Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Luis Atilano meets Jason Hammel in the nightcap of the doubleheader
I wouldn't expect any hangover factor. If anything, the Nats felt like they put together some decent at-bats in Game 1. They just were done in once again by Ubaldo Jimenez, the majors' best pitcher of the season to date.
Even though his team lost the opener, Jim Riggleman has to feel good about his chances in Game 2. If rookie Luis Atilano struggles, he's still got all of his top relievers rested and ready to go. That's the reason Tyler Walker, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps didn't appear in the opener. Had there only been one game on the slate today, Walker probably would have pitched the eighth inning of what was then a 3-2 game. But with the nightcap looming, Riggleman wanted to preserve his best arms in case his team holds a late lead.
One guy who I wouldn't expect to pitch in the second game is Brian Bruney. Actually, I wouldn't be stunned if the guy doesn't throw another pitch for the Nationals. Riggleman was not happy with the right-hander's performance today, in which he walked the first two batters he faced and then allowed an RBI double and two-run single later. Riggleman and Rizzo spent time behind closed doors immediately following the game, and Rizzo was on the field on his cell phone for a while after that. I don't want to assume anything here, but I wouldn't be shocked if there's a roster move after tonight's game and there's a bullpen change in time for tomorrow's series finale.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS AT ROCKIES
Where: Coors Field
Gametime: 8:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 58 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
LF Willie Harris
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
2B Cristian Guzman
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
P Luis Atilano
CF Carlos Gonzalez
LF Seth Smith
RF Brad Hawpe
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes
C Paul Phillips
P Jason Hammel
8:10 p.m. -- Game 2 is now underway with a strike from Hammel to Morgan.
8:16 p.m. -- And the Nats go down in order. Couple of flyouts to left after Morgan struck out looking at a 2-2 fastball on the outside corner. Apparently, Nyjer didn't get the memo that Miguel Olivo isn't catching the nightcap. This is the time to try to get on base and challenge backup Paul Phillips.
8:25 p.m. -- Luis Atilano was a bit shaky in his half of the first, walking Seth Smith and then leaving an 0-2 fastball up to Brad Hawpe that turned into a single. But Atilano battled and got a double-play grounder from Troy Tulowitzki (with Ian Desmond making a really nice turn and laser throw after Cristian Guzman gave him a sloppy feed) to end the inning. Scoreless after one.
8:28 p.m. -- Some of you were wondering about Josh Willingham being out of the lineup again and wondered if that was a product of him getting hit by a pitch in the last game. No, Willingham's groin still isn't 100 percent, and Jim Riggleman didn't want to take a chance. That's also why Willy Taveras pinch-ran for the Hammer after that HBP in Game 1.
8:44 p.m. -- Just like the opener, we've got good pitching and little offense here so far. Scoreless through 2 1/2, with one hit per side. Hammel (who entered with a 9.16 ERA) has baffled the Nats lineup so far, especially Morgan (who has struck out twice).
8:52 p.m. -- Atilano just served up a two-run homer to Carlos Gonzalez, but it's hard to blame the pitcher for that one. Atilano threw an 0-2 breaking ball that was well down and inside of the strike zone. Gonzalez somehow managed to turn on the pitch and keep it just inside the foul pole. Impressive piece of hitting there. Rockies lead 2-0 in the third.
8:53 p.m. -- That one you CAN blame on Atilano. Left a 2-1 fastball right over the plate to Seth Smith, who crushed it into the second deck in right-center. Back-to-back jacks have the Rockies up 3-0 now.
9:26 p.m. -- Once again, the Nats rally while I'm down in the stands shooting photos. Roger Bernadina delivers a big, two-run double in the top of the fourth, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Bernie's 2-for-2 tonight, and all of a sudden he's hitting .311. He's raised his average 100 points in about four days! Heading to the bottom of the fifth now, Atilano has settled down some.
9:43 p.m. -- And we are tied 3-3. Adam Dunn lofts a 3-0 fastball from Hammel over the right-field fence for a solo homer in the sixth. That's the second time in a week Dunn has homered on a 3-0 pitch. I said it back then and I'll say it again: That's really smart of Dunn to take a hack on 3-0. He's the kind of guy who zeroes in on one particular pitch. If he locks in on a fastball in that count, why not swing away? Whole new ballgame here now.
9:49 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman will hand this one over to his bullpen. Double-switch here in the sixth, with Sean Burnett now pitching and Willy Taveras in right. This is why Riggleman felt he needed to use Brian Bruney in the first game, to save Burnett and Tyler Walker and Tyler Clippard for the nightcap. We'll see how it works out.
9:57 p.m. -- Clean inning for Burnett, who set down the Rockies in order in the bottom of the sixth. This guy really is key to the Nats' fortunes. They need him to do that more often.
10:00 p.m. -- One last thing about Dunn's homer: That was only the fifth of his career on a 3-0, but his second in the span of a week.
10:13 p.m. -- Ian Desmond just got charged with an error that let the go-ahead run score, but the blame has to go to Dunn. Seth Smith's chopper up the middle was deflected by Burnett. Desmond made a fabulous play to lunge for the ball and then made an off-balance throw to first. It bounced, but right into Dunn's glove. Dunn dropped it. Would have had Smith by three steps. Instead, Desmond gets the error and Phillips scores to put the Rockies up 4-3 in the seventh.
10:17 p.m. -- Former Nat Joe Beimel on to pitch the eighth for Colorado. Johnny Cash cranking over the P.A. system. I really miss this guy.
10:27 p.m. -- Beimel retires both batters he faced, but Matt Belisle allows a two-out single to Zimmerman. With a chance to tie the game or take the lead, Dunn whiffs at a 2-2 changeup. So it's still 4-3 Rockies, and the Nats are three outs away from a disappointing doubleheader sweep. Tyler Walker now pitching the bottom of the eighth.
10:36 p.m. -- Here we go, last shot for the Nats. Manuel Corpas pitching the ninth. Guzman, a pinch-hitter (Josh Willingham) and Desmond due up.
10:44 p.m. -- Tough day at the old ballpark. Nats drop both ends of the doubleheader, this one by a 4-3 count. Burnett takes the loss even though he pitched well. Nats just couldn't push another run across. They'll need to win tomorrow's series finale to salvage a four-game split before heading to St. Louis.