Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The sun is out today, but it's still cold and windy.
The Nats can only hope the abundant sunshine brings out the best in John Lannan, who today attempts to become the first member of the rotation to reach the sixth inning. It's been a woeful stretch for Washington starters so far, with Craig Stammen's five-inning performance Thursday the gold standard to date, as it were.
As manager Jim Riggleman said last night: "That can't continue. That's not going to work."
Lannan will be facing a Mets lineup bolstered by the return of leadoff man and shortstop Jose Reyes, who has been activated off the DL after missing several weeks with a mysterious thyroid issue. Reyes hasn't been himself for more than a year, but if he returns to the form he displayed in 2006-08, he's one of the most dynamic players in baseball.
Willy Taveras gets the nod in right field, in part because Mike Morse is not ready to return to the field from his calf injury, and in part because Taveras brings better defense to the Nats outfield.
Cristian Guzman starts at second base, with Ian Desmond at shortstop and Adam Kennedy getting his first game off of the year.
Check back for updates and analysis throughout the game, and check the homepage for other news and notes...
NATIONALS AT METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 1:10 p.m.
TV: MASN HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM
Weather: Sunny, 54 degrees, Wind 16 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
SS Ian Desmond
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Willy Taveras
P John Lannan
SS Jose Reyes
2B Alex Cora
3B David Wright
LF Jason Bay
RF Jeff Francoeur
CF Gary Matthews Jr.
1B Fernando Tatis
C Henry Blanco
P Oliver Perez
12:25 p.m. -- The Nationals plan to make a roster move after the game today, with Livan Hernandez added so he can start tomorrow's series finale. The common belief is that the club will drop one of its eight relievers. Jesse English is the only one with options, but Jason Bergmann and Tyler Walker would be candidates as well. Asked what factors will be used to determine the move, Jim Riggleman said, "probably recent performance as much as anything." The manager said they've got "two or three options there." Here's one possible out-of-the-box scenario: Option Garrett Mock to Syracuse. Though Mock's turn next comes up Thursday, the Nats technically don't need five starters until next Sunday. John Lannan, Hernandez and Jason Marquis could all pitch on normal rest thanks to Tuesday's day off in Philadelphia. Not saying that will happen. Just saying it's one intriguing scenario that would allow the Nats to keep all eight relievers for another week.
1:11 p.m. -- We're underway, with a flyout to left by Nyjer Morgan to start things off. Another sparsely attended game here at Citi Field.
1:19 p.m. -- John Lannan tosses 1-2-3 bottom of the first. His first seven pitches were all strikes. Ten of his 12 overall pitches in the inning were strikes. That's how you "attack hitters," in case certain other members of the Nats rotation were wondering.
1:33 p.m. -- Two on, two out, 0-2 count. And Willy Taveras triples to deep left-center. Just how Jim Riggleman drew it up, right? Nats lead 2-0.
1:45 p.m. -- To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld's line when yelling at the lady behind the car rental counter: "You know how to take a lead. You just don't know how to hold a lead. And that's really the most important part of the process: holding the lead." John Lannan, presented a 2-0 advantage by his teammates, proceeded to then load the bases with nobody out in the second, two of those baserunners coming on walks. He nearly got out of it, but Henry Blanco's fly to center field was deep enough to score one run. And Oliver Perez's blooper just carried over Ian Desmond's reach for an RBI single. So we're tied, 2-2, heading to the third.
2:07 p.m. -- For the second straight inning, Lannan loads the bases with nobody out. This time, he escapes without allowing a run. The key moment: Jeff Francoeur tapped a little dribbler about six inches in front of the plate. Pudge Rodriguez picked up the ball, stepped on the plate and then threw to first for the double play. As one particularly disgusted Mets fan (wearing a Darryl Strawberry jersey and NY cap with the brim back and to the side) sitting in front of the press box put it: "Oh my god!" Still 2-2 after three.
2:20 p.m. -- Deja vu: Bases loaded, Willy Taveras at the plate. Two-run single up the middle. That's four RBI for Taveras -- his career high -- in only four innings. Should we just give Jim Riggleman manager of the year honors right now? Nats now lead 4-2 in a game that has featured seven half-innings so far, four with the bases loaded.
2:32 p.m. -- John Lannan isn't exactly pitching well today, and he'd probably be the first to admit that. But it's not like the Mets are taking it to him. Through four innings, they only have three hits (an opposite-field double by Jeff Francoeur, an opposite-field single by Oliver Perez and an infield single by Alex Cora that should have been an error on Ian Desmond. So what's been Lannan's problem? He's been all over the place (three walks and a hit batter already). That's not his style. The question is whether he can figure it out, take advantage of the 4-2 lead he's been given and churn out a couple more decent innings to put himself in line for the win.
3:15 p.m. -- So much for the best game of Willy Taveras' life. Already sitting on four RBI with two men on and two out in the sixth, he struck out at a 3-2 splitter from reliever Ryota Igarashi. So it's 4-3 Nats, and Lannan is out of the game, the fifth straight Nats starter to fail to make it to the sixth.
3:17 p.m. -- Whoa, and Ryan Zimmerman is out of the game (tight left hamstring). They're saying it's precautionary, but Willie Harris is now in at third base. Not the kind of development you expected, and not one the Nats can be happy about.
3:35 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard is absolutely blowing away the Mets. Five strikeouts in two innings of relief, most of them coming on high fastballs. Wow. Still 4-3 after seven.
3:48 p.m. -- Golden opportunity squandered by the Nats there. Bases loaded, one out in the eighth, and Pudge hits a comebacker that turns into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play. So it's still 4-3 going to the bottom of the eighth. Clippard is returning for a third inning of work. But the Nats' 3-4-5 hitters Zimmerman (hamstring), Dunn (pinch-runner) and Willingham (defense) are out of the game. Adam Kennedy takes over at first base, with Willie Harris in left field and Alberto Gonzalez at third base for the final two innings. If the Nats bullpen holds on, great. If they don't and this team needs more offense later, this is going to be a major problem.
4:02 p.m. -- All hail Tyler Clippard. Three innings, seven strikeouts.
4:08 p.m. -- Can Clippard go four? No, not after throwing 40 pitches. So it's Matt Capps on to pitch the ninth and try to preserve the Nats' 4-3 lead. Top of the order for New York: Reyes, Cora and Wright.
4:25 p.m. -- All I can say is: The Mets must HATE Willie Harris. Nats win, 4-3.
7:31 p.m. -- Forgot to mention this earlier: There was no roster move after today's game. Riggleman said they'll make the move tomorrow morning, not wanting to spoil the good vibe from today's win.