Nationals starter Livan Hernandez faces his former team in the first half finale as the Nats wrap up a 10-game home stand versus Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.
Hernandez is (6-4, 3.12) in 17 starts and has been the Nats most durable pitcher since opening day, hurling 112 and 2/3rds innings. The Giants 2002 opening day starter was impressive in his last few outings. He has struck out 20 batters and walked only three in his last four starts.
In two of those games, versus Kansas City and the New York Mets, he allowed just one earned run. Wrapped around those two great games, however, were a couple of contests on the road where he got roughed up.
"I feel real good. I am very happy with the job I am doing for the first half. I will try to finish strong (today). I had a couple of difficult games in Detroit and Baltimore, but that is part of baseball."
"I need to be ready for second half. The team is playing really good baseball right now. We need to continue that. I think we can surprise a lot of people in the second half."
The other loss he suffered in his last 10 games was at San Francisco May 25 when he allowed four earned runs over five innings.
Livan feels the Nats are on the verge of getting a long winning streak going themselves, especially with the way the starters are going longer and the hitting has picked up.
"We have not gotten hot and won 12, 10 or 7 in a row. Everybody has had a big win streak. We have not had that already. Maybe that is coming for us in the second half. There is a big difference between this year and last year."
Prior to Saturday, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Ian Desmond combined to hit nine home runs in the last four games. Mike Morse cranked another one last night. Starters have pitched into the sixth inning in five straight games.
Livan does not think the four days off for the All-Star break will slow the momentum they have built up during this homestand.
"We need to come back in the second half and try to play smart like we are right now, scoring some runs, pitching good and we need the bullpen to continue doing a good job. We got to do that in the second half and if we do, we will be fighting for first place."
Giants starter is left hander Madison Bumgarner (1-2, 2.86). He has allowed only seven earned runs and struck out 15 in 22 innings over three games. Today will be Bumgarner's third start on the team's 11-game road trip. His first major league victory came last Tuesday against the Brewers where he tossed eight scoreless innings and allowed only three hits in a 6-1 victory.