Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan faces Paul Maholm in an all-lefty matchup tonight at PNC Park.
Fans in attendance tonight will witness a rarity: A Nats lineup without Adam Dunn. For only the sixth time in 136 games this season, Dunn is not starting. There's been only one game in which he didn't appear at all (May 18 at St. Louis when he had to return to D.C. for a personal matter) so the likelihood is that we'll still see him at some point off the bench. Still, Dunn's absence leaves a pretty major void in the Nats' lineup, which doesn't look nearly as intimidating with Michael Morse batting cleanup and Roger Bernadina hitting fifth.
John Lannan starts for the Nationals, looking to continue his second-half resurgence. In six outings since his return from the minors, the lefty is 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA, having allowed two earned runs or fewer five times. Here's a crazy stat: If Lannan gets the win tonight, he'll improve to 7-6 for the season, which would rank him behind only Livan Hernandez and Tyler Clippard (each with nine wins) on the Nats' pitching staff. Probably says more about everyone else who has pitched out of the rotation this year than anything.
Jim Riggleman, finishing up his two-game suspension, will once again be watching this one alongside Mike Rizzo in a press box suite. John McLaren will manage from the dugout again. Pat Listach begins to serve his two-game suspension tomorrow. Rick Eckstein is expected to coach third base in Listach's absence.
Check back for updates throughout the evening...
NATIONALS at PIRATES
Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 63 degrees, Wind 13 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
LF Roger Bernadina
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Justin Maxwell
P John Lannan
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Jose Tabata
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
3B Pedro Alvarez
RF Lastings Milledge
SS Ronny Cedeno
C Chris Snyder
P Paul Maholm
6:20 p.m. -- Adam Dunn's benching tonight is because he's been battling a minor hamstring injury for about the last 10 days, according to Jim Riggleman. It's not considered serious, but with a lefty on the mound tonight for the Pirates anyway, it made sense to give Dunn a chance to rest.
6:22 p.m. -- You may have noticed Danny Espinosa back in the lineup for the second straight night. Get used to it. Riggleman said the rookie will probably start at least 15 to 20 of the Nats' final 37 games, perhaps more if he gives Ian Desmond a day or two off at shortstop. No formal word on the plan for Wilson Ramos, but I imagine he'll be behind the plate tomorrow night for the series finale.
6:24 p.m. -- And for those who haven't seen it yet on the homepage, a club source says Yunesky Maya will make his major-league debut Tuesday night against the Mets. Maya's addition pushes Scott Olsen to the bullpen for now. Read the full story on CSNwashington.com.
7:05 p.m. -- Tonight's game is underway with a ball from Paul Maholm to Nyjer Morgan.
7:15 p.m. -- To all those who don't believe in the concept of lineup protection, witness the top of the first. With Adam Dunn out of the lineup tonight, Maholm just walked Ryan Zimmerman with two outs so he could face Michael Morse instead. Result: Strikeout. Inning over without your best hitter getting a chance to swing the bat.
7:20 p.m. -- Really nice first inning for John Lannan. He retired the side, got two groundballs and struck out Neil Walker with an 89 mph fastball to end the inning. Scoreless through one.
7:39 p.m. -- Strange bottom of the second, but it doesn't result into any runs. First, Lannan struck out both Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez. So a guy who averages 3.7 strikeouts per nine innings struck out three straight Pirates batters. Probably best that Lannan did, because the next two batters grounded to short, and Ian Desmond booted both balls for his 30th and 31st errors of the season. Chris Snyder then smoked a line drive, but right at Danny Espinosa for the third out.
7:55 p.m. -- Two more strikeouts for Lannan in the third, giving him five for the night. If you're wondering (and I know you are) Lannan's career high is ... 11! He did it April 17, 2008 at the Mets ... in only six innings of work. The Nats went on to lose, 3-2 in 14 innings, and I'm embarrassed to admit I have zero recollection of that game. I'm pretty sure I was there at Shea Stadium for it. You'd think it would ring a bell, but amazingly it doesn't.
8:05 p.m. -- Want to know why the Pirates are on pace to lose 108 games this year? You just saw it on Ivan Rodriguez's two-run single off the right-field wall. First, Lastings Milledge butchered the play (to no one's surprise). Then, Chris Snyder dropped a routine relay throw to the plate, allowing Michael Morse to score and Pudge to advance to second. Horrible baseball right there, but the Nats will take it. They lead 2-0.
8:17 p.m. -- Make it 5-0 thanks to an RBI single by Danny Espinosa (who has now driven in a run on every one of his four big-league hits), a sac fly by Justin Maxwell and an excuse-me single to left by Nyjer Morgan.
9:13 p.m. -- It's the top of the seventh now, the Nats holding an 8-1 lead thanks to a rare display of power from Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge, who in the fourth inning drove a hit off the right-field wall, sent one over the fence altogether in the fifth, only his third homer of the season. Lannan, meanwhile, continues to cruise. Aside from a solo homer by Andrew McCutchen in the fifth, the lefty has been fantastic.
9:34 p.m. -- The Nats now lead 9-1 after a Michael Morse RBI single in the top of the eighth. Lannan is done after seven superb innings. His final line: 7 ip, 5 h, 1 er, 1 bb 7 k. If the Nats hold on to this big lead, his updated totals since returning from Class AA will be 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA and a strong 29-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
10:02 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win 9-2. Lannan improves to 7-6 overall, 5-1 since his return from the minors. Pudge's four RBI are his most in a game since June 15, 2007. Strong performance all around tonight.