preserve a 5-4 win for Livan Hernandez on Monday night.
The Nationals have won five straight."It's a good sign the tide is turning a little bit,"
Washington manager Frank Robinson said.Hernandez, who won his fourth straight start, ended an 11-game
losing streak to the Braves in regular-season games. He had been
0-11 with a 5.95 ERA in his last 15 starts since his last win over
the Braves on Aug. 18, 2000. Overall, Hernandez improved to 3-14
against the Braves."I don't think about that," Hernandez insisted. "I came to
pitch in this game and try to win. ... I don't go to the mound and
think this is my first win here."The Braves, coming off a four-game sweep to Arizona, have lost
five consecutive home games for the first time since a six-game
home skid Aug. 8-21, 2001. Overall, the Braves have lost seven of
eight to fall two games below .500 for the first time since May 15.On May 13, Cordero gave up a ninth-inning grand slam to Jeff
Francoeur in an 8-5 loss to the Braves.Francoeur hit another homer, off Hernandez on Monday night, but
the Nationals held on as Cordero recorded his 10th save in 12
chances.Hernandez (5-5) gave up six hits and four runs with four walks
in six innings. The Braves helped the veteran with two sixth-inning
errors that contributed to the Nationals' five-run inning."They made some mistakes they don't usually make, and we took
advantage of it," Robinson said.The win was the first in a regular-season game at Turner Field
for Hernandez, but he enjoyed a career highlight at the stadium.
While with the Marlins, the right-hander struck out 15 Braves --
with the help of umpire Eric Gregg's generous strike zone -- in a
2-1 victory over Atlanta in the 1997 NLCS. Gregg, 55, died of a
stroke Monday."The guy is a great guy and a great umpire," Hernandez said.
"I got one of my best games in my career when he was behind home
plate. I never will forget that. When I see the video and see him
behind the plate, it's going to be difficult."Atlanta starter Tim Hudson (5-4) took the loss despite giving up
only two earned runs in 5 2-3 innings.The Braves scored one run off Hernandez in the second. LaRoche
led off with a single and scored on Todd Pratt's bases-loaded fly
ball to center. Francoeur was thrown out at the plate by Hernandez
on Hudson's hard bunt.Atlanta pushed the lead to 2-0 in the third inning when Edgar
Renteria led off with a walk, moved to third on Chipper Jones'
double and scored on Andruw Jones' fly ball to left.Hudson was hurt by two errors in the Nationals' big sixth
inning.Nick Johnson advanced to second to open the sixth when his
grounder skipped under LaRoche's glove at first base for an error.
Johnson moved to third on Marlon Anderson's infield hit, and both
runners scored on Brian Schneider's two-run single to left, tying
the game at 2.Damian Jackson followed with a single to center and advanced to
second when Andruw Jones' throw to the plate forced Schneider to
hold at third. Hernandez hit a grounder to Marcus Giles at second,
and Giles threw wildly to home plate for an error, allowing
Schneider and Jackson to score for a 4-2 lead. Hernandez advanced
to second on the error."LaRoche just misplayed the ball. That started it," Braves
manager Bobby Cox said. "Then Gilly made a great play, then tried
to make two great plays out of one. That opened the floodgates a
little bit."Jose Vidro's double to right drove in Hernandez for a 5-2 lead,
knocking Hudson out of the game."All the miscues that happened in that inning were all hustling
errors," Hudson said. "They were aggressive errors. There's
nobody in here that faults anybody for making aggressive
mistakes."Hudson gave up eight hits and five runs, two earned, with three
walks and four strikeouts.A strong wind blowing in from center field kept a sixth-inning
drive by Andruw Jones in the park. But after Hernandez walked
LaRoche, Francoeur hit a line-drive homer to left, cutting the lead
Since moving to Washington in 2005, the Nationals are 24-6
in June, including a 20-6 mark in the month last year. ...
Francoeur's homer, his 11th, was his first since May 18. ... Hudson
had his three-game winning streak end.