Dodgers' win streak comes to an end

Dodgers' win streak comes to an end

WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers knew what to expect from Washington right-hander Livan Hernandez. He's crafty, changing speeds and locations easily, often while making batters swing in ways they'd rather not.

But knowing what to expect doesn't make hitting him any easier when he is on his game -- and he certainly was on Friday night. The Dodgers had banged out 55 runs in their last seven games but couldn't do much in this one, as Hernandez turned in a strong effort as Washington rolled to a 10-4 victory before 22,712 at RFK Stadium.

The loss ended the Dodgers' seven-game winning streak, and it came on a night when Washington and Hernandez took command early and never let go. Hernandez came into the game with just a 6-11 record and a 4.59 ERA against the Dodgers, but he shut down Los Angeles (27-21) until the offense got three runs in the seventh. Hernandez (3-5) allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings for his second straight win and the team's fourth straight.

"He's well respected from our end," said manager Grady Little. "He threw the ball very well. You've got to give him a lot of credit, and tip your hat."

Los Angeles starter Brett Tomko (5-2) didn't fare as well, giving up six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He has pitched consistently all season, and this was the first start in which the right-hander couldn't get it done.

Tomko and Little both said that the pitcher constantly falling behind in counts caused much of his trouble and helped end a personal four-game winning streak.

"I got into a lot of deep counts," Tomko said. "I got behind pretty much everybody. I just wasn't making pitches where I needed to."

Tomko threw 101 pitches in his 4 2/3 innings, only 62 for strikes, and couldn't seem to make the key pitch to get out of jams.

He's relied a lot on his fastball this season, but he said it wasn't just his fastball that caused problems, but most of his pitches.

"It was a little bit of everything," he said. "I was not getting the ball where I wanted to."

Said Little: "I saw a guy who was just out there getting behind too many hitters. It wasn't his best night."

Meanwhile, Hernandez was keeping the Dodgers quiet. Washington's bats, quiet themselves for most of the season, awakened in the last week, and the Nationals (20-29) now have a four-game winning streak. They pounded out 16 hits against four Los Angeles pitchers, and the 10 runs they scored were the most they plated at home since they moved here last year.

The Nationals started early against Tomko, with leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano doubling to start the first. He stole third one out later and scored on a Jose Vidro single for a quick 1-0 lead. In that first inning, when Soriano reached third with one out, the Dodgers showed how concerned they were about Hernandez by playing the infield in -- but it didn't help.

Washington stretched the lead to 3-0 on Ryan Zimmerman's two-run double in the third. Soriano struck again in the fourth, doubling to right with two outs. Royce Clayton followed with an RBI single to give the Nationals a 4-0 lead.

The Nationals then ended Tomko's night in the fifth. Nick Johnson lined a leadoff double to right and later scored on Damian Jackson's triple. That was all for Tomko, then Jackson scored on reliever Odalis Perez's wild pitch for a 6-0 lead.

The Dodgers made it interesting in the seventh, when Sandy Alomar Jr. hit an RBI single, followed by a two-run double from Olmedo Saenz. That cut the lead to 6-3, but the Nationals scored twice in the seventh and added two more in the eighth on a Soriano (3-for-5) homer.

Jose Cruz Jr. hit a solo homer for the Dodgers in the ninth and they loaded the bases with two outs, but they could do nothing more, and the streak came to an end. The Dodgers left nine men on base, but most of those were in the final few innings, when the Nationals were in command, thanks to Hernandez's strong start.

"He has got command of all his pitches," said first baseman Nomar Garciaparra. "He's a veteran, and when he has a lead, he keeps it. He did very well tonight."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.