Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals look to make it two in a row tonight at Sun Life Stadium.
So this was a rare occurrence indeed. And it may take another rare occurrence for the Nats to make it two in row tonight. That's because the Marlins send ace Josh Johnson to the mound, and arguably, there isn't a better pitcher on the planet right now. Overall, the right-hander is 9-3 with a 1.70 ERA. Over his last 14 starts, his ERA is 1.17.
The Nats did beat Johnson earlier this season, sort of. On May 8 at Nationals Park, the Nationals scored three runs in six innings against him and put him in line for the loss. A Gaby Sanchez homer off Tyler Clippard in the seventh took Johnson off the hook, but the Nationals (who sent Matt Chico to the mound that afternoon) ultimately came back to win, 5-4.
Livan Hernandez starts tonight for the Nats, looking to prove his outstanding first half was no fluke.
Check back for updates before, during and after the game...
NATIONALS at MARLINS
Where: Sun Life Stadium
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees, Wind 12 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez
LF Chris Coghlan
1B Gaby Sanchez
SS Hanley Ramirez
2B Dan Uggla
3B Jorge Cantu
CF Cody Ross
RF Mike Stanton
C Ronny Paulino
P Josh Johnson
7:11 p.m. -- This one is underway with a strike from Josh Johnson to Nyjer Morgan.
7:18 p.m. -- If you haven't seen it yet, I posted an update on several rehabbing pitchers (Scott Olsen, Ross Detwiler, Jason Marquis, Jordan Zimmermann) plus John Lannan on CSNwashington.com. Mike Rizzo had some interesting things to say about all of them.
7:26 p.m. -- You have to assume you're only going to get a handful of scoring opportunities against Johnson, so you better take advantage of them. Which makes the top of the first inning frustrating for the Nats. Morgan and Roger Bernadina each singled off the Marlins ace, but neither could score. Ryan Zimmerman advanced Morgan to third with a flyball, but Adam Dunn struck out an 0-2 slider, then Josh Willingham roped a line drive right at Dan Uggla for the third out. By night's end, we may look back at that missed opportunity as crucial.
7:33 p.m. -- Solid first inning for Livan Hernandez, capped by a fantastic strikeout of Hanley Ramirez on a 63 mph curveball that would have made Bugs Bunny proud.
7:36 p.m. -- There's a major infestation of bees down the third-base line here, near the Nationals' bullpen. They've roped off two full sections with yellow caution tape, and there are a couple of beekeepers on the scene, wearing T-shirts that read (I'm not kidding): "I'll Bee There."
7:49 p.m. -- Oh, that Nationals infield defense. Ian Desmond was charged with his MLB-leading 22nd error to open the second inning, though it was a tough-luck error. Desmond had a bead on Dan Uggla's popup behind the bag, but there was a near-three-way collision with Adam Kennedy and the second-base umpire. Of course, that came back to haunt the Nats when Ronny Paulino delivered a two-run single to right a few minutes later. Marlins take a 2-0 lead, with one of the runs unearned.
7:59 p.m. -- Another wasted opportunity for the Nats in the third. Two on, two out and Dunn strikes out. Still 2-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
8:20 p.m. -- Adam Kennedy is not having a great night. He just got thrown out at the plate trying to score from second when Dan Uggla booted Ian Desmond's grounder. In Kennedy's defense, he was just following Pat Listach's orders. But Kennedy certainly has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time a couple of times already tonight. It's still 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth.
8:26 p.m. -- Two-out walk issued by Livo in the fourth, but otherwise he cruised through the inning. He's allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits through four, walking two and striking out three. Marlilns still lead 2-0 after four.
8:40 p.m. -- Speaking of rough nights, Adam Dunn has now come up to bat three times with two men on base. He's struck out all three times, the latest on a check swing to end the fifth. Still 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth.
8:45 p.m. -- 1-2-3 fifth for Livo, who has now recorded five strikeouts. But unless the Nats can get to Johnson, he'll take a hard-luck loss.
8:51 p.m. -- Nothing doing for the Nats in the sixth. The key to this game so far: Their 1-2-3 hitters are 5-for-9. Their 4-5-6 hitters are 0-for-9 with five strikeouts. Marlins up 2-0 going to the bottom of the sixth.
9:01 p.m. -- Can't fault Livo for anything tonight. He's been fantastic again, allowing one earned run and four hits through six innings. Of course, he's still trailing 2-0, but perhaps the Nats are about to get their breakthrough. Josh Johnson is out of the game after throwing 109 pitches in six innings. Jose Veras now in from the bullpen as we go to the seventh.
9:17 p.m. -- Yet another wasted opportunity for the Nats in the seventh. Runners on the corners, two outs, Zimmerman at the plate. He swung mightily at Veras' 3-0 fastball and nearly hit it out of Sun Life Stadium altogether. But a strong wind blowing in from right field pushed it foul. Zimmerman then took a fastball for strike two and then a wicked breaking ball for strike three. Nats have now stranded nine men on base in seven innings, still trail 2-0. Tyler Clippard coming on to pitch.
9:24 p.m. -- Nice bounceback performance from Clippard in his first appearance of the second half. He retired the side in the seventh, striking out Mike Lamb. Encouraging development for the reliever. Not so encouraging: The Nats still trail 2-0 as we go to the eighth.
9:30 p.m. -- This is bordering on the absurd. The Nats have put 11 men on base in eight innings tonight. None has scored. Potential eighth-inning rally killed by Pudge, who grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. So we head to the bottom of the eighth in a game that has been 2-0 since the second.
9:36 p.m. -- Make it two perfect innings of relief for Clippard, who just set down the side in the eighth. This may have been an important outing for him, even if it comes in a loss. Might restore some of his confidence. The Nats, though, are down to their final three outs. We go to the ninth, still 2-0, with Leo Nunez out to close it and Kennedy, Desmond and a pinch-hitter due up for the Nats.
9:44 p.m. -- Wow, what a tough loss. Final score: Marlins 2, Nationals 0. That's the only stat that tilted in Florida's favor. The Nats outhit them 11 to 4. Doesn't matter. Josh Johnson improves to 10-3 with a 1.62 ERA. Livan Hernandez falls to 6-6 despite a 3.27 ERA.