Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
What will the split between Nats and Phillies fan be tonight?
Hopefully everyone has had ample opportunity to vent, complain, seeth, vilify and pontificate about Monday's events. If you'd still like to continue discussing that subject, my posting from yesterday about the invasion of Philadelphia fans on Opening Day remains up and running, so feel free to head back there.
Over here, we'll turn our focus to tonight's game between the Nationals and Phillies. It's Jason Marquis vs. Cole Hamels, and already the Nats are fielding a new-look lineup.
Mike Morse gets the start in right field and will bat seventh. Ian Desmond gets bumped up to the No. 2 hole. No real shocker here. Jim Riggleman said all along right field will be a revolving door between Willie Harris, Willy Taveras and Morse, based primarily on favorable matchups. It's a small sample size, but Morse is 1-for-3 in his career against Hamels. More importantly, Morse owns a career .324 average and .824 OPS against left-handed pitchers.
Check back for updates and analysis throughout the game, and check the homepage for other news and notes...
PHILLIES AT NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 83 degrees, Wind 11 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Mike Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
P Jason Marquis
SS Jimmy Rollins
3B Placido Polanco
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
RF Jayson Werth
LF Raul Ibanez
CF Shane Victorino
C Carlos Ruiz
P Cole Hamels
6:19 p.m. -- Here's the answer to the question you've all been asking about: The reason they got rid of the curly W in center field. Apparently, new head groundskeeper John Royse was concerned that the logo in the grass could actually be dangerous to players. Because it was pressed down, with the grain going in a different direction than the rest of the grass, center fielders could easily get their spikes caught and get hurt. That also made balls rolling on the ground change directions easily, a hazard for fielders. If you notice the way the grass is mowed now, there are straight lines going toward all three outfield positions. Does it make that much difference? I never knew that before, but apparently it does.
6:27 p.m. -- For those who haven't seen it already, read this excellent piece by my old colleague Thom Loverro
7:07 p.m. -- We are underway. Much smaller crowd here tonight than on Monday, still plenty of Philly fans of course.
7:22 p.m. -- This is not the Jason Marquis the Nats want to see. It's one thing if he's hit hard. But the Phillies just scored two runs in the top of the first with only a Chase Utley single to right. Marquis walked three, hit a batter and allowed one run to score on a wild pitch. Only a Ryan Howard 4-6-3 double play saved him from complete disaster. Twenty-nine pitches for Marquis, only 13 of them strikes. Phillies lead 2-0.
7:34 p.m. -- Good news: Nyjer Morgan draws a leadoff walk, then steals second with ease. Bad news: Ian Desmond strikes out on an 0-2 change-up from Hamels, failing to advance the runner. So Ryan Zimmerman's groundout to second only moves Morgan to third instead of scoring him, and Adam Dunn's groundout ends the inning without a run crossing the plate. This is the downside of batting a rookie No. 2. If Desmond's going to do that, he's going to have to learn how to make productive outs.
7:40 p.m. -- Much better second inning for Marquis. Jimmy Rollins doubled on a sinking liner to left-center that, quite frankly, Morgan should have caught. He dove but the ball went right off the top of his glove and Nyjer clearly looked upset at himself for not hauling it in. No problem, though, because Marquis found the strike zone (10 of 13 pitches) and got out of the inning without any more damage.
7:49 p.m. -- Again, the Nats put the leadoff man on (a Josh Willingham single) then can't advance him. Ivan Rodriguez flies out to center. Mike Morse strikes out on a 1-2 fastball. And Adam Kennedy (after Willingham surprisingly stole second) grounds out. If you're going to manufacture runs, you've got to be able to move guys who get on to lead off an inning. Still Phillies 2-0 after two.
7:54 p.m. -- Whatever control issues Marquis had in the first inning have disappeared in the two innings since. He just retired the side on 10 pitches (seven strikes) and struck out Howard on a nice slider.
8:08 p.m. -- Here's why Ian Desmond is in the majors. He just took a decent pitch from Hamels (0-1 fastball on the lower, outside corner) and sent a rising line drive over the fence in straightaway center field. Seriously, I think the only other player currently on the Nats' roster who can do that is Ryan Zimmerman. (Elijah Dukes used to do that, but not consistently enough, and that's why he's currently unemployed.) And the Nationals didn't just rest on the Desmond homer. With two outs, Zimmerman and Dunn each drew walks, then Willingham sent a base hit to left that easily scored Zim to knot the game up 2-2 after three.
8:19 p.m. -- There are several guys in the Phillies lineup capable of beating you. Like eight of them. The one guy who shouldn't be beating you is Cole Hamels, who did just that with an RBI single up the middle in the top of the fourth, scoring Shane Victorino from second. A nice 4-6-3 double play, though, saved the inning for Marquis. I've got to admit, I've been impressed with Adam Kennedy's glovework so far. He and Desmond look pretty good out there together. Phillies 3-2 headed to the bottom of the fourth.
8:31 p.m. -- Desmond strikes again. Ropes a two-out, RBI double to left, scoring Morgan (who reached on a Howard error). Desmond's going to have his ups and downs this season, that's just the way it is. But he's going to be worth watching every time he steps to the plate and every time a ball is hit his way at shortstop. Which is more than you can for just about everyone else on the Nats roster. 3-3 after four.
8:39 p.m. -- Say goodnight, Jason. Marquis implodes in the fifth, allowing a leadoff double to Polanco, then an RBI single to Utley, then serves up a two-run homer to Howard on an 87-mph fastball up and out over the plate. Danger, danger. Just like that, his Nats debut is over. Final line: 4+ ip, 8 h, 6 er, 3 bb, 2 k, 1 hr, 1 wp, 1 hp. 70 pitches, 45 strikes. Phillies lead 6-3 as Tyler Walker comes out of the bullpen.
8:43 p.m. -- For those wondering (and you know you are) the Nationals' top two starting pitchers have combined to allow 11 runs and 15 hits in 7 2/3 innings. And these are supposed to be the two guys they don't have to worry about.
9:03 p.m. -- They may be trailing 6-3 after five, but at least the Nats are giving themselves a chance. By forcing Hamels to throw 103 pitches in five innings, they've knocked the lefty out early and now will get four innings against the Phillies suspect bullpen. With Brad Lidge on the DL, Ryan Madson is the fill-in closer. And you remember how that all went last year.
9:14 p.m. -- Remember all of you who wanted Tyler Walker cut this spring? Well, he retired all six batters he faced tonight, striking out three of them. Track records, folks, track records.
9:19 p.m. -- Tonight's attendance: 27,240. Not bad, actually, for the second game of the season.
9:27 p.m. -- The rose may be off the Jesse English bloom just a bit. The rookie lefty, who impressed on Monday, got another shot against the heart of the Phillies lineup in the top of the seventh. Wound up allowing a rocket single to Polanco that bounced off English, then walked Utley. He got Howard to fly out, but runners were still in scoring position for Tyler Clippard, who also walked the first batter he faced. Ibanez then hit a fly ball to medium-shallow right field. With a chance for a play at the plate, Mike Morse's throw didn't have enough on it to reach the plate. Phillies lead 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
9:45 p.m. -- Uniform fail in San Francisco! Outfielder Eugenio Velez wore a road jersey today that spelled his city's name "San Francicso." And you thought this only happened to the "Natinals." Here's the story, with a photo of the offending jersey.
9:54 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman wants to get Cristian Guzman's bat in the lineup, so much so that he's willing to put the career shortstop in right field for the first time in his career. Guzy handled his first flyball. More importantly, he led off the eighth with a triple to left-center, then scored moments later on Adam Kennedy's sac fly. It's now 7-4 with a runner on second, Nyjer Morgan at the plate and Antonio Bastardo entering from the bullpen. This is the Nats' chance to do something. This would normally be J.C. Romero's spot, but like Lidge he's also on the DL. Golden opportunity for Washington.
10:03 p.m. -- What's the last thing you want to do with a runner in scoring position and a new reliever on the mound? Pop out on the first pitch. Which is what Morgan just did against Bastardo. One pitch, one out, and the lefty departs in favor of closer Ryan Madson. And then what does Madson do? Strikes out Desmond on three pitches to end the inning. Desmond has now struck out five times in eight plate appearances this season. (He's homered, doubled and walked in the other three.) Phillies still lead 7-4 after eight.
10:22 p.m. -- Last chance for the Nats, who now trail 8-4 after a Desmond error (his second in two games) opens the door for the Phillies to score a run off Matt Capps in the top of the ninth.
10:27 p.m. -- And that's it. Despite one-out singles from Dunn and Willingham, Pudge grounds into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game. Phillies win, 8-4. Nats are 0-2 heading into tomorrow's 4:35 p.m. series finale, with Craig Stammen facing Kyle Kendrick.