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Nationals ride Hernandez's strong outing

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Washington is rolling to wins and rising in
the standings on the road.

Preston Wilson homered twice, Livan Hernandez pitched eight
strong innings and the Nationals won again on the road, beating the
Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 Monday night.

The Nationals, knocked out of first place during a second-half
slump, have turned things around away from home and put themselves
in contention for the NL wild card. Coming off a three-game sweep
in Colorado, Washington won its fourth in a row overall.

"I'm not going to jump on the wagon now and say, yes indeed,
here we are," manager Frank Robinson said. "Certainly, it has
been a nice mixture of good pitching and the offense has come to
life."

Hernandez (14-5) stifled the surging Phillies and showed no
effects of the balky right knee that's bothered him this season.
Nick Johnson and Brian Schneider also homered for the Nationals.

After allowing a single to Bobby Abreu in the third, Hernandez
retired eight straight batters before another single by Abreu in
the seventh. He was wiped out on an inning-ending double play.

"The team is playing for first place in the wild card now, so
we've got to keep fighting," Hernandez said.

Hernandez gave up two runs and five hits. Chad Cordero allowed
an RBI single to Mike Lieberthal in the ninth.

"You come to expect such clean games by Livan that you're a
little spoiled by it," Robinson said. "Right now, he's not as
sharp as he has been, as he can be, and tonight with the run
support, it made it a little easier for him."

The Nationals held a 2½-game lead in the NL East after an 8-7
win over the Phillies on July 8. The Phillies, though, won the next
two games of the series and sent the Nationals into a second-half
swoon. They lost 19 of 26 after the All-Star break until arriving
in Colorado.

That July 8 win over the Phillies was Washington's season-high
fifth straight on the road.

The Phillies also have been wildly inconsistent since the break,
though a three-game sweep in San Diego last weekend put the
finishing touches on a 5-1 road trip and thrust the Phillies back
into the wild-card race.

While Philadelphia sports fans might have been too distracted by
the Terrell Owens sideshow to notice how well the Phillies were
playing, they didn't exactly get a close look Monday.

Brett Myers (10-6) couldn't overcome three two-out homers. He
gave up five runs, six hits and struck out five in six innings.

Wilson followed a two-out walk in the third with his second
homer -- a disputed shot to right -- that made it 5-2. Abreu
instantly protested that a fan reached over the fence and touched
the ball. Manager Charlie Manuel came out to argue, and all four
umpires huddled before standing by the original decision.

"I know it hit his arm below the fence," Abreu said.

Television replays were inconclusive.

"From what we saw from the dugout, the fan kind of leaned
over," Manuel said.

While the Phillies sulked, the Nationals got the power outburst
from Wilson they'd been looking for since acquiring him from
Colorado on July 13. He has six homers in 28 games with the
Nationals compared to 15 in 71 games for the Rockies.

"That's what we were hoping he could do when we got him,"
Robinson said. "Tonight he had one of those games and we needed
it."

Said Wilson: "It feels good to contribute to a win."

After Myers retired his first two batters, Johnson hit his 12th
homer. Jose Guillen singled and Wilson added his 20th homer into
the center-field shrubs for a 3-0 lead. Both shots came on 3-1
counts.

Pat Burrell made it 3-2 in the first with a two-run single to
left. Guillen's throw was on target to nail Chase Utley, but
Hernandez inexplicably cut the ball off just a few feet from the
plate, leaving Guillen and catcher Schneider crouched for several
seconds in disbelief.

They had little reason to worry about the Phillies scoring again
once Hernandez got rolling. Plus, Schneider added some insurance
with a solo homer in the eighth.

"We can't get ahead of ourselves. It's just a couple of
games," Schneider said.

Game notes
Wilson has his third multihomer game this year. ... An MRI
showed Guillen has tendinitis in his right elbow. He was moved from
right field to left. ... Phillies 1B Jim Thome was scheduled to
have season-ending surgery Tuesday on his right elbow. ... Thanks
to a 5-1 road trip and the $1 hot dogs, the Phillies had a walk-up
crowd of more than 7,600 fans.