Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It's another scorcher at Great American Ball Park for the series finale.
Yep, Josh Willingham, Ivan Rodriguez and Ian Desmond all have the day off, leaving Jim Riggleman with this makeshift lineup that I have a hunch won't be popular with the fan base.
That said, think back only 13 days ago when Stephen Strasburg pitched against the Giants and Riggleman fielded a lineup that included a 5-6-7-8 of Guzman, Harris, Adam Kennedy and Wil Nieves. Everyone was up in arms that afternoon ... until that dynamic quartet combined to go 6-for-12 with three walks and three RBI and helped lead the Nats to a blowout victory.
So it's entirely possible lightning will strike twice. Then again, Guzman and Harris each homered last night. What are the odds of that happening again?
Check back for updates throughout the afternoon...
NATIONALS at REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 12:35 p.m.
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside D.C. area)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 85 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
SS Cristian Guzman
LF Willie Harris
2B Adam Kennedy
C Wil Nieves
P Livan Hernandez
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Orlando Cabrera
RF Jay Bruce
LF Jonny Gomes
1B Ramon Hernandez
CF Drew Stubbs
3B Miguel Cairo
C Ryan Hanigan
P Edinson Volquez
11:30 a.m. -- Luis Atilano will go on the DL with an elbow injury, one that has apparently been bothering him for several weeks. The Nats will promote a starter from the minors to start Sunday in Milwaukee, but they're going to wait to see if they might need an extra reliever for a couple of days first. If they get through today without the bullpen getting taxed, they probably won't bother. Candidates to join the rotation are Ross Detwiler (though he'd have to pitch on short rest after going seven innings yesterday), John Lannan and Matt Chico. Jim Riggleman did say whoever they call up will get a long look, not a one-and-done. Full story coming later on CSNwashington.com.
11:38 a.m. -- None of those three possible starters, by the way, lines up perfectly to start Sunday. Lannan is scheduled to start tonight for Harrisburg. Detwiler pitched yesterday for Harrisburg and thus would have to come back on short rest. Chico is due to start tomorrow for Syracuse.
12:08 p.m. -- The Nats aren't the only ones sitting some regulars today. Joey Votto has the day off for the Reds, who also still are without Scott Rolen. They do get Ramon Hernandez (knee) back from the DL today, and he'll start at first base.
12:33 p.m. -- The official diagnosis on Atilano, according to Mike Rizzo: He has bone chips in his elbow. He's being placed on the DL today. Will receive a cortisone shot. He'll need surgery at some point, but he may try to return to pitch this season first. Full story coming on CSNwashington.com in a little while.
12:36 p.m. -- Meanwhile, this game is now underway. Edinson Volquez starts off Nyjer Morgan with a fastball for strike one. Significantly smaller crowd on hand for this businessman's special than last night for Strasburg.
12:47 p.m. -- Nyjer pretty much single-handedly scored the game's first run. First, he drew a leadoff walk (he's now reached base in five of his last nine plate appearances). Then he stole second. Took third on Roger Bernadina's flyball to center field (though it was a bang-bang play at third and the Reds' thought he left second base too soon). Ryan Zimmerman's groundball to first brought Morgan home and gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
12:55 p.m. -- Nice job by Livan Hernandez in the bottom of the first. He allowed a one-out single to Orlando Cabrera but rebounded to get Jay Bruce to fly out before striking out Jonny Gomes looking. 1-0 Nats after one.
1:16 p.m. -- That bottom of the lineup everyone loves to hate just did it again: Harris, Kennedy and Nieves all drew walks, then Livo singled to left. Morgan managed to beat out a double-play grounder to bring another run home, so the Nats now lead 3-0 in the second.
1:28 p.m. -- Break up the Nats! Adam Dunn clobbers a two-run, opposite-field homer to put his team up 5-0 in the third against a very shaky Volquez.
1:35 p.m. -- Hey, Willie Harris haters: He just launched a triple off the top of the right-field fence. Missed a homer by inches. The umps did review it, but the replay showed the ball landing on the yellow line and bouncing back on the field. Willie's now 7 for his last 13 with five walks.
1:38 p.m. -- And that's it for Volquez after Kennedy singles home Harris to make it 6-0 in the third. The bottom four guys in Riggleman's lineup today have reached base in all six plate appearances.
2:00 p.m. -- Nyjer Morgan: Three plate appearances. Three times on base. Three stolen bases. First three-stolen base game of his career.
2:01 p.m. -- Oh and FYI: I've been told John Lannan remains with Harrisburg and is still scheduled to start tonight. Seems unlikely he'll be getting the call-up for Sunday.
2:13 p.m. -- The Nats currently lead 6-1 in the middle of the fifth. The bats have cooled off since the early explosion, but Livo continues to put together a solid start.
2:21 p.m. -- Livan at only 57 pitches through five innings. Perhaps this could turn into a day off for the bullpen? It's been a while since they had one. Nats still lead 6-1 heading to the sixth.
2:33 p.m. -- Wow, fantastic diving catch by Bernadina to start a 9-3 double play that ends the sixth. Livan still at only 65 pitches with his team up five runs.
2:40 p.m. -- And Bernadina follows up that play with a solo homer to right off Bill Bray. I gotta say, I really like Bray when he was part of the infamous Kearns-Lopez trade in 2006. But he hasn't impressed me one bit this week. Nats lead 7-1 at the seventh-inning stretch.
2:54 p.m. -- Harris and Kennedy are now a combined 4-for-6 with two walks today.
3:09 p.m. -- Eighty-eight pitches for Livan now through eight innings. Nats still lead 7-1.
3:26 p.m. -- That's it. It's all over. Nats win 7-1. Livo goes the distance on 102 pitches (72 strikes) to improve to 7-6. This was his 13th start this year in which he's allowed two earned runs or less over six-plus innings. Not bad for spring training, minor-league invitee.