Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Reds host the Nationals in a four-game series along the banks of the Ohio River.
But wait, isn't this ballpark located right in downtown Cincinnati? Why, yes, it is. There are a bunch of skyscrapers directly behind us. For some reason, the folks here decided to point the park in the opposite directions. Just one of several things about this place that leave me underwhelmed.
The Nationals' lineup was mighty underwhelming over the weekend, getting shut out the last two days in Miami and scoring in only one of 27 innings against the Marlins. I mentioned this yesterday but it bears repeating: Josh Willingham's three-run double Friday night was the only run-scoring hit by a Nats player in the entire series. Simply remarkable.
They'll try to snap out of the slump this week against a Reds club that spent much of the season's first half in first place thanks to an outstanding combination of deep pitching and a potent lineup. Even these guys are prone to the occasional slump, though -- their last three losses have all come by a score of 1-0. Sound familiar?
Check back for updates throughout the afternoon and evening...
NATIONALS at REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees, Wind 6 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
P J.D. Martin
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Orlando Cabrera
1B Joey Votto
LF Jonny Gomes
RF Jay Bruce
3B Miguel Cairo
CF Drew Stubbs
C Ryan Hanigan
P Johnny Cueto
5:19 p.m. -- Here you go: Jim Riggleman, on why Willie Harris is starting tonight: "Same as always, just getting Willie at-bats. Nothing more. We do that sometimes to give Willingham a day off. Sometimes we give Bernie a day off. I'm going to try to find a game for Morse here pretty soon, and Gonzalez. Nothing more to it."
5:29 p.m. -- You may have noticed Scott Rolen is not in the Reds' lineup. It's quite possible he'll miss the entire series due to a hamstring injury that required a cortisone shot earlier today. Dusty Baker told Cincinnati reporters the club may decide to put the All-Star third baseman on the DL unless he shows quick signs of healing.
6:14 p.m. -- Just throwing this out there, but in the last two games he's started, Willie Harris is 4-for-8 with a walk, two runs, a double and an RBI. Just to add more fuel to the already red-hot debate going on here.
6:18 p.m. -- Updates on Jordan Zimmermann getting scratched from tonight's start at Potomac and Jason Marquis' strong rehab debut in Viera on the homepage. Check it out here.
6:57 p.m. -- Uh-oh, the skies are darkening and there's a line of storms approaching from the west. The game will start on time, but don't be surprised if there's a delay at some point.
7:10 p.m. -- This one is underway with a strike from Johnny Cueto to Nyjer Morgan. Not the largest gathering, especially for a team in a pennant race, though I'm told the crowds are supposed to pick up the rest of the week and more than 30,000 are expected Wednesday night when Stephen Strasburg pitches.
7:15 p.m. -- Not a particularly encouraging top of the first for the Nats. Morgan fell behind 0-2 to Cueto and then grounded out to short. Cristian Guzman then struck out, and Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to third. 1-2-3, nothing across. J.D. Martin now takes the mound for the bottom of the first.
7:21 p.m. -- Martin matches Cueto with his own 1-2-3 inning, though Joey Votto came THISCLOSE to giving the Reds an early lead. He skied a pitch deep to left, sending Josh Willingham back to the warning track before hauling it in for the third out. This is a dangerous lineup and a dangerous ballpark for opposing pitchers. One mistake can cost you a game.
7:27 p.m. -- The consecutive scoreless innings tally is now up to 23. Adam Dunn led off the second by drawing a walk, but Josh Willingham popped up the first pitch he saw to the catcher and Ivan Rodriguez grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. The Nats haven't scored since that four-run sixth on Friday night, when Willingham cleared the bases with a double and Pudge followed with a sac fly. Otherwise, zippo on this road trip so far.
7:48 p.m. -- Wow, I'm not even sure where to begin in describing the bottom of the second. Suffice it to say, it included two singles, a double, three walks and at least two misplays in the field. Willie Harris bobbled Drew Stubbs' base hit to right, then threw wildly toward the infield, allowing an extra run to score. However, Cristian Guzman didn't help by failing to put himself in a proper position to take the relay throw. Then, Guzman couldn't knock down Cueto's grounder, leading to two more runs. All the while, Martin couldn't find the plate and (as has often been the case) couldn't limit the damage when an inning started to get out of hand. The end result: Reds lead 4-0 after two.
8:01 p.m. -- Look out! Offensive explosion from the Nats! They just scored two runs, ending that scoreless streak at 23 innings. Harris drew a leadoff walk. Desmond smoked a base hit up the middle. Martin managed to get a sac bunt down. Nyjer brought home the first run with a sac fly. And Guzman drove in another with a base hit to center. It's 4-2 Reds in the third.
8:02 p.m. -- Weather alert: There's a major storm heading toward Cincy, about to hit. They're closing the press box windows as we speak. It's not supposed to last very long, but it's supposed to be intense. Sounds like there will be a delay. Which could mean a short night for both starting pitchers.
8:06 p.m. -- Much better stuff from Martin in the third. He retired the side, getting a pair of groundballs to the right side and a flyball to right.
8:08 p.m. -- And here comes the rain. Fans fleeing for the concourses. Grounds crew racing to get the tarp out over the infield. Players retreating to the dugouts. We are officially in a delay. Top of the fourth, Reds up 4-2.
8:36 p.m. -- Tarp's coming off. It'll take a little while to get the field ready again, but we should have baseball within 20 minutes.
8:41 p.m. -- How do they kill time during a rain delay in Cincinnati? Why, of course, by showing a replay of the MC Hammer postgame concert from three nights ago right here at the ballpark!
8:50 p.m. -- And we're back after a 42-minute rain delay. Cueto still on the mound for the Reds. Don't see any action in the Nats' bullpen, so it looks like Martin will return as well.
9:01 p.m. -- Nothing doing for either side in the fourth. Martin certainly has settled down since that disastrous second inning.
9:15 p.m. -- If you had asked me about 90 minutes ago, I'd have said this had all the makings of a slugfest. Hasn't played out like that at all. Nobody has scored since the Nats' 2-run third, and both starting pitchers have settled into a nice groove despite the rain delay. It's still 4-2 as we go to the sixth.
9:29 p.m. -- Just when it looked like the Nats were going to catch a break, they were denied by that blasted rule book. With two on and two out in the sixth, Rodriguez hit a sharp grounder up the middle that skipped off the side of the mound and wound up hitting second base umpire Gary Cederstrom in the back. Zimmerman came around to score, and the Nats thought they had cut the lead. But the umps made Zim go back to third. Why? Rule 5.09f, which states that a batted ball that strikes an umpire after passing the pitcher's mound but before reaching the rest of the infielders is declared a dead ball and all forced runners are granted one base. There you have it, rally denied. It's still 4-2.
9:34 p.m. -- Er, make that 5-2. Jonny Gomes just crushed a pitch from Martin 431 feet to left field to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
9:35 p.m. -- Er, make that 6-2. Miguel Cairo just duplicated Gomes' feat, another solo homer to left, an absolute bomb off a high, 84 mph fastball from Martin. J.D.'s evening is done. Joel Peralta coming on to pitch.
9:47 p.m. -- Somebody named Logan Ondrusek is now pitching for Cincinnati. I could be mistaken, but didn't he miss the cut at St. Andrews over the weekend?
10:03 p.m. -- Look, I know Ian Desmond infuriates people with his astounding error total. But those two plays he just made back-to-back in the seventh are why he has a chance to be something special. Great combination of range and a cannon on both plays, plus the awareness on the second one to intentionally one-hop the ball to Dunn because it would get there faster.
10:15 p.m. -- Remember when Pudge was on a tear at the plate and looked like a guy determined to get to 3,000 hits? Yeah, not so much anymore. Stats over his last 39 games: .216 average, .243 on-base percentage, .274 slugging. Yikes.
10:30 p.m. -- At last, we go to the ninth inning of what is now a 7-2 game. Dusty Baker is sending closer Francisco Cordero to the mound, apparently because he's terrified of a Nats lineup that over its last 37 innings has produced exactly two (TWO!) run-scoring hits: Willingham's double Friday night and Guzman's single tonight. Feel free to bang your head against the wall now.
10:40 p.m. -- It's over. It's all over. Final score: Reds 7, Nats 2.