Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals reach the two-thirds mark of the season tonight at Chase Field.
PHOENIX -- Game 3 of this four-game series in the desert features a couple of starting pitchers who have virtually no experience against their opposing lineups.
Ian Kennedy -- a former Yankees prospect who came to Arizona in last winter's three-team trade with Detroit that involved Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer and others -- starts for the Diamondbacks. Nobody on the current Nationals roster has ever faced the right-hander. (We saw last night how all the guys who had never seen Joe Saunders before fared.)
Craig Stammen, though, is equally a mystery to the Diamondbacks. Their only batters who have faced him before are Adam LaRoche (3-for-5 with two homers) and our old friend Ryan Church (1-for-5 with a double). Church, who since last playing for the Nats in 2007 has been traded three times and played for four teams (the Mets, Braves, Pirates and now Diamondbacks), makes his Arizona debut tonight batting eighth and starting in left field.
Nice to see Mark Reynolds back in the Diamondbacks' lineup after getting drilled in the head last night by Collin Balester. Only change for the Nationals is at shortstop, where Alberto Gonzalez gets the nod over Ian Desmond tonight.
This being Game 108, the Nats reach the two-thirds mark of the season. A win tonight would put them on pace to finish 72-90.
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: Sunny, 105 degrees outdoors (78 degrees indoors)
CF Roger Bernadina
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Alberto Gonzalez
P Craig Stammen
CF Chris Young
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Justin Upton
1B Adam LaRoche
C Miguel Montero
3B Mark Reynolds
SS Stephen Drew
LF Ryan Church
P Ian Kennedy
6:38 p.m. -- LINEUP CHANGE: Nyjer Morgan has been scratched. Roger Bernadina moves to the leadoff spot and center field. Michael Morse now starting in right field and batting sixth. Not sure of an exact reason for the change, but I do know Nyjer has been dealing with a minor quad strain for a few days. Wouldn't be surprised if that's it.
7:35 p.m. -- Actually, it's a right hip injury for Nyjer Morgan. He thinks it may have first happened two weeks in Cincinnati when he was chasing down a ball at the fence. Since then, he occasionally feels a sharp pain in his hip, especially when he wakes up in the morning. Seems to be less of an issue when he's actually playing, though it's most noticeable when he's running the bases. Morgan underwent an MRI this morning and is waiting for the results. He's still hopeful it's nothing major, and he's actually on the field right now doing his regular pregame stretch with teammates. Full story coming soon on CSNwashington.com.
8:37 p.m. -- To update my earlier posting today about possible changes coming to the Nationals' starting rotation, Jim Riggleman said it's highly unlikely he'll go with a six-man rotation at any point. He did say it's possible a starter could be moved to the bullpen at some point to make room for a returning pitcher like Stephen Strasburg or Jason Marquis.
9:40 p.m. -- This ballgame is underway with a strike from Ian Kennedy to Roger Bernadina. Gametime temperature: 109. That's outside, of course. In here, it's a chilly 78.
9:49 p.m. -- I've been critical of Adam Dunn's struggles with two outs and runners in scoring position before (he entered tonight 4-for-45 in that department) but the big guy should be credited with two hits for that gargantuan bomb he just hit down the right-field line. Looked like it might have actually gone over the top of the foul pole and then nearly landed in the concourse behind the bleachers. Gotta be at least 450 feet. More importantly, it puts the Nats up 2-0 in the first.
9:53 p.m. -- By the way, that was Dunn's 27th homer of the season, which ties him with Joey Votto for the NL lead.
10:03 p.m. -- What's been Craig Stammen's biggest problem this season? Giving up runs right after his teammates give him the lead. Sure enough, Stammen opened the bottom of the first by walking Chris Young, then allowing a single to Kelly Johnson and a sac fly to Justin Upton. Another single by Adam LaRoche created a real threat, but Stammen was fortunate to get out of the inning without any more damage thanks to a 4-6-3 double play off Miguel Montero's bat. So the Nats still lead 2-1 after one, hoping Stammen will come out for the second much sharper than he did for the first.
10:13 p.m. -- Scary moment in the top of the second, when Michael Morse slid hard into Stephen Drew. Morse wound up tearing up Drew's left forearm, not a pretty sight. It was a clean slide, though. Morse didn't go in with spikes up or anything.
10:29 p.m. -- What's worse: Walking the leadoff man after being handed a 2-0 lead, or walking the opposing pitcher with two outs? Stammen has already done both tonight in two innings. Not good. Somehow, though, he's managed to avoid giving up more than the one run. Can't imagine he can keep that up much longer, though.
10:35 p.m. -- Roger Bernadina singles, steals second and then scores on Adam Kennedy's RBI single off Ian Kennedy. There's a bad Kennedy joke here, something about how Kennedys are always stabbing each other in the back. But I can't come up with a good one. Anyways, Nats now lead 3-1.
10:47 p.m. -- It hasn't been pretty, but Stammen is somehow getting it done. Put two more guys on in the third, but got out of it with a 1-6-3 double-play from Montero. Still 3-1 after three.
10:55 p.m. -- You think Adam Dunn likes to hit in this ballpark? He just crushed another homer, this one a solo shot to right to lead off the fourth. So he's now got about 850 feet of home runs tonight. He's taken over the NL lead with 28. And he's now hit eight homers in his last eight games at Chase Field. Nats lead 4-1 in the middle of the fourth.
12:00 a.m. -- Just got back from a couple of innings in the stands taking photos and visiting with some family members who are here tonight. The Nats have taken a 5-1 lead in the seventh thanks to an RBI double from Adam Kennedy, who has had a nice night. Stammen came out during the sixth but still managed to get through his evening allowing only one run. Adam Dunn is about to step to the plate in search of his third homer of the night. He'll be facing right-hander Blaine Boyer.
12:06 a.m. -- No hat trick for Dunn, but an RBI single will suffice and put the Nats up 6-1.
12:17 a.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 15,670. That's the smallest crowd in Diamondbacks history.
12:24 a.m. -- Michael Morse launches a solo homer into the swimming pool that is famous for not-so-good reasons to put the Nats up 7-1. That made him 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk and raised his season average to .343, his on-base percentage to .393, his slugging percentage to .606 and his OPS to .999. So, naturally, when the top of the eighth ended, Justin Maxwell took over for him in right field.
12:56 a.m. -- This ballgame is over. Nats win 7-2. Stammen improves to 4-4. Dunn is the offensive hero with two homers. Nats have now won six of nine and have a chance to take three of four from the D'backs tomorrow night.