Hernandez limits Royals as Nationals sneak by for win

WASHINGTON -- Livan Hernandez took the mound coming off his worst outing of the season and with the Washington Nationals mired in a losing streak. With a small adjustment on the mound, he gave both himself and his team a lift.

Hernandez had his longest outing since May 9, giving up one run and eight hits in seven innings to help the Nationals beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 Monday night.

Mike Morse and Cristian Guzman hit solo home runs to provide all the offense Hernandez (6-4) needed. The win ended the six-game losing skid -- Washington's longest this season.

In his last start at Detroit, Hernandez gave up eight runs on seven hits. He attributed the bad outing to dropping his glove arm during his pitching motion, so much so his forearm hurt after the start. Work in the bullpen with pitching coach Steve McCatty fixed the issue, and Hernandez kept the Royals off balance all night.

"Everything he threw was on the black," Royals second baseman Mike Aviles said. "As a hitter, it makes it tough to get any kind of hits or anything going when the pitcher is on the corners. He went in, out, up, down -- he does exactly what a veteran pitcher does."

Before giving up eight runs to the Tigers, Hernandez hadn't allowed more than four in an outing all year. He's gone at least six innings in 12 of his 14 starts.

"It was a difficult ballgame. Kansas City is a good hitting ballclub," Hernandez said. "I know a lot of people were thinking, 'Eight runs the last game' -- I know how people think. It doesn't bother me."

After Hernandez left, the bullpen kept the one-run lead intact. Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth, and Matt Capps struck out the side -- all on called strikes -- to get out of a jam in the ninth for his major league-leading 21st save in 25 chances. Capps allowed two singles in the inning and his last two strikeouts came with runners on the corners.

Scott Podsednik had four hits for the Royals, who have lost four in a row.

Hernandez's performance overshadowed Bruce Chen (3-2), who had his best start of the year. In his fifth start for Kansas City since moving from the bullpen, the lefty allowed two runs and three hits in six innings, walking four and striking out three.

Morse gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the second inning with his third home run of the year. Morse sent Chen's 1-0 pitch deep into the left field stands above the visitor's bullpen. Guzman broke a 1-all tie in the sixth inning with his first home run of the year, a shot into the same bullpen. It was Guzman's first homer since Aug. 23, 2009.

"It feels real good. It's been a little grind here lately, it's been tough to win a ball game," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "We've been having trouble breaking it open a little bit."

The Royals tied the game in the top of the third, when Yuniesky Betancourt scored on a groundout by Jason Kendall.

Podsednik was left stranded on third when Nyjer Morgan caught a deep fly ball by David DeJesus to end the inning. Morgan tracked down the ball at the warning track, making a catch on the run with his back turned away from the plate.

The Royals also ran themselves out of some scoring chances. Kansas City was caught stealing twice and Alberto Callaspo was picked off at second by catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

"That doesn't shut down your [running] game when a catcher throws well," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You've still got to try and score runs when you're not doing much at the plate."

Game notes
Washington optioned LHP John Lannan to Double-A Harrisburg. Lannan, the opening day starter the last two seasons, is 2-5 with a 5.76 ERA. The Nationals purchased the contract of RHP Joel Peralta from Triple-A Syracuse. ... This was the Royals' first trip to Nationals Park. Kansas City last played in Washington in 1971, against the Senators. ... The Nationals haven't given up a home run in their past five games, one game shy of the team record set from June 4-9, 2009. ... Royals RF Jose Guillen extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a ninth-inning single.