WASHINGTON - At every stop, manager Bob Melvin routinely runs the steps at the visiting park to get his early workout. He did not do that at RFK Stadium this year, not after losing all six games the previous two years. He may never do it again.
Formerly a suburb of hell, this city became a welcome mat for the Diamondbacks, who completed a four-game sweep of Washington, 3-1 on Sunday, behind seven shutout innings from former Nationals ace Livan Hernandez.
Hernandez gave up three hits, none until Ryan Zimmerman lined a two-out, opposite-field double to deep right field in the sixth, and got his first victory of the season with help from Orlando Hudson and the bullpen.
Hudson drove in a run and scored another in the first inning, Brandon Lyon pitched out of a bases-loaded situation in the eighth and Jose Valverde got his third save as the D-Backs (5-2) completed their first four-game sweep since taking all four from Atlanta last June 1-4.
The D-Backs are off to the second-best start in franchise history -— the 2000 team, which played its first six games at home, was 6-1.
“It’s nice to be playing well early,” Eric Byrnes said. “It’s important with a bunch of new guys. They need to have some success early.”
Hernandez gave up only three walks before Zimmerman’s first hit, and retired 10 of his old teammates in a row at one stretch.
Hernandez, mixing his low-80s fastball with some curveballs so slow they did not register on the speed gun, kept the Nationals from good swings. He has given up two runs in his 14 innings this season, a 1.29 ERA.
“The wind really helped me a lot with the sinker,” said Hernandez, who pitched the first game here when baseball returned in 2005.
“Everything you throw is moving in, so I don’t try to throw hard. All you can do is throw strikes and let them hit it in the air, because the wind is blowing in. It’s perfect.”
Hudson, who hit third in each game of the road trip, doubled in a run off Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill in the first inning, hitting a ball off the base of the wall in right-center.
He took third when the Nationals mishandled the relay and scored on Byrnes’ groundout to second base for a 2-0 lead.
Hudson is among the league leaders in runs and hits from his new spot in the order. He hit third 10 times total in Toronto.
“Your third guy is a guy who a lot of times is your best hitter,” Melvin said.
“I wouldn’t argue that he, if not the best, is one of the best. He’s able to handle it.”
Hudson hit second more often than anywhere else last season, but because the No. 2 batter is occasionally called upon to bunt, “I never really fell in love with him at the No. 2 hole,” Melvin said.
“I don’t want to lose his at-bats. It’s a real good fit for us there.”
Chris Young, who leads the NL with nine RBIs, made it 3-0 when he reached on an infield single that Zimmerman could not handle on a short hop near the bag.
Young left with two outs in the eighth inning, after feeling a slight tweak in his groing while running out his single.