Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg will battle the Reds (and possibly the weather) tonight.
Which means Stephen Strasburg may have a new challenge to face tonight: the weather.
To date, Strasburg has pitched in heat, humidity and wind, but rain hasn't been an issue. It certainly could be tonight, whether it comes in the form of a delay before the game starts, a delay once things are already underway or a steady drizzle that can be played through but still proves to be an annoyance. We'll see how the rookie handles that, not to mention the potent Reds' lineup.
One note about the Nationals' lineup: Ian Desmond is back in the 8-hole, with Cristian Guzman batting second. Jim Riggleman did say yesterday he planned to start moving Desmond around more, though he never said the shortstop wouldn't hit eighth at all. Appears that when Guzman is playing, he'll stay in the 2-hole, forcing Desmond down.
Also, note that ESPN is televising tonight's game to a national audience ... but you won't be able to watch that broadcast in the D.C. or Cincinnati areas. In D.C., it's on MASN as always. In Cincinnati, it's on FSN Ohio.
Check back for updates throughout the afternoon and evening...
NATIONALS at REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
TV: MASN, ESPN (outside D.C. and Cincinnati)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 84 degrees, Wind 9 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
RF Roger Bernadina
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Ian Desmond
P Stephen Strasburg
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 Bronson Arroyo
3:34 p.m. -- Ross Detwiler tossed seven shutout innings today for Class AA Harrisburg, the latest strong start for the left-hander. You've got to wonder if he might be joining the Nationals' rotation in the near future. Over his last three starts at Harrisburg, Detwiler has a 1.59 ERA, striking out 17 while walking only three over 17 innings. He wouldn't be able to replace Luis Atilano on Sunday, because that would require pitching on short rest. But with Monday being an off-day, it wouldn't be difficult to slide Detwiler into that spot next week.
5:45 p.m. -- Adam Dunn is currently taking grounders at shortstop during BP. That kind of versatility has got to add at least an extra $1 million to his contract demands, right? Or at least convince opposing GMs to give up a big-league player in return for a trade, right?
7:10 p.m. -- We're underway with a ball from Bronson Arroyo to Nyjer Morgan. Crowd still filing in, but it looks like this could be close to a sellout.
7:22 p.m. -- Superb first inning from Stephen Strasburg, who made some very good Reds hitters look silly. Brandon Phillips grounded out to short on a 3-1 fastball. Orlando Cabrera broke his bat on an inside fastball and hit a weaker liner to short. Joey Votto then looked baffled, swinging at a changeup in the dirt and then freezing on a 2-2 curveball for strike three. Really nice start to the evening for Strasburg.
7:30 p.m. -- Not too much going on offensively so far for the Nats. Roger Bernadina was the lone man to reach base in the first two innings, blooping a two-out single to left in the second. So once again, Strasburg has no margin for error.
7:40 p.m. -- More of the same from Strasburg in the second inning. He did walk Miguel Cairo on a 3-2 fastball that just missed. But he struck out both Jonny Gomes and Drew Stubbs and had three swings and misses in the inning. 31 pitches, 19 strikes so far in a scoreless game.
8:01 p.m. -- Looked like Strasburg was going to get through the third unscathed, but then Phillips smoked an 0-1 fastball off the wall in right-center for a two-out triple. Moments later, Strasburg hung a 2-2 curveball to Cabrera, who laced an RBI single to left and put the Reds up 1-0. First really poor pitch he's made all night, but it cost him.
8:14 p.m. -- The Nats managed to get the run right back. Dunn drew a leadoff walk, then Zimmerman smoked a double inside the third-base line. Neither runner could advance on Willingham's line drive to shallow center, but Dunn came home on Bernadina's subsequent sac fly. So it's 1-1 heading to the bottom of the fourth.
8:16 p.m. -- Even Pete Rose has Strasburg Fever. They just flashed the all-time hit king on the Jumbotron, and he got a standing ovation from the crowd. Apropos of nothing, anyone know what the betting line on tonight's game was? (Sorry, I had to.)
8:27 p.m. -- Looked like Strasburg was in trouble in the fourth when Bruce and Cairo singled back-to-back. Bernadina made a great throw to third that would have nailed Bruce, but the ball hit the runner and bounded away from Zimmerman. Moments later, Roger got some redemption. Stubbs hit a fly ball to right, and Bruce tagged. Bernadina's throw was up the line a bit, but Pudge made a nice tag to complete the 9-2 double play and end the fourth. Still 1-1. 64 pitches for Strasburg, 42 strikes.
8:40 p.m. -- Needing a big hit to take the lead, the Nationals turn to noted power source ... Cristian Guzman??? Yep, Guzie smoked a pitch into the right-field bleachers, putting the Nats up 3-1 and providing Strasburg with a real, live cushion for the bottom of the fifth!
8:52 p.m. -- Pitching with a lead for only the eighth time in 55 innings as a big-leaguer, Strasburg retired the side in the fifth, recording two more strikeouts. He's now got 7 K's through five, pitch count at 80.
9:02 p.m. -- Desmond smokes a two-run single off the third baseman's glove, and all of a sudden it's 5-1 Nats in the sixth. It's an offensive explosion! Have to say, Desmond has made some really solid contact in recent days, could be a sign of him breaking out. Arroyo is done and our old friend Bill Bray is in to face Nyjer with two on and two out in the sixth.
9:06 p.m. -- Wow, even Nyjer gets into the act. He laced a two-run single up the middle off Bray, a lefty, to make it 7-1!
9:09 p.m. -- Get this: Nyjer has only 18 RBI all season. Four of them, though, have come in the last three days.
9:24 p.m. -- After all that, Strasburg won't get credited with a quality start. Hard to say he wasn't quality tonight, though. Despite a two-run single by Cairo with two outs in the sixth, he still pitched extremely well. Was charged with three runs on seven hits, but struck out seven and walked only one. That's the fifth time in nine starts he's issued zero or one walk. His season strikeout-to-walk ratio is a ridiculous 75-to-15. ERA was under 2.00 for a moment, but that last hit raised it to 2.32.
9:47 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 37,863. It's actually a sellout, though, because the Reds distributed 2,338 complimentary tickets to students who had straight A's during the school year.
9:53 p.m. -- This game is far from over. Drew Storen loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh, bringing Cabrera to the plate representing the tying run. Storen caught Cabrera looking at a nice 1-2 curveball, but now Sean Burnett must face Votto and Gomes with the bases still loaded and the Nats still leading 7-3.
9:57 p.m. -- Burnett did his job, getting Votto to ground out to second, though it did bring a run home to make it 7-4. Now it's Tyler Clippard to face Gomes. Clippard threw two scoreless last night, and it looks like he'll need to record four outs tonight.
10:02 p.m. -- Wow, really impressive job by Storen, Burnett and Clippard. They got out of that jam allowing only one run. Clippard blew away Gomes with a 94 mph fastball to end the seventh. The lead remains 7-4.
10:20 p.m. -- So Ryan Hanigan hit a towering drive to left that resulted in fireworks being set off. The only problem: It was a foul ball. Oops. Hanigan still managed to draw a walk, and that has forced Riggleman into another pitching change. Matt Capps will face pinch-hitter Chris Heisey with two on and two out in the eighth.
10:26 p.m. -- Heisey greeted Capps with an RBI single to cut the lead to 7-5, but the closer battled back to get Phillips to hit a groundball. So we head to the ninth of a game the Nationals are trying like crazy to hang onto.
10:29 p.m. -- If I had told you four hours ago the Nats would hit two home runs tonight, you'd have guessed Guzman and Harris, right? Willie's solo shot makes it 8-5 and gives Capps some cushion.
10:46 p.m. -- At long last, it's over. The Nats hang on to win, 8-5. Strasburg improves to 5-2. Capps earns his 24th save.