LOS ANGELES -- Unlike the fans at Dodger Stadium, Livan Hernandez doesn't like to leave a game early.
Washington manager Frank Robinson allowed the right-hander to throw 131 pitches en route to his first complete game of the season as the Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 Wednesday night and took two of three from the defending NL West champions.
"Livan pitched a gutty ballgame," Robinson said. "The one thing you don't want to do at the end of a ballgame is get beat with a tired pitcher on the mound. But in the 2½ years I've been around this guy, I kind of have a good feel for what he can and can't do. There are times that I just have to go against what he thinks, but tonight wasn't one of them."
Hernandez (4-2) scattered seven hits and went the distance for the 41st time in 255 career starts, giving Washington's bullpen a much-needed rest. He beat the Dodgers for the first time since opening day 2002 with San Francisco.
"He wants to stay out there and complete games," Robinson said. "He was conditioned like that an early age and throughout his career. He thinks he can complete any game he starts.
"That's the key to it, that he's able to do it. And he's still able to do it. A lot of guys just don't want to go past 110-115 pitches because that's the way they've been conditioned."
Hernandez walked three and struck out four. The 1997 World Series MVP has a major league-best 23 complete games since the start of the 2002 season, including a career high-tying nine last year.
"I don't like to quit early. I like to pitch," Hernandez said. "I wasn't tired, I felt good. I told Frank I wanted to go one more, and I did. Going nine innings was very important for me because it was my first complete game this year."
Nick Johnson had a homer and an RBI single against Odalis Perez (4-2), who was charged with five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out four.
The left-hander held Washington to three hits over the first six innings, but gave up hits to four of the five batters he faced in the seventh as the Nationals scored four runs to break a 1-all tie.
"They're a very good-hitting team, and if you make mistakes, you pay for it," Perez said. "I left a couple of pitches up, and that's what you get -- bad results."
-Vinny Castilla was 4-for-25 in his career against Perez before lining a 2-0 pitch to right-center, driving in Jose Vidro from first for a 2-1 lead.
"He's a smart guy," Perez said. "During the first six innings, I threw a lot of changeups and I was getting him out on those pitches. But in the seventh, he was sitting on that pitch. I left it up and he drove it."
Castilla continued to third as second baseman Jeff Kent's relay throw to the plate got past catcher Jason Phillips and Perez.
Johnson singled through a drawn-in infield to make it 3-1. He took third on Jeffrey Hammonds' perfectly placed hit-and-run single through the vacated hole at second base and scored Washington's fourth run on Gary Bennett's sacrifice fly against Wilson Alvarez, who was making his season debut.
Hernandez followed with a bloop single to left and Endy Chavez made it 5-1 with an RBI double, just out of the reach of center fielder Milton Bradley as he stretched for the ball on the warning track in left-center.
After wasting leadoff singles in the first and fourth innings, the Nationals tied the score at 1 on Johnson's third homer with one out in the fifth.
The Dodgers left the bases loaded in the fifth when Hee-Seop Choi popped out to shortstop on a slow curveball inside. The Dodgers have loaded the bases in nine different innings over their last six games, scoring 13 runs but stranding three runners six times.
No Dodger reached base until Cesar Izturis grounded a single through the right side of the infield leading off the fourth. He stole second and scored the game's first run on J.D. Drew's groundout.
Izturis, who fouled a 2-0 pitch hard off his right ankle in the sixth, was replaced at SS in the eighth by Norihiro Nakamura. ... Vidro was removed in the seventh because of tightness in his right quad. ... The Nationals have hit 27 home runs, none of them with more than one runner on base. Eighteen have come with the bases empty. ... Cristian Guzman's hitting streak ended at 11 games after he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. This was the first time he ever faced Perez, who fanned him twice. ... Kent's error was his first this season. ... Nationals leadoff hitter Brad Wilkerson, in a 1-for-24 rut, got the night off after starting the first 27 games.