Last night was an impressive win for the Nats, because this team of youngsters was able to win on the backs of two veterans. Livan Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez, who have combined for 35 seasons in the major leagues, were the biggest parts of last night’s win. Livan pitched 7 1/3, gave up only 1 ER, and earned his 15th quality start of the year. That’s good enough for a tie in 11th place in the NL, the leaders, Wainright and Johnson, have 19.
He’s also got a 3.12 ERA right now, and despite the fact that we know some of this is luck, and he’s not overpowering people, it’s still August 3rd right now. Livo’s gone 144 1/3 innings, he’s 8-7, he’s got a 3.12 ERA. He’s the ace, the anchor of this staff. Maybe it’s a bit illusory, but it’s happened, and it’s impressive. This is just not the Livan that has been in the league the last few years. 15 quality starts is nice, but he had 17 last year, so he’s on pace for more, but that number isn’t a huge shock. Something else is different this year, and it’s not his great games.
The difference hasn’t been his ability to pitch well, it’s been his ability to avoid really bad outings. In addition to his 17 QS last year, he had 8 starts giving up 6 ER or more. In 2008, he had 12 QS compared to 8 starts giving up 6 ER or more. This year, he’s had only 1 of those 6+ debacles.
The thing for Livan this year has not been a big change during his good days. Last night was a good day, but he had nights like that over the last few seasons. In 2009, he had 7 starts where he went 7 IP or more and gave up 2 or less ER. No, that’s not that different, although his count his higher this year. What’s different now is the off days aren’t so off. That isn’t unique to Livan, all starting pitchers have their on and off days. The good ones, like Livan this year, minimize the damage on those off days.
Pudge deserves some recognition for hitting his 300th home run as a catcher last night. As you probably heard, there aren’t too many guys who have done this. He’s only the fifth, behind the greatest hitting catcher ever, Mike Piazza, and three of the greatest overall catchers – Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench. Pudge is in the midst of a 3 month slump, and he’s done well his last 2 games. I’m not ready, like Bob Carpenter was, to say he’s emerged yet from the slump, but the home run was a good sign. Maybe a little more rest will lead to a more effective player at the plate. Either way, it’s good to see him jack one out of the park, especially considering he’s signed for next year, too.