Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan faces Carlos Zambrano tonight at Nationals Park.
John Lannan takes the ball for the Nats, hoping to continue his strong run since returning from the minors. In four starts, the left-hander is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA. If there is one bone to pick, it's that Lannan has struggled to keep his pitch count down and thus has been unable to make it past the sixth inning. He needs to increase his efficiency tonight in an attempt to last deeper into the game.
The enigmatic Carlos Zambrano, who has bounced between the Cubs' rotation and bullpen (when he's not throwing dugout tirades), starts for Chicago. Riggleman counters with a lineup that does not include Ian Desmond for the second straight night. We'll have to see what the reason for this is (yesterday, Riggleman said it was simply a day off for the rookie shortstop. Would be surprised if that's the case two days in a row).
Check back throughout the evening for updates...
CUBS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of showers late, 73 degrees, Wind 9 mph in from CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Roger Bernadina
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Michael Morse
SS Alberto Gonzalez
P John Lannan
2B Blake DeWitt
SS Starlin Castro
1B Xavier Nady
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Jeff Baker
C Geovany Soto
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Tyler Colvin
P Carlos Zambrano
4:19 p.m. -- The reason Desmond's out of the lineup again: He's got a nagging right thumb issue. It hasn't prevented him from doing anything, and he's played especially well in recent weeks. Jim Riggleman said he gave Desmond yesterday off just because he hadn't had a day off in a long time. Then Desmond told him it was a good time for the rest because his thumb had been bothering him for a month or two. The rookie wanted to be back in the lineup tonight, but Riggleman said he preferred to give him one more day of rest. He expects Desmond to start tomorrow.
4:21 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Josh Willingham will have arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to repair the medial meniscus tear in his left knee. Team orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih will perform the operation here in the District, and Willingham is optimistic he'll have a speedy recovery. Typically, it takes six weeks to return from this surgery, so he won't make it back before season's end, but he will have had plenty of time to recover before next spring. Willingham said he had the exact same surgery on his right knee back when he was a catcher in the Marlins' farm system. He'll be able to start rehabbing within a couple of days.
7:06 p.m. -- We're underway with a ball from John Lannan to Blake DeWitt.
7:14 p.m. -- Solid first inning for Lannan. He allowed a one-out, bloop double to Starlin Castro but responded by getting Xavier Nady to fly out and then striking out Aramis Ramirez. Fourteen of 19 pitches for strikes. Solid start to the evening.
7:23 p.m. -- The Adam Dunn slump continues. With runners on the corners and one out, Dunn had a golden opportunity to snap out of the funk and drive in a run or two. But he rapped the first pitch he saw from Zambrano to second for a 4-6-3 double play that ended the first inning with no score.
7:38 p.m. -- Uh, so much for Lannan getting off to a strong start. He just allowed back-to-back singles to open the second, then served up a three-run homer to Alfonso Soriano on a fat slider over the plate. That makes nine consecutive seasons for Soriano with at least 20 homers. Of course, he's only reached 40 homers once ... in 2006 with the Nats as part of his 40-40 season. Anyway, Cubs now lead 3-0 in the second.
7:43 p.m. -- The Nats sent three batters to the plate in the bottom of the second. They all struck out. Roger Bernadina went down swinging. Ivan Rodriguez went down swinging. Michael Morse went down swinging, one three pitches.
7:50 p.m. -- Better stuff from Lannan in the third. He retired the side, never letting the ball leave the infield. Still 3-0 Cubs as we go to the bottom of the third.
8:00 p.m. -- For only the second in their last 21 innings, the Nationals have scored. Ryan Zimmerman's two-out single up the middle scores Alberto Gonzalez and trims the deficit to 3-1 in the bottom of the third. They had a chance to cut it even further, but with the bases loaded, Bernadina skied a fly ball to left to end the inning.
8:19 p.m. -- Make it 5-1 Cubs after Tyler Colvin took Lannan deep to right in the fourth. Lannan's fifth start since returning from the minors appears to be far-and-away his worst.
8:22 p.m. -- And now Lannan's done after five innings, five runs (four earned) and seven hits. Threw 83 pitches. Just not a real crisp outing for the left-hander.
8:40 p.m. -- It's been another weak offensive showing so far tonight from the Nats. Through six innings, they've managed one run and three hits off Zambrano. Still 5-1 as we head to the seventh.
8:56 p.m. -- Collin Balester on to pitch the top of the eighth inning.
9:20 p.m. -- Golden opportunity at last for the Nats, who have the bases loaded, two out and Ian Desmond pinch-hitting for Roger Bernadina. Cubs manager Mike Quade counters with Carlos Marmol. Here we go...
9:22 p.m. -- Yeah, maybe not. Desmond strikes out on three pitches, the last of them a check swing on a slider way out of the zone. Not good. We go to the ninth, still 5-1 Cubs.
9:29 p.m. -- Last chance for the Nats. They trail by four as we go to the bottom of the ninth.
9:44 p.m. -- Well that just got interesting. The Nats loaded the bases with two outs, then Adam Kennedy cleared them with a double to right. Up stepped Ryan Zimmerman with a chance to tie or win the game. With the count 1-2, Zim sent a long fly ball to right field ... that was caught. Game over. Nats lose 5-4.