Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals look to make it two in a row tonight at Chase Field.
Scott Olsen is on the mound, looking to pick up where he left off last week in his return from the DL. That would be another encouraging development for the Nats, who have been getting some quality performances from their starting pitchers over the last week, even as Stephen Strasburg has watched from the dugout.
(Speaking of Strasburg, he's throwing off the bullpen mound here as I type this, the first time he's done that since getting scratched from his start one week ago today. Check the homepage later this evening for a full report on how that went.)
With the Diamondbacks sending newly acquired lefty Joe Saunders to the mound tonight, Jim Riggleman counters with a couple of lineup tweaks that I think should please many of you. Ian Desmond moves up to the 2-hole. Michael Morse starts in right field and bats sixth. And Alberto Gonzalez starts at second base and bats eighth.
Check back throughout the evening for updates...
NATIONALS at DIAMONDBACKS
Where: Chase Field
Gametime: 9:40 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 101 degrees outdoors (78 degrees indoors)
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Scott Olsen
CF Chris Young
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Justin Upton
1B Adam LaRoche
C Miguel Montero
3B Mark Reynolds
SS Stephen Drew
LF Rusty Ryal
P Joe Saunders
7:47 p.m. -- Your Stephen Strasburg update: He threw what team officials called a "light bullpen session," which means he only threw about 25 pitches, though he threw at full velocity and threw all of his pitches. No problems reported. He'll take tomorrow off aside from playing some light catch, then will throw in a simulated game Thursday. If all goes well, he's scheduled to return from the DL and start next Tuesday against the Marlins at Nationals Park. More detailed report coming shortly...
9:40 p.m. -- And this game is underway with Nyjer Morgan lofting a fly ball to center on Joe Saunders' first pitch of the night.
9:46 p.m. -- Good lord did Ryan Zimmerman crush an 0-2 pitch from Saunders. Straightaway center field. Off the batter's eye. It's 407 feet to the base of the wall out there, and this had to hit at least 35 up the wall, so I'm thinking it's 440 feet minimum. Very reminiscent of Zim's walk-off against Brad Lidge Saturday night. Nats lead 1-0 in the first.
9:53 p.m. -- Really nice first inning for Scott Olsen. Retired the side on two grounders and a flyball. Fourteen pitches, eight strikes for the lefty.
9:59 p.m. -- If Ivan Rodriguez ever wants to play the Pick 3 lottery game, he surely would take his favorite numbers: 4-6-3. Yes, for the 20th time this season, Pudge grounded into a double play, this one ending the top of the second. For comparison's sake, Nyjer Morgan has grounded into 11 double plays. In his career. Nats still lead 1-0 in the middle of the second.
10:06 p.m. -- What started off as a shaky bottom of the second turned into nothing for the Nats to be worried about. Morse and Nyjer butchered LaRoche's drive to right-center -- Morse took a bad angle, Nyjer then was slow to back him up and also bobbled the ball at the fence -- turning a double into a triple. That looked like it would be a problem when Montero sent a fly ball to left that should have been a routine sacrifice fly. But credit Willingham, who did a great job setting himself up to catch the ball while moving forward and then fired a perfect throw to the plate. Pudge applied the tag and LaRoche was D.O.A. A nice 3-2 fastball from Olsen to Mark Reynolds finished the inning and preserved the Nats' 1-0 lead.
10:17 p.m. -- Bad mistake by Olsen to open the third. He left a 1-0 fastball on the inside corner for Stephen Drew, who belted it to right for a solo homer. Olsen bounced back, but the game is now tied 1-1 as we go to the fourth.
10:28 p.m. -- On the bright side, the Nats have put at least one man on base in each of their four innings so far. Unfortunately, they've only scored once (on Zimmerman's homer). Double plays (Pudge, Desmond) ended the second and third. And a Morse flyout and a Pudge groundout ended the fourth with two runners stranded. So far, the Nats are 0-for-7 with runners on base. Not what Jim Riggleman is looking for. The score, however, remains 1-1.
10:40 p.m. -- Oh, those two-out walks will kill you. Scott Olsen put Miguel Montero on with a free pass, and that set the stage for Mark Reynolds to deposit a three-run homer into the INFAMOUS swimming pool in right-center. (Why is it infamous? Because it's famous for negative reasons. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go read the comments in last night's game thread.) Diamondbacks now lead 4-1 after four.
11:03 p.m. -- The Nats are still trailing 4-1 in the sixth because they can't touch Saunders. But they are helping keep this game within striking distance thanks to some fine defense. Nyjer Morgan went deep to left-center to make a nice catch of Chris Young's drive to end the fifth. Ivan Rodriguez just fired a perfect throw to second to nail Kelly Johnson trying to steal. And then there was Willingham's throw to the plate earlier. Good defense can make up for a lot of things. And bad defense can destroy a lot of good things.
11:19 p.m. -- Couple of not-so-good developments to close out the sixth. First, Olsen came out of the game after allowing three singles and sac fly. Next, Collin Balester entered and immediately drilled Mark Reynolds in the head. Reynolds fell in a heap and tossed his helmet aside. After a minute or so on the ground, he got up under his own power and walked off, but he came out of the game for precautionary reasons. This was the second batter Balester has hit in the head in the last two weeks. He also did it to Rickie Weeks in Milwaukee. Not good. D'backs now lead 5-1 heading to the seventh.
11:30 p.m. -- First double switch of the night for Riggleman. Doug Slaten in to pitch, replacing the horribly ineffective Balester. Justin Maxwell now in right field, replacing Morse. So the Nats, trailing by four runs in the seventh, put one of their hottest hitters on the bench for a guy who has been optioned to Class AAA four times previously this year because he can't consistently hit big-league pitching. Have at it, folks.
11:44 p.m. -- This one is just about in the books. The Nats don't have a hit off Saunders (who, I should have mentioned earlier, grew up in Springfield, Va.) since the fourth inning. It's still 6-1 as we go to the bottom of the eighth, and it appears the Nats' only hope is that Kirk Gibson doesn't let Saunders go for the complete game and instead hands things over to his wretched bullpen. Even then, the Nats' chances don't look good.
12:02 a.m. -- That'll do it. Saunders goes the distance and picks up the 6-1 win. Feeble showing from the Nats' lineup tonight: five hits, two walks, a hit batter and one who reached on an error. They went 0-for-12 with a man on base in this one. Not good.