Diamondbacks 3, Nationals 1

Sunday, April 8th 2007, 3:35 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Livan Hernandez added to his old team's woes.

Hernandez took a no-hitter into the 6th inning Sunday, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 to complete a four-game sweep.

Arizona outscored Washington 21-6 in the series, and the Nationals dropped to 1-6, the majors' worst record. It was the first time this season the Nationals didn't fall behind 4-0.

Hernandez (1-0), who threw the first pitch in Nationals history when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington in 2005, didn't allow a hit Sunday until Ryan Zimmerman's ground-rule double with 2 outs in the 6th.

The right-hander wound up giving up 3 hits over 7 innings, with 3 walks and a strikeout. It was his 12th career victory at RFK Stadium, the most by any pitcher since baseball returned to the nation's capital.

He threw 105 pitches, each while holding the lead.

That's because, once again, the Nationals found themselves behind on the scoreboard before even having a chance to step to the plate. Washington's been outscored 13-0 in 1st innings and 22-0 in innings 1-3 this season.

This time, Shawn Hill (0-2) hit the game's second batter, Conor Jackson, on the left elbow, and Orlando Hudson's double to the base of the wall in right-center made it 1-0. Hudson took 3rd when Ronnie Belliard's relay skipped past 3rd baseman Zimmerman, who was charged with an error, then scored on Eric Byrnes' groundout.

Hill, though, made a strong recovery after that 2-0 deficit, and departed after 6 2-3 innings to a partial standing ovation from a home crowd that had yet to see a Nationals starter go more than 6.

He gave up 2 runs and 6 hits.

But that wasn't enough against Hernandez, who got out of a bit of a jam in the 3rd after 2 walks. With 2 outs and runners at 2nd and 3rd, Zimmerman came up, and saw these pitches: 83 mph called strike, 64 mph called strike, 83 mph ball, 63 mph ball, 83 mph ball. Then, the count at 3-2, Hernandez threw a 74 mph pitch that produced a lazy fly to center -- and made Zimmerman slam his bat.

Then, in the 7th, Ryan Church led off with a blooper to center that dropped in for a hit -- his first single of the season after 6 extra-base hits. Belliard followed with a lined single to center.

But Hernandez got out of it.

Robert Fick flied to center, Dmitri Young flied to the warning track, and Brian Schneider grounded out, making Washington 0-6 with runners in scoring position for the game and 0-30 in the series.

That drought was snapped against reliever Brandon Lyon in the 8th, when Zimmerman doubled, and Austin Kearns followed with an RBI single.

Jose Valverde pitched the 9th for his third save in four chances.