Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg battles the D'backs and the rain this afternoon.
1) This is the Diamondbacks' last scheduled game in D.C. this season.
2) Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to pitch.
This will be Strasburg's first appearance since his shaky outing Tuesday against the Marlins in his return from the disabled list, and all eyes will be on the rookie to see how he responds.
Another rookie right-hander who has gotten far less publicity than Strasburg, Barry Enright, starts for the Diamondbacks. Enright beat the Nats 10 days ago in Arizona, allowing two runs over six innings.
Check back for weather, and hopefully game updates all afternoon...
DIAMONDBACKS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m.
TV: Ch. 50, MASN2
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Rain showers, 79 degrees, Wind 13 mph out to LF.
CF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
P Stephen Strasburg
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 Barry Enright
12:13 p.m. -- Your weather update: The tarp remains on the infield, and it was pouring here a few minutes ago. It's eased up since then, but the forecast is pretty spotty all afternoon. There's a 55 percent chance of rain at 1 p.m., then only a 20 percent chance at 2 p.m., then back up to a 90 percent chance at 4 p.m. So it looks like there is a "window" to get this game started, either on-time or shortly thereafter, but it could be tricky to get it completed before the next round comes.
12:58 p.m. -- The tarp is currently being rolled up and the infield is being dried and groomed. Looks like we may start on time.
1:22 p.m. -- Before we get started, two things. 1) Check out the homepage for an update on Jason Marquis and what might happen with him moving forward. Jim Riggleman was again noncommittal this morning, waffling back and forth between saying Marquis will make his next start and suggesting he could be replaced by Jordan Zimmermann, Yunesky Maya or someone else. 2) There are some reports out there this morning that the Nats have signed both second-round pick Sammy Solis and fourth-round pick A.J. Cole. Here's what I've been told: Neither signing has officially been completed yet, but they're extremely close to being done. Probably just a matter of fine print at this point. Which means the Nats can safely turn their attention to Bryce Harper and tomorrow night's deadline.
1:36 p.m. -- We are underway with a 98 mph fastball from Stephen Strasburg to Chris Young for ball one. Not a lot of people in the stands at first pitch, though there's still a steady stream coming through the gates. Definitely won't be anywhere close to a sellout, there are huge sections of empty seats down the lines in the lower deck and in the outfield.
1:42 p.m. -- Best first inning we've seen from Strasburg in a while. Retired the side on 16 pitches, 10 strikes. Struck out two. Got Kelly Johnson to whiff at a 92 mph changeup. Got Justin Upton to whiff at a 99 mph fastball. Also mixed in several good curveballs. Looked really sharp.
1:48 p.m. -- Not much going on for the Nats in the bottom of the first. Adam Dunn did bloop a two-out double past a diving Gerardo Parra in left field, but he was stranded there when Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to third to end the inning. Scoreless heading to the second.
2:00 p.m. -- Not a good second inning for Strasburg. It started with a 2-0 fastball to Adam LaRoche that wound up in the right-center field bleachers. It continued with a one-out single up the middle by Mark Reynolds. It could have been killed when Stephen Drew hit a weak comebacker to the mound, but Strasburg airmailed the throw past Dunn and down the right-field. Three-base, run-scoring error. Parra's subsequent sac fly made it 3-0 Diamondbacks. Strasburg did throw 15 of 20 pitches that inning for strikes, but he got in trouble because he fell behind LaRoche and then because he couldn't make a play in the field.
2:10 p.m. -- It's not a huge sample size, but Ivan Rodriguez now has eight hits in his last 17 at-bats, including an RBI single just now to score Josh Willingham and cut the deficit to 3-1. Perhaps Pudge is at long last snapping out of that multiple-month-long slump?
2:19 p.m. -- Strasburg isn't really having trouble throwing strikes (30 of 45 pitches so far have been) but he is having trouble getting ahead. He's only thrown first-pitch strikes to five of 12 batters, and he's gone to a 2-0 count three times. Still, he retired the side in the third only only nine pitches, so it remains 3-1 as we head to the bottom of the third.
2:35 p.m. -- One thing we can say for sure: Strasburg is throwing a whole lot more changeups today than he did last time out. Twelve of his first 60 pitches today were changeups. Tuesday against the Marlins, he only threw one changeup out of 84 total pitches. One possible reason for this: The D'backs lineup is loaded with left-handed hitters, while the Marlins are really heavy on right-handers. The changeup is more effective diving down and away from lefties. Whatever the reason, Strasburg has definitely mixed it up more today. Also has six strikeouts through four. Nats still trail, though, 3-1.
3:00 p.m. -- Bottom of the fifth now, the game now tied thanks to Josh Willingham's two-run homer, his first long ball since July 2. Strasburg made it through the top of the fifth at 85 pitches, and he's leading off the bottom of the inning. Might not make it through the sixth, though.
3:04 p.m. -- And we just had a coordinated protest of the Arizona immigration law. Four young people (three men, one woman) jogged onto the field rather casually from different areas. One of them had a sign. There was also a banner unfurled high above the center field fence reading: "Bud Selig Move The All-Star Game, No SB1070." The five or six security guards who were down there took care of everything after a little disruption.
3:11 p.m. -- Well, Strasburg won't pitch the sixth at all. Despite hitting for himself to open the bottom of the fifth, he doesn't take the mound for the top of the sixth. Tyler Clippard has come out of the bullpen in a 3-3 game. Very strange move. Strasburg's final line: 5 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 7 k, 1 hr. 85 pitches, 57 strikes.
3:34 p.m. -- Nice job by Clippard over two innings of relief. He allowed a leadoff single in the sixth but then retired six straight, three via strikeout. Still 3-3 as we reach the seventh-inning stretch.
3:38 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann update: He threw six innings today for Syracuse at Indianapolis. He allowed one run on six hits, walking one and striking out three. Threw 73 pitches, 43 strikes.
3:40 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 21,695. Far and away the smallest crowd to see Strasburg pitch this season. Previous low came Tuesday night, when 25,939 came to see him against the Marlins. Before that, every home start drew at least 31,000.
3:46 p.m. -- Ian Desmond gives the Nats a 4-3 lead. With two outs and Adam Kennedy on second, Desmond stroked a base hit to right. Looked like Upton might have had a play at the plate, but he never threw the ball. Might not have had a good grip on it. Whatever the case, the Nats have taken the lead in the bottom of the seventh.
3:53 p.m. -- Sean Burnett OWNS the Diamondbacks. Just tossed a scoreless eighth, striking out two. He's already got two multiple-inning saves against Arizona in the last two weeks. He threw 16 pitches in the eighth. Will Riggleman bring him back out for the ninth? Right-handed slugger Mark Reynolds is due up first, but he's followed by lefties Stephen Drew and Gerardo Parra.
4:01 p.m. -- Ryan Zimmerman may have just made the decision a lot easier. Crushed a solo homer to open the bottom of the eighth and put the Nats up 5-3. There's nobody warming in the pen at the moment. Looks like Burnett will return for the ninth.
4:04 p.m. -- OK, Drew Storen started warming up with one out in the eighth and and is now in for the ninth. He'll be looking for his second career save.
4:09 p.m. -- Ballgame. Nats win 5-3. Tyler Clippard, who won eight of the Nats' first 56 games this season, finally gets his ninth win in Game 118. Drew Storen (six pitches, six strikes) gets his second career save. The Nats get a much-needed series victory over the Diamondbacks.