Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Marquis looks to continue his upswing today at PNC Park.
How bad have these two right-handers been? Well, consider that Marquis has been golden compared to Morton, who according to STATS, Inc. is only the third major-league starter ever to carry a 10.00-plus ERA into September. The others: the Pirates' Steve Blass (10.40 ERA in 1973) and ... the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay (10.63 ERA in 2000). Blass' career ended soon after that disastrous season. Halladay's career, of course, took off.
Wilson Ramos gets his second start behind the plate for the Nationals today. Danny Espinosa, however, takes a seat after a couple of impressive performances the last two nights. Adam Dunn returns to the lineup after sitting out last night's game with a sore hamstring.
Check back for updates throughout the afternoon...
NATIONALS at PIRATES
Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m.
TV: Ch. 50, MASN2
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 68 degrees, Wind 10 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Roger Bernadina
RF Michael Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
C Wilson Ramos
P Jason Marquis
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Jose Tabata
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
3B Pedro Alvarez
RF Ryan Doumit
SS Ronny Cedeno
C Chris Snyder
P Charlie Morton
1:46 p.m. -- We are underway, albeit a few minutes late because of a ceremony here for Bill Mazeroski that ran over. The Pirates unveiled a statue of "Maz" today, one depicting his joyous romp around the bases after hitting the home run that won Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. They love their sports heroes in this town, and Mazeroski ranks right up there with Clemente, Bradshaw, Harris and Lemieux for many fans. Nice, touching ceremony from the Pirates.
1:52 p.m. -- And the Nats immediately take a 1-0 lead, thanks in large part to a great opening at-bat from Nyjer Morgan. After working the count full against Morton, Nyjer fouled off two pitches before finally singling through the left side of the infield on Morton's eighth pitch. He then took second base on an errant pickoff throw, took third on Ian Desmond's sac bunt and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's groundout to short. Jason Marquis now takes the mound owning a 1-0 lead.
2:01 p.m. -- Kind of a strange first inning for Marquis. He fired a fastball high and tight to Jose Tabata, hitting the Pirates No. 2 hitter squarely in the left hand. Tabata fell like a brick and remained on the ground for a couple of minutes before finally shaking it off and trotting down to first. But no harm done, because Michael Morse caught Neil Walker's sinking liner on the run and then fired back to first to double up Tabata and end the inning.
2:20 p.m. -- Couple more baserunners for the Pirates in the second via a single and an error on Marquis (he booted a comebacker from Ronny Cedeno). But the right-hander battled out of it and got Chris Snyder to line out to left to end the inning. Nats still lead 1-0 as we go to the third.
2:28 p.m. -- Nyjer giveth and Nyjer taketh. He just overslid second base on a steal attempt and was tagged out. Sure enough, Ian Desmond follows with a double that would have scored Morgan from either first or second. Instead, it's wasted.
2:37 p.m. -- Three scoreless for Marquis, though he's allowed three hits, has hit a batter and has committed an error. Somehow has managed to get outs when he's needed them. Nats still lead 1-0 after three.
3:29 p.m. -- We're now in the bottom of the fifth, and the Nats have taken a commanding 6-1 lead thanks to a five-run fourth that featured Adam Dunn's 34th homer of the season (and nearly his 35th). Dunn led off the inning and crushed a pitch from Morton (who has since departed) to left for a solo blast. He came back up to bat as the 10th man of the inning and sent a long fly ball to the warning track in center that was finally caught by Andrew McCutchen. No matter, the Nats already had plenty of offense at that point. The Pirates got one run back on Pedro Alvarez's solo homer, but otherwise Marquis has been solid.
3:45 p.m. -- As bad as the Nationals were in 2008 and 2009, I think this current Pirates team is significantly worse. This is just a wretched ballclub. They've now committed three errors in six innings (could be four, but Garrett Jones was spared by the official scorer after booting a sharp grounder. Their pitching staff is a joke. They've got some really nice young players in Alvarez, McCutchen, Walker and Tabata, but there's little else going on outside of those four. Just pathetic. Nats lead 8-1 in the bottom of the sixth.
3:57 p.m. -- That'll do it for Marquis, who churned out six more strong innings today, allowing just the one run on Alvarez's fourth-inning homer. Pretty dramatic turnaround for Marquis. In his first five starts this year, he posted a 14.33 ERA. Over his last four starts, his ERA is 2.25.
4:15 p.m. -- Speaking of guys playing well, Ian Desmond has just been on a tear at the plate for a prolonged stretch now. Over his last 37 games, Desmond is hitting .386 with a .410 on-base percentage, .553 slugging percentage and .963 OPS. Over that time, his season batting average has risen from .247 to .289. Earlier today, Jim Riggleman was saying Desmond deserves consideration for NL Rookie of the Year. There's obviously a really deep and talented pool of candidates this season, from Buster Posey to Jason Heyward to Jaime Garcia to Gaby Sanchez. Can't imagine Desmond's going to top those guys, but he certainly deserves some second-tier votes.
4:45 p.m. -- Ballgame over. Nats win 8-1. Marquis gets the win, improves to 2-7. Morton takes the loss, falls to 1-11. This is the Nats' 59th win of the season, matching their total from both 2008 and 2009. Should be safe to say they'll win at least one of their final 25 games and get to at least 60.