Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals look to take three of four from the Rockies.
OK, that may be a bit of a stretch, because few would consider Livan Hernandez vs. Ubaldo Jimenez the best matchup of the year. But let's give these two right-handers their due respect. Hernandez has an 0.00 ERA this season and is coming off a four-hit shutout of the Brewers. Jimenez, meanwhile, is coming off a no-hitter against the Braves.
You know how many times in the last 90 years a pitcher coming off a no-hitter faced an opponent coming off a shutout? How about once. That was May 17, 1996, when the Marlins' Al Leiter (coming off a no-hitter) faced the Cubs' Jim Bullinger (coming off a 2-hit shutout). And you know who was manager of the Cubs for that game? Why, none other than Jim Riggleman. (All info there courtesy Nats PR, via the Elias Sports Bureau.)
So Jimenez will be attempting to duplicate Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters from 1938, still the only pitcher in baseball history to do that. (And, in my opinion, the one record that absolutely will never be broken. Seriously, who's going to throw THREE no-hitters in a row?)
The Nats won't exactly be fielding their best lineup against Jimenez. Ryan Zimmerman is out with his right hamstring injury. Josh Willingham has the day off as well.
Check back for updates throughout the game...
ROCKIES AT NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:35 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 73 degrees, Wind 12 mph out to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Cristian Guzman
LF Willie Harris
1B Adam Dunn
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
3B Alberto Gonzalez
P Livan Hernandez
RF Carlos Gonzalez
CF Dexter Fowler
1B Todd Helton
SS Troy Tulowitzki
3B Ian Stewart
LF Ryan Spilborghs
C Miguel Olivo
2B Clint Barmes
P Ubaldo Jimenez
3:25 p.m. -- Update on Ryan Zimmerman: Though he's out of the lineup today, the Nats are calling his injury more of a severe cramp than an actual hamstring strain. The feeling is that this is less serious than the other hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup for five days. But as we've seen time and again, always assume recovery time will be longer than the initial prognosis.
3:28 p.m. -- Update on Jason Marquis: He's in Cincinnati today getting a second opinion from orthopedist Tim Kremchek, and the Nats are awaiting word on that. Assuming Kremchek finds the same "floating bodies" in Marquis' right elbow that the Nats doctor did yesterday, surgery would seem inevitable. That would probably mean at least a couple of months of recovery, similar to what Craig Stammen went through late last season.
3:32 p.m. -- A quick public service announcement: The Nationals will be collecting new elementary-level books at the center field gate before Saturday's game. All books will be donated to Everybody Wins DC, a non-profit organization that promotes child literacy by pairing students with reading mentors. Members of the Nats front office participate in this worthy program, regularly spending their lunch hour with students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in the District.
4:11 p.m. -- Clint is currently interviewing the guy who invented "Earth Day" on the Jumbotron. Mike Wallace and Morley Safer should fear for their jobs.
4:38 p.m. -- A foul ball from Carlos Gonzalez off a pitch from Livan Hernandez opens this ballgame.
4:46 p.m. -- Livo wasted no time in the top of the first, eschewing a two-out walk to Todd Helton by striking out Troy Tulowitzki on a 65-mph Bugs Bunny curveball (I've said it before, and I'll say it again: That's my favorite pitch in the majors).
4:51 p.m. -- Johnny Vander Meer's descendants can pop that bottle of champagne. No back-to-back no-hitters for Ubaldo Jimenez. Willie Harris tagged a double off the right-center field wall with two outs in the bottom of the first.
5:02 p.m. -- The Rockies strike first. Hernandez hangs an 81-mph slider to Miguel Olivo, who deposits it into the left-field bleachers for a solo homer. Nats trail 1-0 heading to the bottom of the second. Considering the late-afternoon shadows, you'd think this would be a difficult environment to hit. But in the very early going here, that doesn't seem to be the case.
5:17 p.m. -- Both pitchers starting to settle down now. Hernandez retired the side in the third and has allowed only the solo homer to Olivo thus far. Jimenez, meanwhile, is picking up in velocity and movement. He's allowed two hits but has retired the last five and just struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the third. Rockies still up 1-0 after three.
5:46 p.m. -- Definitely a pitchers' duel brewing here. Livo continues to look sharp, allowing only two hits through five (both by Miguel Olivo). Ubaldo, meanwhile, has yet to allow a run but escaped a jam in the fourth when he got Adam Kennedy to ground into a fielder's choice with two on and two out. Still 1-0 as we head to the bottom of the fifth.
5:49 p.m. -- Oh yeah, with two more hits today Ivan Rodriguez is now batting .468 (22-for-47).
5:55 p.m. -- If there are any silver linings so far for the Nats, they have made Jimenez throw 84 pitches through five innings. So he may not be able to go the distance. But boy, he looks pretty good right now.
6:03 p.m. -- Can we start saying Adam Dunn has become an adequate first baseman? He just made a really nice pick of Ian Desmond's one-hopper to complete a 1-6-3 double play. Dunn has made probably a half-dozen plays already this year I never would have expected him to make a year ago. Still 1-0 Rockies going to the bottom of the sixth.
6:18 p.m. -- Barring a comeback by the Nationals, the starting pitcher/innings streak is going to come to an end. Livan Hernandez has pitched into the seventh, but he just allowed a solo homer to Ian Stewart on a grooved, 84 mph fastball, so the Nats now trail 2-0. If they don't rally against Ubaldo, this will be the first game this year in which the starter went five or more innings but they still lost.
6:25 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 15,518.
6:31 p.m. -- Ubaldo Jimenez is The Man. Seven shutout innings, four hits. But he's already at 114 pitches, after throwing 128 in his no-hitter five days ago. There's no one warming in the Rockies bullpen, so it looks like he'll come back out for the eighth.
6:38 p.m. -- Give Livan Hernandez credit. Eight innings of 2-run, 4-hit ball. His only mistakes were those two solo homers. And he only needed 95 pitches to do it. But he's going to be pinch-hit for by Josh Willingham in the bottom of the eighth, with the Nats needing some offense.
6:43 p.m. -- That's it for Jimenez. Former Nat Joe Beimel coming on to face Nyjer Morgan with one out and a man on second in the eighth. Decent ovation for Ubaldo from the Nationals Park crowd as he departs.
6:52 p.m. -- Missed opportunity there for the Nats. They had a chance in the eighth, but Nyjer Morgan popped up a bunt back to Beimel. Then with runners on the corners and two out, Jim Riggleman let Willie Harris hit against the lefty. Ryan Zimmerman, for what it's worth, was in the dugout with a helmet on and bat in hand. Harris flied out to right to end the inning. So it's still 2-0 Rockies heading to the ninth.
6:54 p.m. -- Something to consider for the bottom of the ninth. Rockies closer Franklin Morales, a lefty, has a very good but controversial pickoff move. He gets called for balks often, and the Rockies have a problem with that and have sent video to MLB offices. If the Nats put a man on first in the bottom of the ninth, that could come into play.
7:08 p.m. -- So much for that. Morales took care of business in the ninth. Adam Dunn flied out. Ivan Rodriguez grounded out. Justin Maxwell (pinch-hitting for Adam Kennedy) managed a line-drive single to left. But Ian Desmond struck out on a nasty breaking ball to end the game. Final score: Rockies 2, Nationals 0. Tough loss for Livan Hernandez. Washington falls to 8-8 heading into a weekend series with the Dodgers.