Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan and Wilson Ramos are in the Nats' lineup today at Turner Field.
This hasn't been announced yet, but I'm pretty sure Morgan will be taking Josh Willingham's roster spot, with Willingham going on the DL (presumably for the remainder of the season) with that nagging left knee injury that will likely require surgery in the coming days. It's an unfortunate and abrupt conclusion to what was shaping up as the best season of Willingham's career. (UPDATE AT 11:06 A.M. -- Willingham has officially been placed on the 15-day DL with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee.)
Several other noteworthy items in advance of this game...
-- Wilson Ramos makes his Nats debut, batting seventh and starting behind the plate.
-- Adam Dunn gets a rare day off, perhaps because he's got bad career numbers against Derek Lowe (6-for-31, two walks, eight strikeouts). Michael Morse gets a rare start at first base in his place.
-- With Dunn and Willingham out, Ryan Zimmerman (who last night was ejected for the first time in his career) bats cleanup. Needing a 3-hitter, Jim Riggleman is going with Roger Bernadina (first time Roger has hit there in his brief career). Bernadina also takes over in left field, which is where I suspect he'll play most of the time the rest of the way.
-- Congrats to Wil and Yormarie Nieves, the proud parents of a baby girl. Maria Isabel Nieves was born yesterday at 5:28 p.m., and everyone is doing well. Wil should be rejoining the team in the next couple days.
I'm not in Atlanta for this series, but I may post some thoughts along the way as this game plays out. I will be in Philadelphia, however, so full coverage returns all weekend...
NATIONALS at BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 84 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to RF.
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
C Wilson Ramos
RF Willie Harris
P John Lannan
2B Omar Infante
RF Jason Heyward
3B Martin Prado
LF Matt Diaz
C Brian McCann
SS Alex Gonzalez
CF Melky Cabrera
1B Eric Hinske
P Derek Lowe
11:06 a.m. -- It's official: Josh Willingham has been placed on the 15-day DL with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee.
1:28 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman told reporters earlier today that Michael Morse will likely get the bulk of the at-bats in the 5-hole now that Willingham is done for the year. It's a golden opportunity for a guy who everyone has wanted to see play more, and Morse just delivered with a rocket of a solo homer off a hanging slider from Derek Lowe. Put the Nats up 1-0 in the second. Wilson Ramos just got his first at-bat, and though he struck out on a tough, 3-2 sinker on the outside corner, he showed some good plate discipline and an ability to foul off two-strike pitches. Tough to draw any real conclusions from one at-bat, but the first impression was a good one.
1:48 p.m. -- Nyjer Morgan has caused plenty of grief on this website this season, and plenty of it deserving. But let me just say this: When Nyjer is on his game, he makes a huge difference on this club. His two-out single followed by a stolen base just now set the stage for Ian Desmond to drive him in with a subsequent RBI single. The Nats just turned a nothing inning into something because Morgan was able to 1) get on base, and 2) get in scoring position. Nats now lead 2-0 in the third.
2:17 p.m. -- They've now completed 4 1/2 innings at Turner Field, the Nats still holding a 2-0 lead. So far, so good for John Lannan. He hasn't really gotten ahead of hitters (only five first-pitch strikes to 14 batters) but he's kept the ball down in the zone and produced plenty of groundballs. The Lannan we've seen since his return at the beginning of the month has looked a lot more like the Lannan we saw the last two years, not the Lannan we saw this April-June. Definitely an encouraging sign.
2:36 p.m. -- Gotta say, this unconventional lineup is getting the job done today. The Nats now lead 4-0 in the sixth after plating two more runs off Lowe. Nyjer got it going with his second hit of the afternoon, then took second on a wild pitch-out. Desmond bunted him over to third, then Bernadina drove him in with a double to right. A subsequent single to left by Zimmerman brought Bernadina home and, thus, Lannan now has a four-run at his disposal for the bottom of the sixth.
2:52 p.m. -- So much for a comfortable afternoon. Lannan just gave both runs back and put the tying men on base before getting pulled by Riggleman. The one thing Lannan has struggled with since his return has been getting through this portion of the game. In past years, he'd reach the sixth inning with a pitch count in the 60s or 70s and cruise along strong into the seventh (and often the eighth). Today, he surpassed the 100-pitch mark with one out in the sixth. Better efficiency earlier in the game should allow Lannan to get through the sixth and into the seventh in the future.
2:55 p.m. -- Holy cow! Joel Peralta just got out of the jam with one pitch, leading to a foul pop double play. Say what? Yep. Alex Gonzalez swung at the first pitch and popped up just foul of first base. Morse made the routine catch. And with Matt Diaz running on the pitch, he had no chance to get back to second base in time. It's your routine F3-6 double play, preserving the Nats' 4-2 lead as they go to the seventh.
3:12 p.m. -- Really nice job by Tyler Clippard in the seventh. It's been a wildly up-and-down season for Clippard, but he remains a key piece of this bullpen. With Matt Capps gone and Drew Storen essentially taking over closer duties, Clippard is desperately needed as a reliable setup man.
3:43 p.m. -- Well, that got interesting in the eighth, didn't it? Clippard put the Braves' first two batters on via walk, but Wilson Ramos helped save the day by making a fantastic throw to third on a sac bunt attempt. Clippard then got Matt Diaz to fly out to right. And Sean Burnett, summoned with two outs and runners on second and third, gave up a scorching line drive off Brian McCann's bat ... right at Michael Morse at first base. Inning over. 4-2 lead still intact heading to the ninth.
3:53 p.m. -- And Willie Harris gets those two precious runs right back for the Nats. Crushed a two-run homer off Kyle Farnsworth. I mean, crushed it. Puts the Nats up 6-2 with three outs to go. It's no longer a save situation. We'll see if Drew Storen finishes it out anyway.
4:05 p.m. -- Ballgame. Nats win 6-2. Lannan improves to 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in four starts since his return from the minors. No save, but Storen retired the side in the ninth. Home runs from Morse and Harris highlight the offense. Good game all around.