Class is in session

I have to give Mike Rizzo credit for catching us all off guard last week with the signing of Livan Hernandez.

"Levo" was on the mound the next day at Wrigley Field and gave a typically sound performance: 6 innings, 2 runs on 5 hits, 6 strikeouts and 2 walks/1 intentional. The game was 2-2 into the seventh before the bullpen struggled into a 9-4 loss.

Monday in San Diego, Livan did it again, even better: 8 innings, 3 runs on 7 hits, 5 strikeouts and 1 walk in a tough 3-1 loss. His demeanor on the mound is one of never panicking, while he fields his position well and helps himself with the bat.

Livan is a nearly .230 career hitter with 9 home runs, 75 RBIs and 97 sacrifice bunts. His single led to Washington's only run Monday and he later walked. Thus, he was on base twice, more than four other spots in our lineup that night.

Now, it's up to John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock and JD Martin to watch how this veteran goes about his business and to take away what they can to help themselves develop.

These young men are talented and throw much harder than Hernandez, but they haven't yet mastered the art of getting outs without high pitch counts.

Lannan's superb outing in St. Louis Friday was right along the lines of what the Nationals are looking for from these young guns. John got through 8 high quality innings with only 91 pitches and 62 of them were strikes.

With better starting pitching going deeper into games, the Nats' bullpen will also prosper with fresher arms and minds as we head down the September stretch. The offense won't have to score 7-8 runs every game to win.

The Cardinals were a prime example of that. Their starters keep them in nearly every game, so an offense with these NL ranks: 8th in batting average, 9th in runs, 6th in home runs and 13th in stolen bases, only has to come up with a few timely hits every night to win. They enjoy a double-digit lead in their division because of their pitching, as everything works off that.

So, welcome back Livan! You're the professor and your young students are eager to learn.