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STL@WSH: Livan shuts out Cardinals on three hits

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals continued to get outstanding pitching, this time from Livan Hernandez, who tossed his first complete game of the season and blanked the Cardinals, 10-0, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.

The Nationals have won five consecutive games and improved their record to 32-36. They are now tied with the Marlins for fourth place in the National League East.

Hernandez broke a personal six-game losing streak with his 50th career complete game and ninth shutout. He is second on the active list behind Roy Halladay for complete games and tied for fifth among active pitchers in shutouts.

"He was just kind of vintage Livo," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He was hitting spots with his breaking ball and changing speeds. He really just had it all going, and we played good defense behind him. He was completely in control tonight."

Hernandez said all his pitches -- sinker, slider and curveball -- were working. He was perfect through three innings and ended up allowing three hits. The Cardinals placed only one runner in scoring position.

"Most of it, he did his job," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "It was pitching. He changed speeds, moved the ball around. Ball down, ball up, in, out. It was a masterful job of pitching and [catching]. ... It's a tough combination when you've got it going, and they had it going."

Hernandez gave most of the credit to his teammates. To pitch like he did Thursday, he said that he needs the offense and defense working on all cylinders.

"The most important thing is we played good defense behind me. We have a good offense," Hernandez said. "We hit four home runs today. That was great. We are playing good now. We won five games in a row. Everybody is working hard every day. We try to win some games. Now we won five in a row. Let's see what happens."

Unlike the previous games that he lost, Hernandez was given run support early and often. Michael Morse started it off in the second, pounding a 3-1 sinker from right-hander Kyle McClellan over the left-field wall for his 11th home run of the season.

An inning later, Washington added another run when Jayson Werth scored on a single by Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals had a big inning in the fourth, scoring three runs. Roger Bernadina capped it with an RBI double.

The Nationals hit Cardinals right-hander Ryan Franklin hard when he relieved McClellan, reaching him for four runs across the sixth and seventh. Ivan Rodriguez doubled in the sixth and scored on Ian Desmond's single.

Morse hit his second home run of the game in the seventh, scoring Laynce Nix. Danny Espinosa immediately followed with a homer over the right-field wall. It was the first time this season the Nationals hit back-to-back homers.

"We are having some good at-bats," Morse said. "The offense is coming around, especially when Livo is out there and pitching a tremendous game. Your focus gets even more crisp right there. We had a lot of patience today. The guys got their pitches and didn't miss it."

Offensively, Morse has been on a tear since becoming the everyday first baseman. He is 44-for-118 (.372) with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in his past 36 games.

"Hot streaks are normally 10 days," Riggleman said. "He's just been really good since he's been back out there. He was good throughout the spring with the exception of about a week he cooled off. This is much more than a hot streak. He's coming from the first three to four weeks of the season, when he was probably down in the .170 range or something. He's come a long way."

Werth added a home run to center field in the eighth inning off Brian Tallet.

Since Zimmerman was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, the Nationals have scored 18 runs in two games. It seems that the team is more relaxed at the plate since their best player returned to action.

"Zim's presence is just huge in the lineup," Espinosa said. "We have good hitters, but to have his presence back. ... Just to have him back and the presence that he gives us in the clubhouse, on the field and against other teams, I think maybe we are getting pitches. I don't know. Maybe we are not missing the pitches that we are getting to hit. But there is obviously a great presence with him around."

Hernandez was a great presence on the mound Wednesday. He said it's not easy to complete 50 games in a career.

"Now, the way I pitch, it's difficult for me. I'm a contact pitcher. It's tough. We must have a day like this, so I can throw a complete game. I'm happy that it's No. 50."

The Nationals will go for a sweep of the Cardinals on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET with John Lannan on the hill.

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