Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals and Marlins meet in the series finale at Sun Life Stadium.
Chances of another low-scoring game today? Not so good. Craig Stammen (2-3, 5.79) faces Alex Sanabia (0-1, 3.09) in less-than-enticing pitching matchup. Stammen, of course, has had his moments -- four times this season he's pitched into the seventh and allowed two or fewer earned runs, including May 7 against the Marlins. But he's also been prone to some really ugly starts, including his last two -- he's allowed 11 runs and 14 hits over his last 8 2/3 innings.
Couple of minor, pre-planned changes to Jim Riggleman's lineup. Wil Nieves starts behind the plate, giving Ivan Rodriguez the traditional day game after a night game off. And Ian Desmond takes a seat, with Cristian Guzman starting at shortstop and Adam Kennedy at second base.
Check back for updates throughout the day...
NATIONALS at MARLINS
Where: Sun Life Stadium
Gametime: 1:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 89 degrees, Wind 13 mph in from RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Roger Bernadina
2B Adam Kennedy
C Wil Nieves
P Craig Stammen
LF Emilio Bonifacio
1B Gaby Sanchez
SS Hanley Ramirez
2B Dan Uggla
3B Jorge Cantu
CF Cody Ross
RF Mike Stanton
C Ronny Paulino
P Akex Sanabia
1:10 p.m. -- This one is underway with a ball from Alex Sanabia to Nyjer Morgan. Not exactly a raucous environment here this afternoon. I may be able to count fans by hand.
1:16 p.m. -- An encouraging start to the afternoon for the Nationals ... that lasted about two minutes. Morgan drew a leadoff walk, a rarity if there ever was one. Then he got thrown out trying to steal second, which hardly qualifies as a rarity. A Cristian Guzman flyout and a Ryan Zimmerman strikeout complete the top of the first.
1:28 p.m. -- Craig Stammen put a couple of guys on in the bottom of the first (walking Gaby Sanchez and allowing a single to Hanley Ramirez). But he battled back and got a big strikeout of Dan Uggla on a curveball, then got Jorge Cantu to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice. After one, it's scoreless here in Miami.
1:35 p.m. -- How many of you felt confident the Nationals would score in the top of the second after Adam Dunn walked and Josh Willingham singled off the left-field wall? With Roger Bernadina, Adam Kennedy and Wil Nieves coming up to bat? Yeah, that's what I thought. Neither runner managed to advance. Bernadina flied out to left. Kennedy struck out. Nieves grounded out weakly to first. Who could have predicted that? (Well, everyone, as a matter of fact.)
1:41 p.m. -- 1-2-3 second inning for Stammen, highlighted by a nifty play by Zimmerman. He jumped up and to his right to snag Mike Stanton's chopper, then made a nice throw all the way across the diamond to complete the play.
1:52 p.m. -- This is now bordering on the absurd. The Nats just loaded the bases with one out in the third ... and failed to score again. First, Guzman struck out with two on and nobody out. Then Dunn struck out on a pitch in the dirt with the bases loaded and one out. Willingham's groundout to third on the first pitch he saw completed another wasted rally. Get this: The Nationals have now put 18 men on base over their last 12 innings. Total runs scored in that time: Zero.
1:59 p.m. -- Looks like "Good Craig Stammen" has decided to show up today. Three scoreless innings so far, two singles and a walk, three strikeouts. Nice job so far from the inconsistent right-hander. We head to the fourth, still 0-0.
2:29 p.m. -- It's one thing to get shut out by Josh Johnson. It's quite another to get shut out by Alex Sanabia, which is what is happening to the Nats through five innings.
2:32 p.m. -- Breaking news: Someone finally scored. Unfortunately, it was the Marlins. Back-to-back doubles by Bonifacio and Sanchez to open the fifth (though you have to wonder if Dunn might have made a better stab at Bonifacio's grounder down the line). Nevertheless, Florida now leads 1-0. The only good news is that Sanabia, who is still building up stamina after pitching out of the bullpen previously, may not go much deeper into this game. Brian Sanches is already warming in the pen.
2:42 p.m. -- They just announced today's attendance as 21,057. Which is about right. If every person here walked through the turnstiles seven times.
2:54 p.m. -- Now, I'm no baseball expert. So I'll just ask all of you this question: When your No. 3 hitter leads off the sixth inning of a 1-0 game with a single, is it good when your Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters fly out, strike out on an 89 mph fastball at his eyes and then strike out at a 74 mph changeup in the dirt? Seriously, is that considered good baseball? Man, oh man, this is getting painful. Still 1-0 Marlins going to the bottom of the sixth. The Nats haven't scored. The Nats have had one run-scoring hit in 24 innings in this series so far: Josh Willingham's three-run double Friday night.
3:00 p.m. -- If the Nationals lose today, you can't blame Craig Stammen. He's tossed six innings of one-run ball, striking out six. Definitely one of his better outings of the year. Yet at this point, he's going to suffer a loss barring a sudden realization by the Nats' lineup how to hit.
3:13 p.m. -- There's really not much more to say at this point. The Nats don't have much trouble putting somebody on base. But once they do, they are absolutely incapable of advancing said runner. Just a feeble offensive showing the last 24 hours. Marlins still up 1-0 at the seventh-inning stretch.
3:32 p.m. -- In a shocking development, the Nationals put the leadoff man on in the eighth and didn't score. Guzman singled, but Zimmerman flied out. Then after Guzman stole second, Dunn struck out on a 3-2 curveball from Clay Hensley and Willingham popped out on another curveball. As we head to the bottom of the eighth, the Nats pitching staff has allowed three runs this weekend and is on the verge of losing the series.
3:46 p.m. -- So we go to the ninth. It's still 1-0. The Nats still are looking for some semblance of offense. It'll be Bernadina, Kennedy and Nieves to face closer Leo Nunez. Gotta think Michael Morse and/or Ivan Rodriguez will get a chance to bat before this inning is over, right?
3:54 p.m. -- Not as unbelievable as Kennedy getting thrown out after stumbling around second on Morse's base hit to right. Good lord.
3:58 p.m. -- It's over, and what an agonizing game it was. Nats lose 1-0. They've been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since August 8-9, 2008 in Milwaukee. The combined score of this weekend's series: Nationals 4, Marlins 3. Yet they lost two of three. Unbelievable.