|Roy Halladay continued his dominance of the Washington Nationals. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Through three innings on Monday, traditional roles were reversed. Livan Hernandez was working quickly, efficiently and dominantly, shutting down the Philadelphia Phillies prodigious offense. On the other hand, defending Cy Young winner Roy Halladay was struggling with his command, throwing a lot of pitches, and had already surrendered two runs to the Washington Nationals on a solo home run and three more hits in the second inning.
But in the third, Livo melted down in the mid-nineties heat and humidity, giving up a three-spot in the frame. Halladay found enough of his edge, despite allowing two more solo home runs later. And the surest thing in all of sports was the result: Halladay earning yet another victory over his personal pin-cushion, extending his career record to 11-1 over the Nats with a 5-4 win before 34,789 on Memorial Day in the Nation's Capital.
It was the Nats third loss in a row and eighth out of nine games. They are 4-13 in their last 17 contests, and their overall record sits at 22-31, third worst in all of Major League Baseball.
Michael Morse, Danny Espinosa and Laynce Nix all homered off Halladay, but they were all solo shots. The only run driven in not via a home run was Livan Hernandez' safety squeeze in the second inning that plated Jerry Hairston.
Halladay (7-3, 2.56) worked out of trouble all day long, but held the Nationals to 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. His biggest out, though, might have come with his glove.
In the bottom of the seventh, with the Nats trailing 5-4, Alex Cora led off with a bloop double down the right field line and Ian Desmond followed with a beautiful bunt to third base that he beat out for a single, moving Cora to third. Rick Ankiel tapped an 0-2 fastball back to the mound, and Cora inadvisably broke for home. Halladay fielded the nubber cleanly and tossed to catcher Carlos Ruiz, who worked Cora back toward third before tossing to Placido Polanco to tag Cora for the first out of the inning.
With Desmond now at second and Ankiel at first, Danny Espinosa flied out to right and Jayson Werth struck out. The Nats would not threaten again.
The Nationals are next to last in the N.L. in total number of base runners, so when they squander opportunities on the base paths like they did in losses Sunday to San Diego and Monday to the Phillies, it's all that much more painful.
The Nats found themselves down in the seventh due to Sean Burnett's failure to do his job once again. Washington entered the frame ahead 4-3 on the strength of those solo homers and the right arm of Livan Hernandez. The big right-hander managed the Phillies offense most of the day, but finally exhausted his reserve of pitches with one out in the seventh with a runner on first. Burnett entered to face three consecutive lefties, the role that the team envisions him to be a specialist in. He did not find success in that role on Sunday.
Burnett walked Chase Utley after an eight-pitch at bat. The next batter, Ryan Howard, got enough of a 93-MPH sinker to muscle it through the right side of the infield, scoring Polanco from second and moving Utley to third. Nat-killer Raul Ibanez then drove a Burnett fastball to the track in right, plating Utley and sealing the Nats doom.
THE GOOD: The offense worked Halladay for 10 hits and three home runs, but the Phils ace got the big outs when he needed them the most.
THE BAD: Burnett. That's his fourth blown save and his second loss. His ERA is 5.59 and he's just not pitching with the same authority as he did earlier this season or last year.
THE UGLY: Matt Stairs. He grounded out to second in his only at bat, with two outs in the eighth inning and a runner on second. He's now 3-for-34 this season, and 2-for-23 pinch-hitting.
THE STATS: 10 hits, no walks, seven strikeouts. 1-for-8 with RISP, six LOB, 0 GIDP. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday against the Phillies at 7:05 pm. Jason Marquis (5-2, 4.26) faces Cliff Lee (4-4, 3.50).
|Danny Espinosa connects for one of the Nats three solo home runs. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
|Jayson Werth was out by a mile on a stolen base attempt. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
|Matt Stairs grounded out his only at bat. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
|Henry Rodriguez needed 25 pitches to work his way through a scoreless ninth inning. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|