- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2007

So it will be former Washington National against former Washington National today when Arizona’s Livan Hernandez takes the mound in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against his former teammate, Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano, at Wrigley Field.

When your team is not in the postseason, the next best thing for a fan may be rooting for a former player that perhaps provided some memorable moments.

That makes this a tough one for Nationals fans. Livo and the Diamondbacks, or Soriano and the Cubbies?

Both gave Nationals fans some fond memories in their time in the District. Livo, who in 2005 won the Nationals’ first game at RFK Stadium, may have an emotional edge. He was interesting and fun to watch, even when he was blowing up on the mound and making his way back to the dugout, tossing his glove into the stands.

Soriano, though, lit up RFK in 2006 as a leadoff batter hitting 46 home runs and stealing 41 bases. In a disappointing season, Soriano was a reason to come to the ballpark every day.

We’ve seen Jamey Carroll, the beloved former Nationals utility man, already make his mark in the one-game playoff the Colorado Rockies played against the San Diego Padres. He hit the line-drive sacrifice that scored the winning run, giving Colorado the wild card and putting them in the series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

So will Livo or Soriano deliver the same sort of heroics that can at least bring a smile to Nationals fans?

Based on their respective track records, it would seem Livo would be better suited for postseason heroics.

Soriano saw a lot of postseason action during his five years with the Yankees and didn’t exactly distinguish himself. In a total of 40 postseason games, Soriano has a .231 average with four home runs and 18 RBI in 156 at bats. In the 2002 division series against the Angels, Soriano had just two hits in 17 at bats. Those are A-Rod like numbers (coincidentally, the guy the Yankees traded Soriano for).

Livo has fared much better than his old teammate, though the last time he pitched in the postseason, it was a disaster. Taking the mound for the San Francisco Giants, Livo lost two game and gave up nine runs against the Angels. But overall, in 10 postseason appearances, Livo is 5-2 with a 3.99 ERA, and was the 1997 World Series MVP for the Florida Marlins.

So the smart money should be on Livo, who seems pretty confident. When asked how much he enjoys pitching in big games, he said, “When I’m 21 years old and in Florida, God, like 65,000, 68,000 people. Now it’s more easy. I’m the kind of guy, I do the same I do every time I go to the mound. And the more important is to give 100 percent and give a shot to my team, try to win, keep the ballgame close. It’s always only one game you’ve got to win.”

Just one game, but in this case today could be the one to put the Diamondbacks into the National League Championship Series and send the Cubs back to their legacy of misery and curses.

Soriano is just 2-for-10 in the first two games, and before the series started, Arizona manager Bob Melvin told the Chicago Tribune that stopping Soriano was their top priority, based on the reports by their advance scouts.

“It starts with [Soriano], and a lot of times how he’s playing ends up to be how their club plays,” Melvin said.

When asked about that priority, Soriano said, “I think they have a very good scouting report. They know how to pitch. They’re doing a good job.”

Arizona could have gotten that scouting report from Nationals manager Manny Acta. He said earlier this year that when he was a coach on the Mets in 2006, their top priority whenever they faced Washington was to stop Soriano.

Today that will be Livo’s job. He is probably up to the task. “It’s time you’ve got to be a man,” he said. “It’s no time to think like a kid. You’ve got to go outside and give it the best and don’t try; you’ve got to go and do it because trying isn’t going to help. You’ve got to do it.”

Livo vs. Sori. Two Nats enter. One Nat leaves.

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