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Nationals give McLaren a parting victory

June 26, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) — John McLaren couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff.

Danny Espinosa hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to lift the Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday in his third and final game as Washington’s manager.

The Nationals announced that they had hired Davey Johnson as the replacement for Jim Riggleman, who resigned Thursday, ending McLaren’s tenure after one series — which his team won as he got to manage against a good friend in the other dugout.

“I’m really relaxed on the field with Ozzie Guillen, he’s a close personal friend,” McLaren said. “It’s always a chess game that Ozzie changed to checkers for a while, then dominos, then back to chess. That’s what so unique about it.”

“This series was a lot easier for me because I was managing against Ozzie. I love Ozzie Guillen, he’s a great baseball man and a great person.”

The 68-year-old Johnson, a senior adviser for Washington, will take over Monday against the Los Angeles Angels and then manage the rest of the season. It’s his first major league managing job since 2000 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chicago starter Phil Humber (7-4) carried a no-hit bid into the sixth, but a two-out walk in the seventh was followed by Espinosa’s 14th home run, handing Humber his first loss since April 30.

Espinosa barely missed a home run on the first pitch of the at-bat, hooking a changeup down the right field line. Two pitches later, Humber left a slider up and Espinosa didn’t miss.

“He wasn’t giving me a lot to hit,” Espinosa said. “He made one mistake and I was able to take advantage.”

“It’s awesome to send (McLaren) off with a win,” he continued. “He’s a great guy. He teaches a lot, teaches the players a lot, does a lot for us.”

Livan Hernandez (5-8) struck out a season-high nine as he baffled the White Sox for 6 2-3 innings, allowing one run and eight hits to earn his first road victory of the year.

Paul Konerko hit an RBI single in the third.

Following a walk to Michael Morse in the seventh, Espinosa launched a shot into the right-field seats off Humber to give Washington a 2-1 edge.

Humber didn’t allow a baserunner until he hit Roger Bernadina with a pitch leading off the fourth. After Jayson Werth was called out on strikes, Ryan Zimmerman hit into an inning-ending double-play.

Jerry Hairston Jr. broke up Humber’s no-hitter leading off the sixth with a line-drive single into center field. He advanced to third on a pair of groundouts, but was stranded there when Werth grounded out.

Humber allowed two runs and three hits in 6 2-3 innings. He had won four straight starts and was 5-0 over his last seven outings. Chicago’s surprise ace this year, Humber worked into the seventh inning for the 10th time in 11 starts.

“I can’t believe Ozzie used Jake Peavy two games in a row,” McLaren joked, referring to Peavy’s surprise bullpen appearance on Saturday, when he allowed one hit over four innings and struck out seven. “Humber looked like Peavy out there, he was magnificent.”

Hernandez kept the White Sox off balance, his off-speed pitches as slow as 60 mph coupled with a mid-80s fastball. The veteran righty came into the game 0-6 on the road this season with a 5.66 ERA.

“That’s hard to do. People don’t realize. ... They think he doesn’t have anything. But there’s not many guys that can actually throw a ball that slow,” Humber said. “It’s almost as good as throwing one real hard. He’s proven he’s had a long career and at least the back half of it, he’s been a guy that’s really topped out in the mid-to-upper-80s. It’s a credit to him how good of a pitcher he is and the feel for the game he has.”

Hernandez left with two outs in the seventh and a runner aboard in favor of Tyler Clippard, who watched Paul Konerko’s potential go-ahead home run get knocked down by the wind on the warning track in left-center.

Drew Storen worked a perfect ninth to earn his 19th save in 22 chances and give Chicago its first interleague series loss since June 2008, when they were swept by the Cubs. The White Sox had won 17 consecutive interleague series since then.

The White Sox broke got their run in the third on Konerko’s RBI single. Omar Vizquel slapped a base hit to left field with one out and Carlos Quentin hit a ground-rule double over Bernadina’s head in center to set the table for Konerko, who has driven in 23 runs in his last 24 games.

Adam Dunn struck out with runners on second and third to end the first inning and stranded another pair with a strikeout in the third as he continued to be showered with boos by his home crowd. Dunn whiffed four times on the day and has 100 strikeouts this season.

The White Sox stranded nine and went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Sunday that Johnson will take over as manager. He has also managed the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles over 14 seasons and compiled a 1,148-888 record. He won a World Series title in 1986 with the Mets.

Johnson agreed to a three-year consulting contract through 2013 that will allow him to remain with the team and help select a successor for next season. It could even be him.

NOTES: The White Sox placed LHP John Danks (strained right oblique) on the 15-day disabled list and purchased the contract of LHP Hector Santiago from Double-A Birmingham. ... Johnson was scheduled to fly into Chicago on Sunday to travel with the team to Los Angeles. ... Werth went 0 for 4 and gave his bat to a fan in the stands after his second strikeout in the eighth.

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