Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The temperature has finally cooled off. The Nationals' bats have not.
How quickly things have changed, because right now there's nothing hotter in D.C. than the Nats' bats (certainly now that the temperature has finally cooled off to manageable levels). Over their last six games, the Nationals have scored 33 runs. In that time, they've batted a collective .308 with a .377 on-base percentage and a stout .901 OPS.
"I've said it all along: Our offense is pretty good when it's rolling," said Adam Dunn, who is rolling as well as anyone in baseball right now. "Pretty much for the first half, we haven't been on. But I think the last week and a half, we've kind of relaxed a little bit and everyone's locked in."
The Nats will look to continue the offensive surge tonight against Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who one year ago today threw a no-hitter. Pretty cool that he's back on the mound exactly 365 days later.
As reported yesterday, Justin Maxwell has been recalled from Class AAA Syracuse to give the Nationals an extra position player until they need a fifth starter again (July 20 in Cincinnati). Jim Riggleman has wasted no time putting Maxwell right in his starting lineup, but not necessarily where you thought he might. Maxwell is leading off and playing center field tonight, giving Nyjer Morgan the night off against a lefty. Michael Morse is in right field as Riggleman stacks his lineup with right-handed bats.
Check back for updates before, during and after the game...
GIANTS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, Wind 7 mph in from LF
CF Justin Maxwell
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
P Craig Stammen
CF Aaron Rowand
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
SS Juan Uribe
1B Travis Ishikawa
3B Pablo Sandoval
RF Nate Schierholtz
P Jonathan Sanchez
6:17 p.m. -- FYI: Nyjer Morgan will be back in the lineup tomorrow, Jim Riggleman said. So this figures to be a one-shot deal for Justin Maxwell, at least until everyone returns from the All-Star break.
7:06 p.m. -- First pitch from Craig Stammen to Aaron Rowand is a strike. Gametime temperature is a chilly 78 degrees. What a change from the last week.
7:09 p.m. -- Whoa, how about this: A scoreless first inning by the Nationals' pitching staff! That's the first time in 10 games they've done that. (The nine straight first innings allowing a run were a franchise record.) Stammen was all over the strike zone, threw seven of his eight pitches for strikes. Also started a 1-6-3 double play.
7:17 p.m. -- Forgot to mention this pregame, but Riggleman said Stammen will most likely start the Nationals' third game in Florida next weekend, with J.D. Martin starting the opener in Cincinnati. That means the rotation post-break will be: 1. Strasburg, 2. Hernandez, 3. Stammen, 4. Martin, 5. Atilano.
7:29 p.m. -- When's the last time the Nats' top two hitters both drew walks in the first inning? Seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't happened all season until Justin Maxwell and Cristian Guzman just did it. Maxwell also stole second, then scored on Ryan Zimmerman's roped double to left. Guzman later scored on a wild pitch, putting the Nats up 2-0, though it could have been more had Jonathan Sanchez not struck out Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham on a couple of brilliant pitches on the outside corner. Still, there will be no no-hitter for Sanchez on the one-year anniversary of his feat.
7:44 p.m. -- One reason the Nationals optioned Stammen to Syracuse last month was his penchant for being handed a lead and then giving it right back. Like he just did in the top of the second. He turned a two-out, nobody-on inning into a three-run frame. He did so by walking Pablo Sandoval (who never walks) on four pitches, then allowing an RBI double to No. 8 hitter Nate Schierholtz and a two-run single to the opposing pitcher. Not good. Giants now lead 3-2.
7:53 p.m. -- It's looking like one of those nights where no lead is going to be safe for either team. Michael Morse just crushed an opposite-field homer off Sanchez to lead off the bottom of the second, knotting this one back up 3-3. Can Stammen avoid giving it right back to the Giants in the third? Stay tuned...
8:00 p.m. -- ... Yes, he can! Stammen sets them down 1-2-3 in the third, striking out Freddy Sanchez and getting a pair of groundballs to second.
8:13 p.m. -- Seven in a row retired by Stammen, who has rediscovered his groove. Still 3-3 in the middle of the fourth.
8:26 p.m. -- Ivan Rodriguez has cooled off considerably at the plate in recent weeks (he was hitting .183 over his last 17 games entering tonight). Perhaps the big, RBI double he just roped to left to score Willingham will help Pudge snap out of the funk. At the very least, it put the Nationals back on top, 4-3. Then for good measure, Stammen belted a ground-rule double to left, making it 5-3 and knocking Sanchez out of the game in the fourth.
8:57 p.m. -- Well, at the very least, Stammen can say he departed with the Nats' lead intact. Though it may not be for long. It's now 5-4 in the sixth with one out and a man on second. Sean Burnett will try to pitch out of this and preserve the lead.
9:04 p.m. -- And Burnett gets the job done. Gets Ishikawa to ground out, then after pitching around Sandoval, struck out Schierholtz. Nicely done. Nats still lead 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth.
9:07 p.m. -- Weekly perfect game alert: Travis Wood of the Reds has not allowed anyone to reach base through eight innings in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Roy Halladay hasn't given up a run himself. Yep, it's 0-0 through eight. Might want to tune this one in.
9:30 p.m. -- The perfect game is no longer intact (they've gone to the 10th in Philly, still scoreless) and the Nats' lead in no longer intact. Tyler Clippard served up a homer to Aaron Rowand in the seventh. He's now been scored upon in five of his last seven appearances. Think it's safe to say Clip is officially in a slump. Game now tied 5-5.
9:44 p.m. -- And the wheels have now fallen off completely. Doug Slaten is greeted by a two-run double from Juan Uribe on his first pitch. It's now 8-5 Giants, and Clippard was charged with all four runs. In the last 18 days, his ERA has more than doubled from 1.58 to 3.31. Yikes.
10:02 p.m. -- The Nationals are down to their last six outs, trailing by three. They haven't lacked for opportunities tonight; they've put 12 men on base in seven innings. But they haven't scored since Stammen's double in the fourth.
10:09 p.m. -- Make that: The Nationals are down to their last three outs. Giants relievers have retired seven straight.
10:18 p.m. -- Yeah, this Buster Posey kid looks like a keeper. He's 4-for-5 with a homer, a double and three RBI tonight. The umps reviewed his two-run shot to right-center just now to see if a fan reached over the fence to grab it, but they emerged from the tunnel and upheld the original call. So it's now 10-5 Giants as this game spirals even more out of control for the Nationals.
10:29 p.m. -- It's over. Nats lose 10-5. Not a good ballgame from the home team's perspective. There are some major questions about Clippard right now. We'll see what he and Riggleman have to say about it in a few minutes.