Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals open a six-game homestand tonight against the Braves.
-- The Capitals were up three games to two on the Canadiens and feeling good about their chances of advancing well past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
-- The Redskins had just traded Jason Campbell to the Raiders.
-- Stephen Strasburg had made only three starts for Harrisburg.
It's only been nine days, but it sure feels like a lot has happened in that span. The club that returns home tonight for the start of a six-game homestand has Ryan Zimmerman back healthy and swinging a hot bat, Livan Hernandez and Luis Atilano practically unhittable on the mound and the whole town to itself until the Redskins open training camp in nearly three months.
Hear that sound? It's opportunity knocking at the door. Whether the Nats seize this opportunity remains to be seen. The quest begins tonight against the Braves.
Check back for updates throughout...
BRAVES AT NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 76 degrees, Wind 10 mph out to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez
CF Nate McLouth
2B Martin Prado
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
1B Troy Glaus
RF Jason Heyward
LF Melky Cabrera
SS Omar Infante
P Kenshin Kawakami
6:41 p.m. -- If you haven't seen the news on John Lannan's swollen elbow, check the homepage for that. In other injury news ... Jason Marquis has resumed throwing off flat ground and plans to throw off a bullpen mound tomorrow. He says his arm feels "great" since getting a cortisone shot to relieve the pain from bone chips, and he's trying to push for a quick return to the rotation. Mike Rizzo sounded less optimistic. When it was pointed out Marquis appears to be ahead of schedule in his recovery, Rizzo replied: "Jason thinks he's ahead of schedule." ... Among the guys currently rehabbing in Viera on the 60-day DL, Rizzo said Ross Detwiler is probably the closest to returning. The left-hander, though, still is several weeks away from beginning a minor-league rehab assignment. ... Detwiler may be progressing the fastest, but that means Chien-Ming Wang is lagging behind. Wang has still yet to throw live BP. ... Jordan Zimmermann has been throwing live BP and has made serious progress, but the Nats remain cautious with him and won't let him come back sooner than standard for players coming off Tommy John surgery (ie. no earlier than August).
7:09 p.m. -- And we're underway, albeit a couple minutes late. Gorgeous night for baseball.
7:29 p.m. -- Well, that could have been really ugly. Livan Hernandez needed 41 pitches to get through the top of the first. Yet somehow he only allowed one run (an unearned run, at that). Hernandez was all over the place with his pitches, but he didn't give in to anyone, either. With two on and two out, he pitched around Jason Heyward, throwing up breaking balls on both 3-1 and 3-2 to walk the young stud and instead take his chances with Melky Cabrera. So the Braves lead 1-0, but it could be much worse.
7:45 p.m. -- Much better stuff from Livo in the second inning. He needed only 13 pitches to retire the side, nine of them strikes. Three groundball outs. There are plenty of pitchers out there who would be doomed by a 41-pitch first inning. Livan isn't one of them. He could still end up going seven tonight, and no one would be surprised.
7:50 p.m. -- Josh Willingham remains the king of the solo homer. Just sent an 0-1 fastball from Kawakami into the left-field bullpen. Unfortunately, no one was on base. So it's now 1-1 in the bottom of the second.
7:58 p.m. -- And for good measure, the bottom of the Nats' lineup adds the go-ahead run. Three straight singles by Rodriguez, Bernadina and Desmond (who sent a sharp grounder up the middle to drive in Pudge) put the Nationals on top 2-1 after two.
8:08 p.m. -- OK, Roger Bernadina just made up for his earlier error. Bernadina went full extension to make a diving catch of Troy Glaus' line drive to right, then did a face plant into the turf. If that ball falls in, one run scores and Glaus ends up on third base. Instead, the Braves fail to score at all in the third, and the Nats still lead 2-1.
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Heyward flashes his incredible strength on a fifth-inning homer.
8:46 p.m. -- For those who haven't heard yet, Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away this evening. I'm sure all of Michigan is mourning tonight, but Harwell's grace over the last few months despite knowing this was coming was further evidence of what a wonderful human being he was. One of the finest gentlemen this sport has ever known.
8:49 p.m. -- Ian Desmond has finally committed an error after 18 straight games without a gaffe. But it wasn't costly, because Hernandez pitched his way out of the fifth. And Desmond just made up for it with a blast near the Red Porch to lead off the bottom of the inning and put the Nats up 3-2. Livo, meanwhile, just hit for himself despite a pitch count at a whopping 113. There's no action in the bullpen, so it looks like he'll come back out for the sixth. Wow.
9:04 p.m. -- Well, Livo only made it two batters into the sixth. He got a groundout and then walked pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad before Jim Riggleman came out to take the ball and hand it to Sean Burnett.
9:13 p.m. -- The fans here in the ballpark don't know it, but it's now 4-2 Nats after Adam Dunn homered to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Unfortunately, the scoreboards have all been out for the last inning, so there's no visual proof of what's going on. Unless everyone can keep track in their own heads.
9:25 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 17,098.
9:31 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard got into a little trouble there in the seventh, allowing a single to Heyward (who has reached base all four times he's come up tonight, by the way) to put two on with two out. But "Clip" caught Cabrera looking at a fastball for strike three to get out of that jam, so the Nats preserve a 4-2 lead heading to the seventh-inning stretch. Oh, and the scoreboard just came back on! Crisis averted.
9:46 p.m. -- I stand corrected. The scoreboard just went kaput again, right after Clippard retired the side in the eighth. It's now 5-2 Nats in the bottom of the eighth. Will fans know when to stand and applaud with two outs in the ninth?
9:57 p.m. -- Since the Nats just expanded the lead to 6-2 on a bonehead play by Troy Glaus -- just jog over and touch first base yourself, dude! -- there will be no Final Countdown or "Clip 'n' Save" (TM Steve Repsher) tonight. Matt Capps takes a seat in the bullpen, and Miguel Batista prepares to pitch the ninth.
10:11 p.m. -- So much for making this one easy. Batista's out after allowing an RBI single, so here comes Capps to try to get his 11th save in 14 Nats victories.
10:16 p.m. -- At last, it's over. Nats win 6-3. Livo gets the win. Capps gets the save after all. At 14-12, they remain in third place in the NL East, one game back.