Photo courtesy Florida Marlins
A win today would ensure the Nats' third straight series victory.
Well, it's happened only twice this season so far (both times against the Phillies, with the Nats winning the finale both times to salvage something). Instead, the Nationals have put themselves in position to win most series by winning game one, as was the case Friday night in Miami.
So even though they played a stinker last night at Sun Life Stadium, they still have a chance to leave town with a series victory. This would actually be their third straight winning series, their fifth straight non-losing series (four wins and a tie).
John Lannan takes the mound this afternoon, looking to put together only his second quality start in six tries this season. Josh Johnson (career 5-0 vs. Washington) starts for the Marlins.
And unlike the last two nights, I'll actually be watching this one on TV and will share some thoughts along the way. So check back all afternoon...
NATIONALS AT MARLINS
Where: Sun Life Stadium
Gametime: 1:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 87 degrees, Wind 13 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
P John Lannan
CF Cameron Maybin
1B Gaby Sanchez
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B Jorge Cantu
2B Dan Uggla
C Ronny Paulino
RF Cody Ross
LF Brett Carroll
P Josh Johnson
12:51 p.m. -- As if today's game in Miami isn't reason enough to stay tuned, Stephen Strasburg also makes his fifth (and presumably final) start for Class AA Harrisburg this afternoon. First pitch against the Altoona Curve is at 2 p.m., so I'll share some updates from there as well.
1:11 p.m. -- First pitch from Josh Johnson to Nyjer Morgan is lined into right field for a base hit. Nice to see so many fans show up wearing bright Marlins orange. Wait, those are the empty seats? Wow.
1:18 p.m. -- Boy, that top of the first shows you what a difference a big-time, power pitcher can make. Even though Johnson got himself into trouble with that wild throw to second on the Morgan stolen base attempt, the right-hander was able to get out of the jam by overpowering Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. He broke three bats between the two sluggers, got Zim to hit a weak liner to first and then struck out Dunn with a 96 mph fastball. Who on the current Nats' staff is capable of doing that? No one. Though that guy pitching in Harrisburg today certainly can.
1:25 p.m. -- Nice and clean 1-2-3 first inning from John Lannan, which should be an encouraging sign. Except that hasn't really been the case this year for the lefty. He retired the side in the first earlier in the week in Chicago, then labored after that. John was particularly frustrated by that fact, because he said he felt great in that first inning and then couldn't regain the feel when he retook the mound in the second.
2:01 p.m. -- Taking advantage of some wildness by Johnson, the Nats took a 2-0 lead in the second. Johnson set the table by walking both Willingham and Harris to open the second, then Desmond roped a double to left to bring one run home. A couple of groundballs brought home the second run, and that gave Lannan a two-run lead to work with ... but it didn't last. Lannan just gave up four runs in the third, a rally that was ignited when the lefty plunked No. 8 hitter Carroll to open the frame. That paved the way for the big inning, and when Hanley Ramirez crushed a changeup that hung right over the heart of the plate to center field, that 2-0 lead had turned into a 4-2 deficit.
2:19 p.m. -- Definite communication issues right there between Nyjer Morgan and Willie Harris. Gaby Sanchez's two-out double to right-center should have been the third out of the fourth. Instead, it fell in harmlessly when Morgan pulled up short, thinking Harris was going to make the play. Neither guy did. It didn't cost the Nats, at least not immediately. But remember that play later. Hanley Ramirez may get an extra at-bat before the day is done because of that, and that's not what an opposing team wants.
2:23 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman is not pleased with Angel Campos' strike zone today. Did you see the way he was barking at Ivan Rodriguez about it last inning? All Pudge could do was stand there and nod his head.
2:27 p.m. -- Oh, for those wondering: There's rain in Harrisburg, but Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to get underway in a few minutes. How many good-weather games has he had in his five starts to date: One? Two?
2:36 p.m. -- For the record, I'd always much rather cover a game in person than off TV. But I will say that watching this game on MASN is giving me a little better understanding of what's going on with Lannan right now. Plain and simple: He's not coming close to hitting his spots. Watch when they show a replay of a pitch with the strike zone graphic. It also includes a little catcher's mitt where Nieves is set up. Look how much Lannan is missing that target. Even on some pitches that are strikes. Nieves is setting up way down in the zone, and Lannan is throwing them at the belt. Is it any wonder the Marlins are now up 6-2 in the fifth, having racked up nine hits over the last three innings?
2:38 p.m. -- Strasburg, on the other hand, apparently had no trouble hitting his targets in his first inning at Harrisburg. Game just started and the big guy set down the Curve in order, throwing six of his seven pitches for strikes.
2:56 p.m. -- With Lannan's day done after five ragged innings, Miguel Batista comes on to fulfill his role as the guy who eats up innings in lopsided games ... and makes it even more lopsided allowing Hanley Ramirez's second homer of the day. Marlins now up 7-2 heading to the seventh. Perhaps the Nats' only glimmer of hope is that Josh Johnson is now done. Despite allowing only two runs on three hits in six innings, his pitch count was already up to 98. So the Marlins' shaky bullpen, starting with Burke Badenhop here in the seventh, is now on.
3:09 p.m. -- As if today's events in Miami weren't rough enough ... Strasburg is struggling in Harrisburg. Gave up four runs in the second inning on three hits and two walks, by far his worst inning of the season. Then again, all three hits were singles and there was an error thrown in for good measure, so it's not like the Altoona batters were pounding Strasburg's pitches all over the park. Shows you how high the bar has been set for this kid.
3:17 p.m. -- If there's only one encouraging development to come out of this weekend series, it's the fact Ryan Zimmerman is back with a bang. He's got five hits in the series and just roped his 10th double of the season. That's 10 doubles in only 54 at-bats this season. Zim's slugging percentage is now .778. That would be far and away tops in the NL if he had enough AB's to qualify.
3:30 p.m. -- There are productive outs, and then there are non-productive outs. The Nats have had far too many of the latter today. Ian Desmond's strikeout to end the top of the eighth moments ago was the 11th by Nationals batters today. They trail 7-3 going to the bottom of the eighth.
4:01 p.m. -- That's all she wrote. Marlins win, 9-3, in a ballgame the Nats will want to forget. Not much to get excited about today. So after opening this road trip 3-1, they finish it 3-3. They'll come home tonight, take tomorrow off and then return to face the Braves at Nationals Park on Tuesday with a 13-12 record. (I'll have a Strasburg update as soon as his start is complete, shouldn't be much longer.)
4:13 p.m. -- Strasburg's final line: 4.2 ip, 6 h, 4 r, 3 er, 3 bb, 4 k, 1 hbp. He threw 49 of 79 pitches for strikes. By far his worst appearance of the season, and he's on the hook for his first loss. His total numbers now in five starts at Harrisburg: 22 ip, 13 h, 9 r, 4 er, 6 bb, 27 k. His ERA is 1.64 ERA. If the Senators rally to tie, his record will remain 3-0. Otherwise, it will fall to 3-1.