CINCINNATI - David Hernandez entered Wednesday night's game in the same situation with which he struggled two days earlier. He left the bullpen to start the bottom of the eighth with the Phillies leading, 2-1. Strange coincidence, the reliever thought.
But his results on Wednesday - a 3-2 loss to the Reds - were much different. He retired all three batters he faced. He needed just 12 pitches and his curveball and fastball were much sharper than they were Monday. The righthhander's fastball touched 94 mph after barely reaching 90 on Monday.
He started the eighth by striking out Adam Duvall. Hernandez then forced Billy Hamilton to ground out and induced a weak pop fly from Zack Cozart.
Hernandez said he fine-tuned his adjustments since he loaded the bases without recording an out on Monday. He altered his leg kick. The pitcher tried to throw his pitches on a downward plane. It worked, at least for one night.
"I've been around long enough to understand that out of the bullpen that you're going to have nights when it just isn't your time. All you can do is prepare and be ready," Hernandez said. "Amazing things happen when you throw strikes. You make them swing the bat and good things happen."
Manager Pete Mackanin said Wednesday was important for Hernandez to regain his confidence. Mackanin never wavered from using him in the same situation. He said Hernandez showed that he was better than the way he pitched on Monday. The manager plans to use the same approach with Dalier Hinojosa, who allowed a game-winning two-run double in Wednesday's ninth inning.
"We'll just keep running them out there and try to find the right combination," Mackanin said. "We need to score more runs to make it easier."