Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stuck in a five-game losing streak, the Nats look to rebound against Arizona.
Tonight, the Nationals will hope Lannan continues the trend and re-establishes himself as a reliable starter capable of putting a five-game losing streak to rest. He'll be up against a potent Diamondbacks lineup that boasts power from top to bottom and the other night in Milwaukee became only the seventh team in history to hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs. Arizona counters with recently acquired lefty (and Springfield, Va., native) Joe Saunders, who tossed a complete game against the Nats 10 days ago at Chase Field.
Josh Willingham, as Jim Riggleman said yesterday, is back in the lineup tonight. He does have cartilage damage in his left knee (possibly a meniscus tear) and he may need surgery at some point. But he's been playing with this for most of the season and he's going to continue trying to play until it's clear he can't.
Ivan Rodriguez gets a night off, as does Roger Bernadina, who tweaked his upper leg during his first-inning double last night. Doesn't sound like anything serious, and there was a chance Bernadina would sit tonight anyway with a left-hander on the mound.
Check back for updates before, during and after the game...
DIAMONDBACKS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees, Wind 13 mph in from RF
2B Alberto Gonzalez
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
CF Justin Maxwell
C Wil Nieves
P John Lannan
CF Chris Young
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Justin Upton
1B Adam LaRoche
C Miguel Montero
3B Mark Reynolds
SS Stephen Drew
LF Gerardo Parra
P Joe Saunders
6:00 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman held a brief team meeting before batting practice today. His messsage? "It's a 162-game schedule," the manager said. "We're in a bad time right now. We've just got to play hard and break through it. And I reminded them that I appreciate that they have been playing hard. These are tough times. Your character is judged in bad times, not good times. And we're going through some bad times. Regardless of what the standings say, or sometimes what the score of the game says, some good can come out of that ballgame. And a lot of good has come out. There's been a lot of hustle plays. There's been a lot of effort. So we've got to draw some positives from what's happening out there and remind them there's light at the end of the tunnel. We've got to keep the needle pointing forward, all those cliches we say as coaches and managers, but it's all true. If you keep giving good effort, you will be rewarded somewhere down the line. And I'm just reminding them that I'm appreciating the effort. Let's continue it."
6:10 p.m. -- A commenter asked earlier why Alberto Gonzalez is batting leadoff instead of Justin Maxwell. I asked Riggleman that myself earlier, and here was his explanation: "The leading off thing, I want to take that off of Maxwell. When a left-hander's pitching, he's going to be in there playing center field for us sometimes. I want him to be able to relax a little bit. The focus on the leadoff hitter is a little more intense than it is some other situations. Basically, without Bernadina or Morgan out there, somebody's got to lead off, and Gonzo's kind of the best guy to do it."
7:06 p.m. -- We are underway on what is a surprisingly chilly August evening in D.C. Seventy-four degrees with a 13 mph breeze from the northeast as John Lannan throws his first pitch to Chris Young. About time for a nice weather night!
7:10 p.m. -- Speaking of breeze, Lannan just breezed through the top of the first. Retired the side on 11 pitches, recorded two strikeouts. Couldn't ask for any better out of the left-hander.
7:20 p.m. -- Wow, what a first inning. After Lannan cruised through the top half, the Nats pounded on Joe Saunders for three runs and four hits. RBIs for Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. Nats up 3-0 after one. Jim Riggleman has declared there will be a mandatory team meeting before every game the rest of the season!
7:28 p.m. -- Six up, six down for Lannan, who looks as sharp as he's been in a year. Only 22 pitches so far, too.
7:33 p.m. -- How inspiring were Riggleman's pregame words? Enough to get Wil Nieves to hit a home run! Nats up 4-0 in the second inning. We're approaching Bizarro World territory here.
7:58 p.m. -- Lannan still looking sharp through three, and Nieves comes up with a single in his second at-bat, making him 2-for-2. Still 4-0 after three.
8:48 p.m. -- Just got back from the stands. The Nats now lead 4-2 after six, with both of the Diamondbacks' runs coming in the fifth, one of them a triple to the right-field corner by Stephen Drew. Nats had a chance to get Mark Reynolds at the plate, but Alberto Gonzalez's relay throw was to the foul side of the plate, and Nieves couldn't get back to make the tag in time. Otherwise, though, Lannan has been sharp. Which he's needed to be, because the Nationals' bats have gone mostly silent since the early explosion off Saunders.
8:55 p.m. -- Make it seven strong innings for Lannan, who has allowed only the two runs and four hits, striking out five while walking one. He's sitting on 101 pitches at the moment, but there's no bullpen action yet. Any chance he comes back out for the eighth?
9:10 p.m. -- That is indeed it for Lannan. Sean Burnett on to pitch the eighth. Roger Bernadina also in now for Morse in right field. And Willie Harris (who pinch-ran for Willingham in the bottom of the seventh) has taken over in left field.
9:17 p.m. -- Burnett strikes out the side, whiffing Gerardo Parra, Ryan Church (who is still getting booed lustily here in D.C. for some reason) and Chris Young. He only threw 14 pitches, and he recorded a five-out save in Arizona last week. Three of the D'backs' first four hitters due up in the ninth are lefties. Might Riggleman bring Burnett back out?
9:24 p.m. -- Burnett is back out for the start of the ninth, though Drew Storen is warming in the bullpen. I would imagine Storen won't come in unless Mark Reynolds (due up fifth) makes it to the plate.
9:30 p.m. -- That's it. Nats win 4-2. Lannan improves to 4-5. Burnett gets his second save of the season, both against the D'backs in the last 11 days. Best game these guys have played in a week.