Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals host the Rockies in the first of four games.
But something tells me the Nats-Rockies series opener won't.
There's always one or two dates on the baseball schedule that figure to draw especially low interest, and tonight's game fits that bill on several fronts.
-- It's a Monday night in April, typically some of the least-attended games of the season.
-- It's a low-profile opponent. Though the Rockies are a good club, they don't have many followers east of ... well, the Rockies.
-- The Capitals are playing Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series at the same time tonight.
Stan Kasten doesn't like giving out season ticket numbers, so there's no way to know for sure what the Nats' base is this year. But pay attention to tonight's announced attendance, because it's probably going to be close to the season ticket number.
For reference, the smallest crowd in Nationals Park history was 12,473, set on April 20, 2009, a Monday night against the Braves that started more than two hours late because of rain. (That was also Jordan Zimmermann's big-league debut.)
Check back for updates throughout the game, and check the homepage for other news...
ROCKIES AT NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Clear, 63 degrees, Wind 9 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
P Craig Stammen
CF Carlos Gonzalez
LF Seth Smith
1B Todd Helton
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Brad Hawpe
C Miguel Olivo
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes
P Aaron Cook
6:38 p.m. -- Sorry it took so long to update this. Was down in the clubhouse and on the field waiting to talk to some people, including Jason Marquis. I'll have a full Marquis article on CSNwashington.com in a little while, but the gist of it is this: Marquis watched a lot of video of himself from early 2009 and from his three starts this year. The difference? "Night and day," he said. There are some easy mechanical changes he thinks he can make to correct his problems, and he was back in the bullpen this afternoon working on those. Jim Riggleman said Marquis will make his next scheduled start Friday as planned.
7:04 p.m. -- With a strike from Craig Stammen to Carlos Gonzalez, we are underway, one minute early.
7:10 p.m. -- Solid top of the first for Stammen. He retired the side, threw only 15 pitches (10 strikes) and appeared to have nice movement on his pitches, especially on the 85 mph offering that struck out Gonzalez to open things up. Good sign for Stammen moving forward.
7:23 p.m. -- Another strong frame from Stammen, who retired the side in the second and notched another strikeout on a breaking ball to Miguel Olivo. The Nats couldn't have asked for a better start to Stammen's outing than this. Scoreless, heading to the bottom of the second.
7:31 p.m. -- OK, what fountain of youth did Ivan Rodriguez drink from this winter? The 38-year-old entered tonight's game with an NL-leading .444 batting average and he just raised it a few notches with a base hit to right. ... And before I could finish typing that sentence, Willie Harris turned on a first-pitch fastball from Aaron Cook and blasted down the right-field line and inside the foul pole for a three-run homer. Just like that, the Nats lead 3-0 in the second.
8:14 p.m. -- What is it about this Nats pitching staff that requires guys to give up at least one run immediately after their teammates score themselves? Stammen did it in the top of the third, allowing back-to-back doubles right after getting staked to that 3-0 lead. Fortunately, Stammen's mates came right back and returned the favor to Cook in the bottom of the third. Adam Dunn was awarded a double when Gonzalez couldn't find his pop-up into shallow center field and later scored on Willie Harris' sac fly to deep center field. That's four RBI for Harris already tonight. Oh, and Pudge got another hit. His updated batting average: .474! His updated slugging percentage: .658! Throw in an RBI single by Nyjer Morgan and the Nats now lead 5-1 after three.
8:16 p.m. -- If you haven't seen it yet on the homepage, here's my story on Jason Marquis' struggles
8:27 p.m. -- Stammen gives another run back to the Rockies thanks to a leadoff double by Todd Helton and a single by Troy Tulowitzki -- plus a poor throw by Ryan Zimmerman attempting to record a double play at the plate. But Stammen got out of it thanks to a double play line drive to second. So the Nats still hold a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth and have knocked Colorado's starter from the game. Manuel Corpas now on in relief of Aaron Cook.
8:40 p.m. -- That's five innings from Craig Stammen tonight. Which, based on the track record established over the last two weeks, ensures a Nationals victory. You can look it up: The Nats are 6-0 when their starter goes at least five innings.
8:54 p.m. -- Make that a quality start for Stammen, who has now allowed two runs over six innings. And since he's leading off the bottom of the inning, it would appear he'll be back out for the seventh. It's still 5-2, but the Nats' bats have gone silent since Cook departed. They managed nothing in two innings against Corpas. Now lefty Randy Flores is in. Another run or two would be some nice insurance for Stammen and the Washington bullpen.
9:16 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman has made plenty of managerial moves that have paid off already this season, so he deserves some benefit of the doubt. But does anyone else think it's a bit early to be pinch-running for Adam Dunn (up 5-2 in the seventh)? This is obviously about fielding a better defensive team the rest of the way, but did he need to make that move already?
9:20 p.m. -- Base hits for the Nationals in innings 1-3: seven. Base hits in innings 4-7: zero.
9:26 p.m. -- Wow, what a performance by Craig Stammen: 8 ip, 5 h, 1 bb, 5 k. 96 pitches, 63 strikes. Looks like he's done; Jim Riggleman gave him a handshake when he returned to the dugout, and Matt Capps is warming up in the bullpen as we speak.
9:29 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 11,623. Smallest in Nationals Park history. As predicted.
9:37 p.m. -- Here comes Capps. Cue "The Final Countdown."
9:45 p.m. -- Another curly W in the books. Nats win, 5-2, improve to 7-6. Matt Capps: 6-for-6 in save opportunities. Too bad no one was here to see it.