- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 26, 2005

Washington Nationals starter Livan Hernandez bolstered his All-Star Game credentials last night, taking a shutout into the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays en route to a 5-2 victory before 39,881 at RFK Stadium.

Hernandez (11-2), who surrendered two runs in 71/3 innings, won his 10th consecutive decision. Hernandez, who is 9-0 in 11 starts against teams not in the National League East, became just the second pitcher in franchise history to win 10 straight decisions in a season. Dennis Martinez won 11 straight from May9 to July29, 1989

“My sinker was really good, I got a lot of ground balls,” said Hernandez, who has made an excellent case for inclusion on the National League All-Star team. The All-Star Game is July12 in Detroit.

The Nationals improved to a season-best 14 games over .500 (44-30), won their 12th straight home game (one shy of the franchise record set from Aug.28 to Sept.15, 1979 when the club was in Montreal) and maintained a four-game lead over the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East.

Chad Cordero came on with two out in the eighth, picked up his league-leading 25th save and lowered his ERA to 0.94, the best in the major leagues among closers. Cordero, who worked more than an inning for the first time this season, has saved 22 consecutive games, one shy of matching Mel Rojas’ single-season club record.

The notoriously slow-starting Nationals jumped on Blue Jays starter Ted Lilly (5-8) for a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Brad Wilkerson walked to open the game before Junior Spivey one-hopped a ground-rule double over the left-field fence that moved Wilkerson to third.

With one out, Nick Johnson singled to left to score Wilkerson, and Marlon Byrd blooped a single to shallow center to get Spivey home.

The Nationals extended their lead to 4-0 in the fourth. Byrd’s groundout scored Spivey, and Vinny Castilla later singled in Johnson.

Hernandez, who opened with three no-hit innings, had thrown just 41 pitches before Toronto star Vernon Wells singled to center to lead off the fourth inning. Hernandez then worked out of a bases-loaded jam when he got Orlando Hudson to ground to second.

With Hernandez tiring on a hot night, the Blue Jays finally scored in the eighth. With one out, Hernandez hit Shea Hillenbrand. Eric Hinske singled to left before Gregg Zaun drove in Hillenbrand with a single up the middle.

The Blue Jays cut the lead to 4-2 later in the inning when Alex Rios drove in Zaun with a fielder’s choice grounder. The Nationals got the run back in the bottom half when Johnson scored after Zaun’s attempt to throw out Byrd at second sailed into center.

Lilly (5-8) fell to 0-6 on the road this season as Toronto dropped its second straight game. Lilly surrendered four runs in four innings before yielding to his bullpen.

How loose are the Nationals as the season approaches the halfway point? After Byrd played good defense in left and went 2-for-4 with two RBI, fellow outfielder Jose Guillen gave him a shaving cream pie in the face.

“That’s what happens when you have a good game,” Byrd said.

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