- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

None of the Washington Nationals’ starters seems able to get past the first inning without throwing 40 pitches so far this season. However, the club’s bullpen has not had those sort of troubles.

In last night’s 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at RFK Stadium, Nationals relievers worked 51/3 scoreless innings after Jason Bergmann threw 91 pitches in 32/3 innings.

Over the last two games, the Nationals’ bullpen has tossed 101/3 scoreless innings. The relievers have allowed just four hits and two walks.

On Wednesday, the bullpen allowed the Nationals to stay close enough to rally for a 7-6 victory over the Florida Marlins. Trailing 6-1 in the fifth inning, Acta went with right-hander Levale Speigner for two batters. Left-hander Micah Bowie then ended the inning after facing two batters.

Right-hander Jesus Colome pitched the sixth. Right-hander Ryan Wagner followed and worked the seventh and the eighth. Veteran left-hander Ray King faced two batters in the ninth before right-hander Jon Rauch came on and picked up the win by striking out both batters he faced.

“It all depends on the state of my bullpen,” Acta said. “Obviously, I had everybody ready to pitch. If I feel the game is within reach, I’m going to do everything possible.”

Tribute to Jackie

Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young will wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 on April 15 when the Nationals play the New York Mets in Shea Stadium to honor the 60th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.

“Too bad you can’t print facial expressions, because I’m in awe,” Young said. “He’s a part of American history — forget baseball history, American history. What he went through, the road that he paved, just everything. … I mean, Jackie Robinson. I’m dazed. It’s almost like being king for a day.”

To honor the anniversary, commissioner Bud Selig invited players to wear Robinson’s retired No. 42 on April 15. Nationals general manager Jim Bowden and manager Manny Acta approached Young to be the club’s representative.

“You should have seen his face when we told him that he was allowed to do that,” Acta said. “We consider it an honor. I even told him, ‘If you don’t do it, I’ll do it then.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no. I think it’s great.’ He’s the appropriate guy to do it. He’s a veteran guy on our team, and it’s a great gesture.”

Livan returns

Livan Hernandez, who threw the first pitch in Nationals history in 2005, is scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale at RFK for the Diamondbacks. The Nationals traded the veteran right-hander to Arizona for pitchers Matt Chico and Garrett Mock on Aug. 7.

This will be Hernandez’s second start in RFK since the trade. Hernandez has the most wins (11) at RFK since baseball returned to the District in 2005.

“I like to play here,” Hernandez said before last night’s game. “I’ve got to pitch everywhere. When I got traded from the Marlins, I had to face the Marlins a lot of times. It’s great to come back and see my friends. It’s a great feeling to come back and see all the fans again.”

Extra bases

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Acta became the first manager to earn his first big league victory in a game in which his team trailed by as many as five runs since Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves did it against San Diego in 1978. …

With Monday being an off day, Acta said he will push his entire rotation back one day. On a five-day rotation, Chico is scheduled to start Tuesday’s series opener against the Braves at Turner Field.

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