Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians.
Jim Riggleman counters former boss Manny Acta with a new-look lineup for this interleague series. Josh Willingham will serve as DH, with Willie Harris is left. Look for the DH slot to be a revolving door all week, with regular position players getting a chance to take a breather and only hit for a day. Ivan Rodriguez, though, bats second tonight behind Nyjer Morgan for the first time all year. Also, Adam Dunn hits third and Ryan Zimmerman fourth, even though Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook is a right-hander.
The Indians counter with their own top prospect, catcher Carlos Santana, making his big-league debut behind the plate.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS at INDIANS
Where: Progressive Field
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Josh Willingham
LF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
2B Adam Kennedy
RF Roger Bernadina
(P Luis Atilano)
CF Trevor Crowe
RF Shin-Soo Choo
C Carlos Santana
1B Russell Branyan
LF Austin Kearns
DH Travis Hafner
3B Jhonny Peralta
2B Luis Valbuena
SS Jason Donald
(P Jake Westbrook)
5:31 p.m. -- The most popular man in the ballpark today isn't Stephen Strasburg. It's Manny Acta, who spent most of the Indians' batting practice getting hugs and handshakes and conversing with Nationals players, coaches and media members. I'll have a full Acta story on CSNwashington.com in a little while, but the gist of it is this: Acta says he's never been happier than he is right now in Cleveland. He likes the direction the organization is headed. He keeps close tabs on the Nats and isn't surprised at the success they've had this season. He doesn't allow himself to think about what might have been if he had Strasburg, Drew Storen, Ian Desmond and others on his club a year ago.
5:34 p.m. -- Also caught up with Austin Kearns, who says he's finally healthy after battling injuries through most of his Nats tenure and is enjoying life in Cleveland. And said hello to former Nats third base coach Tim Tolman, now Acta's bench coach, who also is happy to be back on a big-league staff.
7:06 p.m. -- And we're underway on a muggy Friday night in Cleveland. Jake Westbrook fires a strike to Nyjer Morgan.
7:13 p.m. -- Well that didn't take long. Back-to-back doubles by Pudge and Dunn give the Nats a 1-0 lead. Might have been 2-0 had Morgan not been thrown out trying to steal second following a leadoff infield single. Nevertheless, Luis Atilano will take the mound with a lead in hand.
7:29 p.m. -- Let's see: What was the absolute worst-case scenario you could have drawn up for the bottom of the first? A two-out error by Adam Kennedy prolonging the inning and setting the stage for a three-run homer by Austin Kearns? Yeah, that would be it. The Indians give Manny Acta a 3-1 lead over the Nats after one inning as heads explode around the D.C. area.
8:12 p.m. -- I stand corrected. The absolute worst-case scenario was Austin Kearns hitting TWO home runs. Belted another solo shot off Atilano to lead off the bottom of the fourth. It's now 4-1, and the Indians are threatening again.
8:22 p.m. -- You know, Acta was talking before the game about how Kearns is finally healthy again after battling all sorts of injuries the last two years. He said Kearns never let on just how hurt he was and believes that's the sole reason for his struggles. Hard to dispute that line of thinking so far tonight.
8:26 p.m. -- Meanwhile, the Nats lineup has done nothing against Westbrook since that golden opportunity in the first. That inning was derailed by Morgan getting thrown out trying to steal second. Then in the third, Nyjer roped a line drive right at the third baseman on a hit-and-run, leaving Roger Bernadina hanging out to dry for the double play. Nats don't have a hit since then. We're in the bottom of the fifth, still 4-1 Tribe.
8:36 p.m. -- Breathe a sigh of relief, NatsTown. Austin Kearns just struck out to end the fifth. All is right with the world.
8:49 p.m. -- Travis Hafner joins the home run parade, belting a solo shot to right to lead off the sixth. A subsequent single by Jhonny Peralta ends the night for Atilano. I know this hasn't all been the right-hander's fault, and three of the runs are unearned, but he was sharp tonight. Left a fastball right in Hafner's wheelhouse on that home run. Plenty of other balls hit hard. Really disappointing start for Atilano, who was coming off his best outing to date. It's 5-1 Indians in the sixth, with Tyler Walker now pitching for Washington.
9:01 p.m. -- This game has officially turned ugly. Walker poured more gas on the fire and allowed two more runs. It's now 7-1, and both sides are just playing out the string.
9:33 p.m. -- Just when you thought the Nats had a glimmer of hope, loading the bases with one out in the eighth, Zimmerman kills the rally. Reliever Chris Perez comes on and on one pitch gets Zim to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. The Nats did get one unearned run in the inning, but it's still 7-2 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
9:50 p.m. -- This one's over, and not a moment too soon for the Nationals, who lose 7-2, failing to get back to .500 in the process. Atilano struggled. Kearns dominated. The lineup missed a couple of early opportunities and then went silent the rest of the night. This is one to flush down the toilet immediately.