Hernandez continues to cruise, but Nationals still trail

Livan Hernandez is on a roll, having retired 12 straight hitters despite battling umpire Tim Welke’s strike zone on a few occasions. He’s thrown just 70 pitches through five innings, and has given up only three hits today. The problem is, the Nationals haven’t been able to touch Derek Lowe.

The Braves starter has struck out four of the last seven batters the Nationals brought to the plate, and after he walked Rick Ankiel, the center fielder took off on a 2-0 pitch and was thrown out for the final out of the inning - presumably so the Nationals could get a run in scoring position with Danny Espinosa, not Ivan Rodriguez, at the plate.

They have just three hits on Lowe, and still trail 2-0 in the fifth. If there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s that Lowe has thrown 81 pitches in 4 1/3 innings so far. But the Braves have one of the best bullpens in baseball, so the Nationals’ best shot might be to catch Lowe when he starts tiring and hope for a late hook from manager Fredi Gonzalez.