The Nationals gave up season-highs in hits and runs in a 15-7 loss to the Rockies on Saturday night. And again. it looks like they might need to figure out where things are headed with Livan Hernandez.
The 36-year-old was gone before retiring a batter in the fifth inning for the third time in five starts. Saturday was his worst start of the year; he lasted just 3 2/3 innings, gave up nine runs (though two were unearned because of his own throwing error), hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and served up two home runs. Even as early as his night ended, he might have been in the game too long.
The Nationals want to take a look at several young pitchers in the last two months of the season; they'll pick up a spot when Jordan Zimmermann sits down, but they'd need another one if they want to see Brad Peacock or Tom Milone in the rotation on any kind of regular basis. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Hernandez, the Nationals' most consistent pitcher a year ago and their opening day starter this year, steps out of the rotation. He ended the first half of the season with a 4.01 ERA; it's ballooned by almost half a run to 4.41 in less than a month. It's unlikely he'll be back next year, and though he's had a couple solid starts in between his poor outings, he's starting to show the regression that got him designated for assignment in 2008 and 2009.
On Saturday night, at least, he put the Nationals in an untenable situation before the end of the fourth inning. And even if their bullpen had been able to shut the Rockies down (it wasn't), their seven runs wouldn't have been enough. That falls mostly on Hernandez.