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Nationals down Blue Jays for 12th straight home victory

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Even on an off night, Livan Hernandez managed
to keep the Washington Nationals on an impressive roll at home.

Hernandez won his career-best 10th straight decision, and the
Nationals extended their home winning streak to 12 by beating the
Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 Saturday night.

Hernandez (11-2) improved to 10-0 in his last 13 starts, though
he was uncharacteristically wild. He allowed two runs and seven
hits in 7 1/3 innings, walked three, struck out four, hit two
batters and threw a wild pitch.

"He knows how to pitch under difficult circumstances," manager
Frank Robinson said.

The right-hander won nine straight decisions from June 28-Sept.
6, 1997, during his rookie season with the Florida Marlins.

"It means a lot," Hernandez said when asked about his streak.
"It means I pitched good."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had more praise for Hernandez.

"He cuts the plate up. He's got that fastball and he hits you
with that big hook. It's just an off-speed pitch, but it's awful
tough," Gibbons said. "He can fall behind, but when he needs a
strike, he can get that inside corner on lefties, he'll get it
every time he needs it. He's a proven winner. He knows what he's
doing."

Ted Lilly (5-8) fell to 0-6 in seven road starts as Toronto lost
its second straight game. Lilly allowed four runs and four hits in
four innings.

"Is it going to do any good for me to think about it?" Lilly
said. "I know it's not good. Even if it was above .500, I still
wouldn't be satisfied."

Marlon Byrd drove in two runs for Washington, which leads the NL
with 26 home wins. Chad Cordero got four outs for his major
league-best 25th save in 27 chances, his 22nd in a row.

The Nationals made the most of six hits, riding their workhorse
to a win.

"We don't kill people with our offense," Robinson said.
"Tonight we maximized our hits, to say the least."

Staked to a 4-0 lead after three innings, Hernandez cruised as
the NL East-leading Nationals (44-40) moved a season-high 14 games
over .500 for the first time since May 25, 2003, when the Montreal
Expos were 32-18.

Washington is one game shy of matching the franchise record for
consecutive home wins, set by the Expos at Olympic Stadium from
Aug. 28-Sept. 15, 1979.

Hernandez got a 2-0 cushion in the first. Brad Wilkerson drew a
leadoff walk, went to third on Junior Spivey's double, then scored
on Nick Johnson's one-out single. Byrd's bloop single to center
scored Spivey for a 2-0 lead.

A run-scoring groundout by Byrd and Vinny Castilla's RBI single
made it 4-0 in the third.

Hernandez wiggled out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the
fourth after singles by Vernon Wells, Shea Hillenbrand and Gregg
Zaun. Hernandez got Alex Rios to hit a comebacker to the mound, and
the pitcher dropped the ball before throwing home for a forceout.
He then induced Orlando Hudson to bounce into an inning-ending
fielder's choice.

Toronto avoided its second straight shutout and chased Hernandez
in the eighth.

Hillenbrand was hit by a pitch with one out, Eric Hinske singled
and Zaun hit an RBI single. Luis Ayala replaced Hernandez and
yielded a run-scoring fielder's choice by Rios before being pulled
in favor of Cordero.

Washington made it 5-2 in the bottom half. Johnson doubled with
one out, took third on Byrd's single and scored when Zaun overthrew
second for an error on Byrd's steal attempt.

Game notes
Hernandez is one shy on Dennis Martinez's franchise record
of 11 straight winning decisions from May 9-July 29, 1989. ...
Hernandez hit Frank Catalanotto and Hillenbrand with pitches,
giving the Blue Jays a major league-leading 42 hit batters.
Hillenbrand has been plunked an AL-high 13 times, and Hernandez has
hit a team-high seven batters.