Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ross Detwiler gets a chance to start today at Nationals Park.
When Adam Dunn got hit with a pitch right above his right elbow last night, he described the feeling as "the worst pain I've ever had in baseball." Dunn, though, expressed confidence he'd be back in the Nationals' lineup for today's series finale against the Astros.
Well, Dunn's not in today's lineup. Adam Kennedy will start at first base and bat second. Ian Desmond takes over the third spot, ahead of Ryan Zimmerman and Roger Bernadina. We'll find out what his status is and whether this is anything serious or just a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, Ross Detwiler makes his fourth start of the season and first since August 5, after which he was placed back on the DL with a recurrence of pain in his surgically repaired right hip. Detwiler returned healthy at the start of September, but his rotation spot was gone, so he's made three bullpen appearances in the interim, tossing six scoreless innings in the process. If the former first-round draft pick is going to thrust himself back into the mix for a starting job next spring, today might be his last chance to make a case.
Journeyman Nelson Figueroa starts for Houston. Why does his name sound familiar? Because he's the former Mets pitcher who in 2008 referred to Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge as "softball girls" after those two started up some encouraging chants from the dugout at Shea Stadium. I wonder if word will circulate to Figueroa that Livan Hernandez, Miguel Batista and Joel Peralta were taking hacks at neon yellow softballs with metal bats this afternoon.
Check back for updates throughout...
ASTROS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:35 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 89 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to CF
2B Danny Espinosa
1B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
RF Michael Morse
LF Roger Bernadina
C Wilson Ramos
CF Justin Maxwell
3B Alberto Gonzalez
P Ross Detwiler
CF Jason Bourgeois
2B Jeff Keppinger
RF Hunter Pence
1B Carlos Lee
LF Jason Michaels
3B Chris Johnson
SS Angel Sanchez
C Humberto Quintero
P Nelson Figueroa
3:40 p.m. -- Nats lineup change: Ryan Zimmerman has been scratched with a strained ribcage muscle. His status is day-to-day. So that leaves the Nats without both Zimmerman and Dunn, who is out today not because of the elbow but because of a lingering hamstring issue, according to Jim Riggleman.
4:37 p.m. -- Ross Detwiler starts off Jason Bourgeois with a strike, and this game is underway. Apologies in advance for the likely lack of as many game updates as usual while I work on the Kasten story.
4:45 p.m. -- Rough start for Detwiler, who allowed a leadoff single to Bourgeois, then a stolen base, then an RBI double to deep center to Jeff Keppinger. But he avoided further damage, so it's 1-0 Astros as we head to the bottom of the first.
5:01 p.m. -- Michael Morse clubs his 13th homer of the season, a solo shot to right, to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second.
5:11 p.m. -- Holy cow, what a play by Ian Desmond to snag Bourgeois' line drive in the hole and then fire back across his body to double up Figueroa at first base.
5:45 p.m. -- 2-1 Astros now in the fifth after they scored an unearned run. Desmond went way to his left to get to a Pence grounder, then tried to make a difficult backhand flip to Espinosa for the force out at second base. The throw, though, was high and pulled Espinosa off the bag, allowing the go-ahead run to score on what was charged as an error to Desmond.
6:00 p.m. -- The official scorer has changed the call on that play to an infield single. So no error on Desmond, but an added earned run for Detwiler, whose day is done. His final line: 6 ip, 7 h, 2 er, 2 bb, 0 k, 1 hbp. He threw 79 pitches, 45 strikes. All in all, pretty good for a guy who hadn't been stretched out in more than a month.
6:05 p.m. -- Michael Morse to the rescue again. Two-run, two-out double to left scores Espinosa and Desmond and gives the Nats a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Pressed into cleanup duties with both Zimmerman and Dunn sidelined, Morse has now driven in all three runs today.
6:08 p.m. -- Make it 5-2 after Roger Bernadina crushes a two-run, opposite-field homer into the visitors bullpen. Who needs Zim-Dunn-Willingham when you've got a 3-4-5 of Desmond-Morse-Bernadina? It should also be noted that Detwiler is now in line to earn only his second career win.
6:13 p.m. -- Your update from the first day of the Florida instructional league in Viera: Bryce Harper went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in his professional debut. On the bright side, Jesus Flores homered.
6:18 p.m. -- The Nats aren't even missing Zimmerman in the field. Alberto Gonzalez just made a Zim-esque play, diving far to his right to snag Carlos Lee's hot shot, then hopping to his feet and throwing a strike to first to end the top of the seventh with the 5-2 lead intact.
6:27 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 14,633, easily the largest crowd of the series. Still, this entire, four-game series drew 49,738. That's only about 4,000 more than the Phillies drew for last night's game alone.
6:29 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa goes deep again. Two-run shot to left off Gustavo Chacin. So the rookie now has six homers in 20 career games.
6:33 p.m. -- Show of hands: How many of you predicted that without Zimmerman or Dunn in the lineup, the Nats would score seven runs today? Liars.
6:35 p.m. -- So it's 7-2 heading to the eighth, and Drew Storen is on from the bullpen. Hmm, not exactly closer duties here.
6:42 p.m. -- 1-2-3 eighth for Storen. Nice bounce back from his previous two appearances.
6:56 p.m. -- We go to the ninth, and coming on to close this one (albeit with a five-run lead) is none other than ... Collin Balester.
7:06 p.m. -- So much for the Astros as the hottest team in baseball. The Nats just took three of four against them, capped by today's 7-2 victory. Detwiler gets his second career win in the process. And don't look now, but the Nats will be shooting for their first four-game winning streak of the season tomorrow against the Braves. At 65-88, they need to finish 5-4 to get to 70 wins.
7:45 p.m. -- Because of the Stan Kasten news (and an analysis piece I'm currently working on) I'm not doing a traditional postgame story tonight. But here's some of the best material gathered from the clubhouse following this victory...
On winning without Zimmerman or Dunn in lineup today: "You know, we've been on the other side of that sometimes. We've run into other clubs who didn't have a couple middle-of-the-order guys, and they beat us. It's very uplifting to the other club when that happens, I'm sure. And it's somewhat uplifting for us. I think today the story of the game was defense. We really played good defense. Every infielder was involved in a really good play."
On Detwiler allowing two runs over six innings in his first start since early August: "Physically, he was fine. He could have gone a couple more [innings]. But he's still building his arm strength. He's been shut down for a little while now and been in the bullpen. I think he was pitching today. He wasn't trying to blow the ball by anybody. He changed speeds good. He got groundballs when he needed to. And we made the plays for him."
On the Nats' infield defense: "With defense like that, it just takes so much pressure off me. I can go out there, induce contact and know that there's going to be an out made."
On having to pitch more than throw today: "I know I'm not throwing as hard right now as I will be in the future. I don't have everything in there, because I haven't had a full season. Really, moving the ball in and out was huge for me today. Ramos did such a great job with that today, throwing the changeup. I think that was my most important pitch today."
On winning without Zimmerman and Dunn: "Days like this, we take advantage. Let those guys rest. Those guys have played every day. They're our workhorses. Zim, I mean, he's like Cal Ripken out there. You can't get him out of the game. It was good to get them rest and get the win."
On adjusting to pitchers' adjustments since becoming everyday right fielder: "It's a totally different game when you're playing every day. You're getting a lot of at-bats. They're learning how to pitch to you. You can make little adjustments during the game. But at the same time, you don't want to change your approach and feed into what they're doing to you. I'm learning to deal with that right now."
On when and how he strained his ribcage muscle: "Playing 150-something games. I can't tell you one time or anything. [It's bothered me] for a few days. But it's to the point now where I'll give it a couple days of rest."
On teammates winning without him or Dunn: "That's what we expect. That's what they expect from themselves, I'm sure, too. We have a young team that has some very good players on it. I think today showed what kind of depth we have and what kind of team we can have moving forward."