Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bryce Harper takes his first round of BP at Nationals Park.
Bryce Harper, who will be formally introduced in a couple of hours, is taking his first round of batting practice at Nationals Park. And I've got to say, it's quite a show. The 17-year-old laid down a couple of token bunts to get started, then intentionally struck several line drives toward center and left-center fields. Then he finally attempted to pull the ball for the first time ... and reached the third deck down the right-field line. Yeah, that's right. Harper has hit about five other home runs during five rounds so far. Impressive.
Anyways, we'll have more on Harper later. As for tonight's game, Zimmermann's return is obviously the big story. If the 24-year-old needs any evidence of what he can do in the wake of Tommy John surgery, he needs only look at the right-hander who will oppose him tonight: Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals ace had the same surgery in 2007. Since then, he's 31-9 with a 2.52 ERA.
The slumping Nats lineup gets a shakeup tonight. Ian Desmond, one of the few hot hitters right now, will bat fifth for the first time. Nyjer Morgan gets bumped down to the 2-hole, with Adam Kennedy leading off. Interesting.
Check back throughout the evening for updates...
CARDINALS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 82 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from LF
2B Adam Kennedy
CF Nyjer Morgan
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Willie Harris
P Jordan Zimmermann
SS Felipe Lopez
CF Jon Jay
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Holliday
RF Randy Winn
C Yadier Molina
2B Skip Schumaker
3B Pedro Feliz
P Chris Carpenter
7:05 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann is officially back from Tommy John surgery. His first major-league pitch in 13 months is a 94 mph fastball to Felipe Lopez for ball one. Low and inside.
7:09 p.m. -- The first batter didn't go so well (Zimmermann walked Lopez on four pitches) but things picked up from there. He got Jon Jay to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, then got Albert Pujols to ground out to short. Fastball was in the 93-94 range, breaking ball in the 77-78 range. Twelve pitches, seven strikes. All things considered, looked pretty sharp.
7:15 p.m. -- A promising bottom of the first fell flat for the Nats, who got a leadoff double from Adam Kennedy, who then took third on Nyjer Morgan's sac bunt. But when Ryan Zimmerman rapped a grounder to third, it all fell apart. Kennedy broke for home but had no chance to score and wound up in a rundown. Zimmerman, meanwhile, failed to at least advance to second as Kennedy was buying him time, salvaging something. In the end, it didn't matter, because Adam Dunn grounded out to first to end the inning scoreless.
7:24 p.m. -- The Cardinals strike first. Yadier Molina doubles to deep left-center, then scores moments later on Skip Schumaker's single up the middle. Didn't help that Nyjer Morgan's throw was a five-hopper to the plate, allowing Schumaker to advance to second. So Zimmermann has allowed one run on two hits through two, with one strikeout and one walk. Twenty-seven pitches, 18 strikes. Cardinals lead 1-0.
7:48 p.m. -- Anybody here miss Felipe Lopez? Yeah, didn't think so. The former National just giftwrapped his old team's first run of the night, taking a routine grounder to short and heaving his throw into the camera well for a two-base error. Zimmerman's two-out chopper over the pitcher's mound brought Kennedy home and tied this game 1-1 in the bottom of the third.
7:53 p.m. -- New No. 5 hitter Ian Desmond is now 2-for-2 and just drove in two more with a two-out single to left. Nats lead 3-1 after three.
8:18 p.m. -- Unfortunately, the night didn't end well for Zimmermann. He was greeted in the top of the fourth by an Albert Pujols home run (Pujols is now 4-for-5 with two homers in his career against J-Zimm). He then saw the Cardinals bat around, scoring four runs in the process. So that's it for Zimmermann. He went four innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out four. He threw 70 pitches. Nats now trail 5-3.
8:47 p.m. -- A sac fly by Adam Dunn in the fifth and another sac fly by Michael Morse in the sixth has tied this game 5-5.
8:48 p.m. -- Good things come in threes. Adam Kennedy lofts a sac fly of his own, giving the Nats a 6-5 lead as the sixth inning comes to an end. No loss for Zimmermann tonight.
8:56 p.m. -- Have to say this: Chris Carpenter may have allowed three earned runs in six innings tonight, but nothing about that start was "quality." He gave up six total runs on 10 hits.
9:15 p.m. -- Willie Harris 2-run single makes it 8-5 in the seventh. Break up the Nats!
9:31 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard started the eighth and immediately gave up a rocket of a double to Pujols, a sinking liner to Holliday and then an RBI single to Winn. You've got to wonder how much more Jim Riggleman can entrust him in a setup role. Fortunately, Drew Storen came to the rescue. He got two outs on three pitches, preserving an 8-6 lead as we go to the bottom of the eighth.
9:37 p.m. -- We go to the ninth, Storen back on the mound. Pujols due up fifth.
9:52 p.m. -- Ugh. Storen has blown his first career save. Gave up two singles, then a double to open the ninth. He struck out Jay, then with runners on second and third, he intentionally walked Pujols. That brought Holliday to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. And for what it's worth, Storen struck out Holliday in his big-league debut in May. Not this time. Storen nailed Holliday in the left hand with a fastball, forcing in the tying run. Now it's 8-8, the bases are still loaded with one out and Sean Burnett is in to face Randy Winn.
10:00 p.m. -- And Winn sends a two-run single past a drawn-in Desmond at short, putting the Cardinals up 10-8. This, folks, is a colossal meltdown.
10:04 p.m. -- Adam Dunn will lead off the bottom of the ninth. Oh wait, no he won't. He was pulled for defense in the top of the ninth. Alberto Gonzalez will lead off.
10:10 p.m. -- Un-be-liev-able. Bernadina 2-run homer off Ryan Franklin ties the game 10-10.
10:30 p.m. -- Let's go to the 11th.
10:41 p.m. -- Bottom of the 11th coming up. Fernando Salas coming out of the Cardinals bullpen to face ... Ryan Zimmerman, who as we all know, leads MLB with seven walk-off homers since Sept. 2005.
10:49 p.m. -- As if this game didn't have enough drama already, Albert Pujols just appeared to seriously injure himself making an awkward climb up the tarp while trying to catch a foul ball. He went down in a heap clutching his right leg and the Cardinals trainer and Tony La Russa went racing out there to tend to him. But after a couple of minutes, Pujols got up and gingerly walked back to first base. He's staying in the game.
10:51 p.m. -- To the 12th we go, still 10-10.
11:19 p.m. -- Oh my lord, it looked like Adam Kennedy just won the game with a two-out line drive up the middle. And then Brendan Ryan came out of nowhere to make a diving, sno-cone catch to end the inning and send this game to the 13th. Doug Slaten, the last man standing in the Nats' bullpen, is coming in. Why do I have a feeling Livan Hernandez (three days shy of throwing 121 pitches) is going to appear in this game before it's over?
11:33 p.m. -- Bottom of the 13th now. The Nats have used 22 players. Only Livo, Olsen and Lannan (who is currently in the bullpen) are still available.
11:40 p.m. -- Nats win! Nats win! Ian Desmond sends a chopper up the middle and off Skip Schumaker's glove to score Nyjer Morgan. Final score: 11-10 in 13 innings. Time of game; 4 hours, 35 minutes (longest of the year).