Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Another full house is expected today for Strasmas Part VI.
OK, so the Nationals have lost Stephen Strasburg's last three starts. It wasn't the pitcher's fault. Over the long haul, he's going to win many more games than he loses. Perhaps both the rookie and his team will get back on the winning track today against the Mets.
This would be a nice time to do it, since this start is being televised to most of the country on Fox. They'll be doing the pregame show live from Nationals Park, then Joe Buck, Kevin Millar and Ken Rosenthal will have the call at 4:10 p.m. Expect plenty of debate about Strasburg's All-Star merits (seeing as how rosters will be announced tomorrow and Fox is televising the midsummer classic in 10 days).
Only thing out-of-the-ordinary about Jim Riggleman's lineup today: Cristian Guzman is on the bench, with Adam Kennedy at second base. That bumps Roger Bernadina up to the 2-hole. Hopefully he doesn't get picked off at a crucial moment in this game.
Check back for updates before, during and after the game...
METS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 87 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to LF
(Includes change made at 3 p.m.: Bernadina scratched, Harris in right field)
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Willie Harris
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
P Stephen Strasburg
CF Angel Pagan
2B Alex Cora
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
LF Jason Bay
C Josh Thole
RF Jeff Francoeur
SS Ruben Tejeda
P R.A. Dickey
3:00 p.m. -- Lineup change for the Nationals: Roger Bernadina has been scratched and replaced by Willie Harris, who will now bat second and start in right field. No word yet what happened, but Bernadina took BP with everyone else and didn't appear to have any problems. I'll let you know when I hear something.
3:20 p.m. -- Just got word: Bernadina was scratched with lower back tightness. He's still available if needed today.
4:11 p.m. -- Stephen Strasburg starts Angel Pagan off with a 99 mph fastball for ball one, and we are underway.
4:28 p.m. -- Wow, that was an eventful top of the first. Strasburg, fighting his fastball command throughout, really had to work. He escaped allowing only one run, but at what expense? Thirty-seven pitches (20 strikes). Three walks. An RBI double by Jason Bay. Miguel Batista was actually warming up in the bullpen at one point. Probably safe to assume Strasburg won't be pitching too deep into this one. We go to the bottom of the first, Mets up 1-0.
4:34 p.m. -- Quick bottom of the first for R.A. Dickey, who retired the side on 14 pitches (10 strikes). So Strasburg is back out on the mound already, hoping his second innings is a bit smoother than his first.
4:42 p.m. -- The results were much better for Strasburg in the second -- he retired the side on 11 pitches, seven strikes -- but he's still all over the place. His fastball, in particular, seems to keep running high and wide to left-handed hitters. Probably a mechanical thing, his front shoulder flying open. We'll see if he can correct it in mid-game.
5:06 p.m. -- Well, I think it's safe to say this is not going to be Stephen Strasburg's day. He's fighting something out there and is suffering for it. Through three innings, he's allowed two runs on four hits and three walks. He hasn't really been able to locate any of his pitches, even after easing off some on his fastball. He's already thrown 74 pitches, 45 of them strikes. He's probably looking at one more inning and that'll be it. Mets lead 2-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
5:12 p.m. -- Sure, Strasburg isn't on top of his game today, but it's not like the Nats offense came to play either. They've managed two hits but no runs in three innings against Dickey, with Ian Desmond just getting thrown out trying to stretch his single off David Wright's glove into a double. So the Nationals have now failed to score in the last 16 innings Strasburg has been on the mound. Not since Adam Dunn's clutch RBI in the seventh inning against the White Sox on June 18.
5:21 p.m. -- Strasburg has had no trouble dealing with the bottom of the Mets' lineup. Or their leadoff guy, for that matter. New York's 7-8-9-1 batters are 0-for-9 today. Their 2-3-4-5-6 batters are 4-for-7 with three walks. He's at 84 pitches through four, and there's no bullpen action at the moment, so it looks like he'll get a chance to pitch the fifth.
5:36 p.m. -- Well, he got better as the afternoon went on. Strasburg threw 19 of his last 22 pitches for strikes, leading to five groundouts and a strikeout. But he's at 96 pitches through five innings, and he's due up third in the bottom of the fifth. This is probably it for him. His final line will read: 5 ip, 4 h, 2 er, 3 bb, 5 k, 96 pitches, 64 strikes. His ERA will "rise" to 2.45.
5:42 p.m. -- Strasburg is indeed done. The man who pinch-hit for him with two outs in the fifth? J.D. Martin. Yeah. Riggleman had Michael Morse in the on-deck circle, but then pulled him back after Desmond was unable to reach base. Riggleman seems to give up on an inning once there are two outs. He's regularly sent up pitchers to hit in those spots, not wanting to use a position player off his bench. Hasn't he ever heard of a two-out rally? Or a solo homer? Mets still lead 2-0 after five.
5:51 p.m. -- Nice 1-2-3 inning of relief from Drew Storen. At this point, the Nationals' bullpen is just trying to keep the deficit at two runs, hoping eventually their offense will string together a couple of hits.
6:03 p.m. -- Whoa, the Nationals just found their bats. Back-to-back, two-out RBI singles from Willingham and Pudge tie this game 2-2 in the sixth. Strasburg is now off the hook, he'll get his second no-decision. So his record will remain 2-2. (I should point out the rally was made possible by a booted double-play grounder by shortstop Ruben Tejada. Both runs were unearned. Not that the Nats care how they get them at this point.)
6:13 p.m. -- Great job in relief by Storen. Six up, six down for the rookie right-hander, three strikeouts, not a ball out of the infield. Between Strasburg and Storen, Nats pitching has retired 13 straight New York batters. Not bad. Still 2-2 at the seventh-inning stretch.
6:16 p.m. -- Today's announced paid attendance: 39,214. The Nationals are calling this a sellout. Official capacity at Nationals Park is 41,546, so there would have to have been quite a bit of freebies today. For the season, the Nats have had four sellouts, three of them Straburg starts. The other was Opening Day, with 20,000 of your favorite Phillies fans here with you.
6:50 p.m. -- Well, that turned ugly. Tyler Clippard, perhaps with one last chance to push for a spot on the All-Star roster, just killed that and perhaps this game by allowing three runs in the eighth. Alex Cora led off with a triple to right-center, and it was all downhill from there. Three runs, four hits. Clippard retired only two of seven batters faced. So we head to the bottom of the eighth, with the Mets now on top, 5-2. On the bright side, Dickey is done, so the Mets' suspect setup men are now in charge. It'll be Bobby Parnell to pitch the eighth.
7:25 p.m. -- Last chance for the Nats. They trail 5-3 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Francisco Rodriguez to pitch for New York. Guzman, Morgan and Harris due up. Gotta wonder if Roger Bernadina will find his way into this inning at all.
7:45 p.m. -- Nats win! Nats win! Unbelievable. They loaded the bases with one out for Dunn, who crushed a pitch off the top of the center field fence, just missing a walk-off grand slam. Meanwhile, Guzman and Harris almost collided at third base, with Willie making a deft move to avoided contact. After Willingham was intentionally walked, Ivan Rodriguez came up with a chance to win it, with the Mets again using five infielders and two outfielders. 1-0 pitch, Pudge smokes a line drive single to right, scoring Zimmerman and setting off a mad celebration. Nats win, 6-5. Incredible.