Nationals edge Brewers to cap 5-2 homestand

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The ace wasn't his usual self because of a
knee injury, yet Livan Hernandez allowed one run in six innings and won his
sixth straight start. The utility infielder got the first hit and
scored the first run. A very lucky break was needed to score the
final run.

The plucky Washington Nationals have scraped their way to five
games over .500 after Thursday's 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee
Brewers, capping an impressive homestand that has the team hanging
with the NL East's elite at the one-quarter mark of the season.

"Excellent homestand. You couldn't ask for much more under any
circumstance," manager Frank Robinson said. "I don't care who we
had out on the field."

Jose Vidro is on the disabled list, and Jose Guillen missed the
last three games with a strained rib muscle. Still, the Nationals
took three of four from Milwaukee and went 5-2 during this stint at
RFK Stadium, winning four games by one run. They'll start a 10-day
road trip Friday in Toronto with the franchise five games above the
break-even mark for the first time since the Montreal Expos were
81-76 on Sept. 22, 2003.

"This team has a lot of heart. They believe in themselves,"
Robinson said. "They believe in each other. They believe they're
going to win ballgames, and they're going out there and winning

Livan Hernandez (7-2) left Saturday's victory over the Chicago
Cubs with inflammation in his right knee and had fluid drained from
the knee on Monday, but the workhorse of the staff didn't miss his
scheduled start and allowed seven hits with two walks and five
strikeouts before leaving for a pinch-hitter.

"I was throwing the ball with different mechanics," said
Hernandez, who stayed higher during his delivery to keep from
putting too much pressure on his knee. "I didn't want to push too
hard. I'll do it because I want to pitch, but it's not easy. You've
got in mind that any move you're going to make, it will be hurt

Hernandez's last loss was April 17 against Florida. His streak
of six consecutive starts with a win is his longest since 1997,
when he was with the Marlins. His was at his best working out of a
one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth, when he got Chad Moeller
to strike out swinging at a changeup and retired pitcher Victor
Santos on a one-hopper back to the mound.

"He doesn't get excited when he gets people out there on
base," Robinson said. "He seems to know how to get out of it."

Jamey Carroll, getting extended playing time because of the
injury to second baseman Vidro, went 2-for-4 with a run scored and
an RBI. Carroll, who spoiled Wes Obermueller's bid for a perfect
game in the seventh inning of the Brewers' 8-2 victory Tuesday, was
again the first Washington player to reach base when he singled in
the fourth and scored on Vinny Castilla's double.

The Nationals added another run in the fifth, this time with
Carroll delivering the RBI that made the Brewers pay for an
intentional walk. Brian Schneider led off with a double, and two
outs later Milwaukee decided to put Brad Wilkerson on base to face
Carroll, who singled to right-center.

And the lucky break? That came when Castilla scored from third
on a passed ball. The pitch got past Moeller, but not by much. His
throw to pitcher Tommy Phelps would have been in time to get
Castilla, but the ball glanced off Phelps' glove, allowing the
Nationals' third run.

"I feel lucky because I realized I was already halfway and the
ball was right there," Castilla said. "Fortunately he didn't
catch that ball."

Chad Cordero pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances,
retiring Geoff Jenkins on a popup with two on to end it.

Santos (1-4) allowed five hits and two earned runs in 5 1/3
innings, but lost his fourth straight. The Brewers, who were shut
out 1-0 on Wednesday, have dropped five of six.

"We haven't scored many runs lately," Santos said. "But we're
still going out there with the same game plan and keeping the game
close. We're going to start hitting, it's just a matter of time."

The Brewers' runs came when Bill Hall tripled to score Carlos
Lee in the sixth and on Jenkins' sacrifice fly in the seventh. They
got their baserunners in the seventh when Nationals reliever Hector
Carrasco hit the only two batters he faced with pitches.

"We were in all these ballgames," said leadoff hitter Brady
Clark. "We should've taken at least one more. Maybe it's good for
us to get out of here and move on to somewhere else."

Game notes
Clark was picked off by Hernandez in the third. Clark has
just three stolen bases and has been caught seven times. ...
Nationals OF Jeffrey Hammonds, who got the game-winning hit in the
bottom of the ninth Wednesday, was rewarded with a second straight
start, this time in left field. He went 0-for-3. ... Guillen will
return to the lineup Friday. ... One day after fouling a pitch off
his helmet, Lee got hit on the noggin again -- this time by a throw
when he was advancing to third on a groundball in the sixth inning.
Lee appeared unhurt and later scored.