Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The surprising Padres come to scorching Nationals Park tonight.
Why? Because the Padres have two things most teams in baseball would kill for: great pitching and great defense. This team owns a major-league-best 3.07 ERA, bolstered both by a talented rotation and an incredibly deep bullpen that features six relievers with ERAs under 2.25. The Padres also play outstanding defense, having posted an MLB-leading .990 team fielding percentage.
Young lefty Clayton Richard, who actually lost to John Lannan back on May 28 at Petco Park, takes the mound for the visitors. Livan Hernandez starts for the Nationals, who may have one thing going for them tonight and in this series: The weather. Not that the local team doesn't think it's brutally hot and humid right now, but can imagine what these pampered souls from San Diego thought when they stepped off the plane and felt the blast of heat?
Check back for updates before, during and after the game...
PADRES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 97 degrees, Wind 4 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez
CF Tony Gwynn Jr.
2B Jerry Hairston Jr.
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Scott Hairston
3B Chase Headley
C Yorvit Torrealba
RF Aaron Cunningham
SS Everth Cabrera
P Clayton Richard
6:48 p.m. -- For those of you wondering about Roger Bernadina, his back (which bothered him over the weekend) is fine and he's available to play tonight. Jim Riggleman didn't put him in the starting lineup because Richard is pitching for San Diego, and Michael Morse has become his regular right fielder against left-handers.
7:07 p.m. -- First pitch from Livan Hernandez to Tony Gwynn Jr. is a ball. The gametime temperature is 99 degrees. Yeah, at 7:07 p.m. That's the hottest it's ever been at first pitch for a Nationals game in D.C. The old record was a cool 94 degrees from a 2008 afternoon game against the Giants.
7:21 p.m. -- Long first inning for Livan Hernandez, who didn't help himself by walking Gwynn to lead off the game, then later throwing a wild pitch that allowed two runners to move up to second and third. That meant Scott Hairston's subsequent fly ball to right field was able to score Gwynn and give the Padres a 1-0 lead.
7:39 p.m. -- Nothing you'd rather see on a 99-degree night than a 32-minute first inning. On the bright side, the Nats have taken a 3-1 lead after taking advantage of Clayton Richard's wildness. Richard issued back-to-back, two-out walks to Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham to load the bases. That set the stage for Ivan Rodriguez to smash a comebacker off Richard's leg for an RBI infield single. Michael Morse added a sharp base hit up the middle to bring home two more runs and give Livo a nice lead to work with as he returns to the mound for the second inning.
7:55 p.m. -- Something you didn't expect tonight: The Nats have put eight men on base in the first two innings alone against Richard. Four of those baserunners have come via walks. The Nats took advantage of the wildness in the first. They didn't do it in the second. With the bases loaded and two outs, Willingham lofted a fly ball to center to end the inning without another run crossing the plate. So it remains 3-1 after two.
8:10 p.m. -- What do you get when you mix two pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs and two offensively challenged lineups? Why, a slugfest, of course! It's 3-2 Nats after 2 1/2 after the Padres pushed across another run against Hernandez in the top of the third (three singles, the last by Adrian Gonzalez). Livo has already thrown 61 pitches in three innings. I know he's a horse and all, but you've got to wonder how deep he's going to go on this sweltering night at the ballpark.
8:29 p.m. -- I don't know if it's coincidence or not -- actually, I'm sure it is -- but Ryan Zimmerman has gone on a tear since being added to the NL "Final Man" All-Star Game ballot. He just crushed a homer off Richard to put the Nats up 4-2 in the fourth. Since Sunday, Zim is now 4-for-7 with two homers, five RBI and a walk. Not bad.
8:52 p.m. -- Ian Desmond getting back on track at the plate. He singled in the third and then homered in the fifth, a solo shot to left. That was his first home run since May 28 (which came in San Diego, off Clayton Richard). Whoa, Desmond owns this guy! Nats now lead 5-2 in the sixth.
9:09 p.m. -- Well, the Nats did their job against Richard. Scored five runs off the lefty in six innings. And they've gotten seven strong innings from Livan so far, thus carrying a 5-2 lead into the seventh-inning stretch. Livo's over 100 pitches. Send him back for the eighth or turn it over to "Clipp 'n Save" right now?
9:13 p.m. -- Let's see ... 99 degrees + Tuesday night + Padres in town = 14,039 paid attendance.
9:40 p.m. -- Well, things just took a dramatic turn for the worse. Where to begin? Well, Riggleman let Livan start the eighth sitting on 104 pitches. He immediately gave up back-to-back singles and was pulled. In came Tyler Clippard, who proceeded to allow back-to-back singles and then a sac fly that made it 5-4. So in came Sean Burnett to face Matt Stairs. Except Bud Black pinch-hit for his pinch-hitter with David Eckstein. Still, Burnett got Eckstein to hit a grounder to second that had double play written all over it. Except Cristian Guzman's feed to Ian Desmond was low, and Desmond's throw to first hit the dugout railing. Desmond was charged with the error (his 21st of the season) and the Padres tied the game 5-5. At what point is it fair to question whether there's something wrong with Clippard and whether it's time for Drew Storen to take over eighth-inning duties full-time?
9:50 p.m. -- Where have we seen this before? After an early explosion, the Nats' bats have gone silent. Nothing doing in the last three innings, aside from a pair of two-out doubles. They struck out six times in the last four innings. So it remains 5-5 as we head to the ninth and Matt Capps comes out to pitch a non-save situation.
10:01 p.m. -- OK, credit where credit's due: Ian Desmond just fired a bullet of a relay throw to the plate to nail Jerry Hairston, who was trying to score the go-ahead run on a double by his brother, Scott. The Nats escape the top of the ninth thanks to the arm of their rookie shortstop. We go to the bottom of the ninth. Luke Gregerson on the mound for San Diego. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham coming up for the Nats with a chance to win it.
10:04 p.m. -- I think Ryan Zimmerman REALLY wants to go to Anaheim. He just crushed a pitch from Gregerson over the center-field wall for his latest walk-off special. That completed a 3-for-4, two-homer night. Nats win! Nats win! Final score: 6-5.