Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals look to break a three-game losing streak today against the Marlins.
The other backdrop to today's game, of course, is the fact it's being played on September 11. Driving past the Pentagon on my way to the ballpark this morning, I immediately had flashbacks to that horrible day nine years ago. Once I walked into the park, though, I started thinking about the first ballgame I covered after 9/11.
It was one week later when Bud Selig decided it was appropriate to resume play. I covered the Orioles at the time, and since they were playing in Toronto, my editor at The Washington Times felt it made more sense to cover a game being played in an American city. So I drove up to Philadelphia for the Phillies and Braves at Veterans Stadium. I've been grateful ever since for the opportunity to do that.
Tensions were high that night. Nobody knew what might transpire. Security was high. No one knew what the appropriate response to baseball would be. But then they sang the national anthem and fans started waving American flags. And over the next three hours, something magical happened: They played a ballgame and everything seemed right with the world. Fans cheered when the Phillies scored. They booed when Chipper Jones homered. Spontaneous chants of "USA! USA!" rang out at various points of the night.
Over the next few weeks and months, life returned to a sense of normalcy for everyone, but I truly believe baseball was one of the most important first steps toward regaining that sense. I'm not sure any other sport or act of entertainment could have had the same impact and brought people together quite the same way baseball did.
Nine years later, baseball remains a unifier for both the people of this and other nations, for people of different backgrounds, races, religions and cultures. So on this anniversary of one of the worst days in American history, let's take time not only to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 but also to celebrate this grand old game that helped so many recover and continues to bring us together for a common purpose.
Enjoy today's game. I'll have updates throughout...
MARLINS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 76 degrees, Wind 4 mph in from RF
2B Danny Espinosa
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Roger Bernadina
RF Michael Morse
CF Nyjer Morgan
C Wilson Ramos
P Jason Marquis
3B Emilio Bonifacio
LF Logan Morrison
SS Hanley Ramirez
2B Dan Uggla
1B Chad Tracy
RF Mike Stanton
CF Cameron Maybin
C Brad Davis
P Anibal Sanchez
1:08 p.m. -- And we are underway with a ball from Jason Marquis to Emilio Bonifacio. Just a spectacular Saturday afternoon here, 73 degrees at first pitch.
1:15 p.m. -- Jason Marquis is not a strikeout pitcher. He's a groundball pitcher. Well, except for the top of the first just now, when he took matters into his own hands. After Adam Dunn literally booted a ball -- he kicked Logan Morrison's grounder for an error -- Marquis proceeded to strike out both Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla on what appeared to be sliders. Nice job there by the veteran right-hander.
1:30 p.m. -- Uh, Jason Marquis has struck out four of the last five batters he's faced. Who does this guy think he is, Stephen Strasburg?
1:42 p.m. -- Three innings in, and the double no-hitter is intact. Only man to reach base for either team is Morrison, who reached on Dunn's first-inning error. Sanchez has retired all nine Nats faced.
1:52 p.m. -- Another 1-2-3 inning for Marquis. Two groundouts and a popout in the top of the fourth.
1:57 p.m. -- Make it 12 up, 12 down for Anibal Sanchez. We're through the fourth, with zero hits on the scoreboard for either team.
2:50 p.m. -- Just got back up to the press box after a few innings in the stands. So what'd we miss? Well, the Marlins scored two in the fifth on a bases-loaded single by Emilio Bonifacio. Jason Marquis was one strike away from pitching out of the bases-loaded, no-out jam. The Nats finally got a hit off Anibal Sanchez, a double by Michael Morse in the fifth. But that remains the only baserunner they've had all day. Meanwhile, a couple of spectacular plays in the field. Danny Espinosa dove way to his right to snag a Logan Morrison grounder, then hopped up to gun him down. Later, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Ian Desmond combined on a spectacular 5-3-6 double play that I'm going to have a hard time doing justice in print. Do yourself a favor and watch the replay of it later if you haven't seen it yet. Maybe the play of the year. So we're in the seventh, Marlins leading 2-0.
3:05 p.m. -- A Bonifacio double and a Morrison single has made it 3-0 in the eighth and brought Collin Balester out of the bullpen to face Hanley Ramirez. The Nats, meanwhile, are six outs from being shut out by the Marlins for the fifth time this season. Not good.
3:14 p.m. -- Here's another one that words can't do justice: In the course of one at-bat, Balester threw a pitch to the backstop, spun around and fell down trying to fake a pickoff throw to second, then struck out Hanley Ramirez. You can't make this stuff up.
3:30 p.m. -- And the Nats are finally on the board. Nyjer Morgan beat out an infield single, took second on an errant pickoff throw, then scored on Wilson Ramos' double to deep center. That cuts the lead to 3-1, knocks Sanchez out of the game and brings on Jose Veras to face Willie Harris with two outs in the eighth.
3:33 p.m. -- So much for that rally. Harris grounds out to first to end the top of the eighth. So the Nats are down to their final three outs, trailing 3-1 and in danger of losing their fourth straight.
3:40 p.m. -- Dunn's second error of the day makes it 4-1.
3:50 p.m. -- Last shot for the Nats. It'll be Espinosa, Desmond and Zimmerman against Clay Hensley, down three runs.
4:00 p.m. -- Well, they brought the tying run to the plate, but Dunn struck out and Bernadina grounded out to first. So the Marlins win 4-1 and improve to 12-5 against the Nats this year. The good news: Tomorrow is the season finale between these two teams. Can't come soon enough for the Nationals.