Castilla, Hernandez carry D.C. to victory

Castilla, Hernandez carry D.C. to victory

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It was a World Series atmosphere at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Thursday night, and Nationals third baseman Vinny Castilla and right-hander Livan Hernandez thrived as the Nationals defeated the Diamondbacks, 5-3.

Vinny Castilla went 3-for-3 and drove in four runs, while Livan Hernandez pitched 8 1/3 strong innings.

Before the game, manager Frank Robinson wasn't sure if Castilla would play in the game. Castilla had missed the last two games of the Braves series because of a sore shoulder. But after taking batting and fielding practice, Castilla was ready to play and he flurished against right-hander Javier Vazquez.

In the second inning, Castilla doubled down the left-field line. Two innings later, Castilla tripled to right field to drive in two runs. In the sixth, Castilla capped off the night by hitting Vazquez's 0-2 pitch over the left-field wall for his second home run of the season. Castilla also became the first member of the Nationals to hit a homer at RFK and receive a curtain call from the fans.

"He had a couple of days off, and he came back strong and didn't miss a beat," manager Frank Robinson said.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, a single shy of the cycle, Castilla was hit by a Lance Cormier pitch. Castilla was angry after being hit, but he wasn't sure if the pitch was intentional.

"Hitting for the cycle was on my mind. I was one hit away from the cycle. I don't know if it was in purpose or not," Castilla said.

"The best thing is that we won the game. It was a lot of excitement for us as players and fans, who have been waiting for those for 34 years. You could feel the adrenaline going higher and higher. That's an unbelievable experience."

Hernandez has been around a World Series atmosphere dating back to his days with the Marlins, and he said that Thursday ranks as one of the best games he has ever played in.

"It's another moment that I have in baseball," Hernandez said. "I can tell my kids that I threw the first pitch at RFK in 2005. It's special for me and my family, too."

Hernandez, who had a one-hitter after eight innings, allowed a three-run homer to Chad Tracy in the ninth.

"He mixed up his pitches very well, kept them off balance," Robinson said. "When Livan is around the strike zone and mixing up his pitches, he's very difficult out there on the mound. The Diamondbacks are a pesky-hitting club. It's not a simple thing to shut them down. They have very good hitters in the lineup."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.