Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals open a 10-game homestand tonight against the Mets.
Perhaps the Nationals will be reinvigorated by the nice weather. Hey, whatever it takes at this point, right? With a wretched 8-19 June now behind them, they will attempt to close out the season's first half on a much more pleasant note. They've got 10 straight games at home, beginning tonight against the Mets.
Unfortunately, Johan Santana is on the mound for New York, and far lesser pitchers have dominated the Nats in recent weeks. Jim Riggleman is going with his conventional lineup vs. left-handers (Michael Morse in right field). Wil Nieves also is behind the plate after Ivan Rodriguez caught all three games in Atlanta.
Check back for updates before, during and after the game...
METS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 78 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
P Livan Hernandez
CF Jesus Feliciano
SS Ruben Tejeda
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Jeff Francoeur
LF Chris Carter
C Henry Blanco
2B Alex Cora
P Johan Santana
5:55 p.m. -- You'll notice Jose Reyes is out of the Mets' lineup. He's dealing with a side/oblique injury that kept him out of last night's game in Puerto Rico, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel said it will be Saturday at the earliest before he returns to the lineup. Considering Stephen Strasburg starts Saturday, I wouldn't be surprised if Reyes sits out that one as well.
6:03 p.m. -- Minor-league news: Mike MacDougal has opted out of his contract at Class AAA Syracuse. MacDougal had a clause in his contract that allowed him to depart if the Nats didn't promote him to the majors by today. The reliever was 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA and one save in 10 appearances at Syracuse, but given the current success of the Nats' bullpen, there really isn't any place for him up here. So MacDougal has become a free agent.
7:09 p.m. -- Here we go on a spectacular 76-degree July evening in the District. Livan Hernandez starts Jesus Feliciano with an 83-mph fastball for strike one.
7:21 p.m. -- That was the first earned run Livan Hernandez has allowed in the first inning all season. It came on a two-out, bloop single over Cristian Guzman's head by Ike Davis, scoring Feliciano from second. Mets take an early 1-0 lead on Livo, who needed 25 pitches to get through the inning.
7:28 p.m. -- Not much doin' for the Nats in the bottom of the first. Johan Santana allowed a two-out single to Ryan Zimmerman, but that was it. Santana made Nyjer Morgan look silly during a three-pitch strikeout to start things out.
7:36 p.m. -- Two more singles for the Mets in the second, but Livo escapes without allowing a run. So he's already allowed four hits but has recorded three strikeouts. That "K" meter out in center field may get a workout tonight, and Strasburg's not even pitching!
7:56 p.m. -- In a shocking development -- SHOCKING, I SAY! -- Santana is dominating the Nationals' lineup. One hit, one walk in three innings. They had a man on second with one out in the third, but Morgan struck out for the second time in as many at-bats, then Guzman flied out to center. Johan has thrown only 34 pitches (20 strikes) so far. Mets still lead 1-0 heading to the fourth.
8:25 p.m. -- We just had our first instant replay in a while, on Ian Desmond's shot off the wall in left-center. Desmond and the Nats wanted it ruled a home run, but the replay clearly showed the ball struck a couple inches too low.
8:28 p.m. -- Another missed opportunity by the Nationals in the fifth. After Desmond's leadoff double (which would have been a triple if he hadn't assumed the ball would leave the park), the Nats couldn't bring him home. Wil Nieves advanced Desmond to third with a groundout to the right side, but Livo struck out and Nyjer flied out meekly to left. You're only going to get so many chances against Santana. Can't waste one like that. Mets still up 1-0 heading to the sixth.
8:38 p.m. -- What do you know, a Nationals starter is pitching a gem ... and losing 1-0. Livan has been outstanding, scattering seven hits over six innings. But until his teammates can get to Santana, it's all for naught.
8:48 p.m. -- Prediction: You're going to hear several people in the Nationals' clubhouse talk about how they "hit the ball hard" against Santana tonight. That is true -- in the last two innings, Desmond, Zimmerman and Morse have smoked line drives to the outfield and not gotten much out of it -- but at some point, a simple bloop single with a man in scoring position would suffice. It also would help if guys put the ball in play and didn't look at strike three with two on and one out (ahem, Josh Willingham). Still 1-0 Mets here as we go to the seventh.
8:53 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 20,167. Surprisingly small for a gorgeous summer night against the Mets. Looks like a lot of people left town early for the holiday weekend.
9:09 p.m. -- Just when you thought the Nats were going to squander away yet another opportunity, Nyjer Morgan of all people comes to the rescue. With Ian Desmond standing on third and two outs (after Alberto Gonzalez looked ridiculously overmatched striking out against Santana) Morgan poked a 2-2 pitch into left field for the Nats' first clutch hit of the night. All of a sudden, it's tied 1-1. Livan Hernandez is done, and he won't get a decision now, but he pitched fantastic: 7 ip, 7 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 7 k. His ERA is down to 2.98. Impressive stuff from the big guy.
9:16 p.m. -- Perfect inning of relief from Drew Storen keeps this game tied 1-1 heading to the bottom of the eighth. Santana is done. It'll be the slightly more hittable Elmer Dessens.
9:28 p.m. -- Once again, they gave themselves a chance: First and second, one out. But lefty Pedro Feliciano came on and got both Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond to ground out, killing that rally. So it's still 1-1 heading to the ninth, and Matt Capps is about pitch in a non-save situation.
9:36 p.m. -- Nice inning for Capps, who actually has better numbers in non-save situations this year than he does in save situations. Don't believe me? ERA in save situations: 3.60. In non-save situations: 2.53. So we head to the bottom of the ninth, tied 1-1. Nieves, a pinch-hitter (Harris) and Morgan due up to face Feliciano.
9:39 p.m. -- Well, here we go: Bases loaded, one out, Ryan Zimmerman at the plate with a chance to win it. Three straight batters have reached here in the ninth. Willie Harris drew a walk, Nyjer Morgan dropped a beautiful drag bunt and beat it out to advance Harris into scoring position. And Cristian Guzman singled to left, but Harris couldn't try to score because he held up to see if the ball would be caught. Ryota Igarashi now coming in to pitch for the Mets. If Zim can't get it done, Adam Kennedy (who pinch-ran for Adam Dunn) is on-deck.
9:53 p.m. -- Nats win! Nats win! Zimmerman lofts a fly ball to right, and Jeff Francoeur can't throw out Harris at the plate. Final score: 2-1. Capps gets his first win of the season.