Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats go for the sweep and a six-game winning streak tonight.
Can the resurgent lineup keep it up after scoring 18 combined runs the last two nights? Jim Riggleman isn't tinkering with much these days; he's using the same starting nine as last night except for Wilson Ramos behind the plate and John Lannan on the mound.
Speaking of Lannan, he's been on the best roll of his career, having allowed only two total earned runs over his last four starts. He'll be seeking to get his record (4-5) back to .500 with a win tonight.
Updates to come...
CARDINALS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 186
Weather: Thunderstorms, 75 degrees, Wind out to LF
STARTING LINEUPS5:40 p.m. -- Here's the first of what could be several weather updates tonight: It's pouring right now, and the tarp is on the field. The Nats managed to get most of their BP in, the Cards are taking theirs underground. Looking at the forecast, it appears things will clear up some before scheduled first pitch but then pick up again later in the evening, perhaps around 9 p.m.
RF Jayson Werth
CF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Laynce Nix
1B Michael Morse
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
P John Lannan
SS Ian Desmond
SS Tyler Greene
CF Colby Rasmus
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Holliday
RF Lance Berkman
C Yadier Molina
2B Skip Schumaker
3B Daniel Descalso
P Kyle Lohse
6:29 p.m. -- The rain has stopped and the tarp is being rolled up. Looks like we'll be fine to get the game started on time.
7:06 p.m. -- And we're off. John Lannan greets Tyler Greene with a low fastball for ball one. No precipitation at the moment. We'll see how long that lasts.
7:18 p.m. -- Who's got the most productive lineup in baseball? Yes, the Nationals. Jayson Werth leads off the bottom of the first with a bomb into the Red Porch, then Roger Bernadina follows with his own solo shot to right. Now, wait til you hear this: Going back to the seventh inning last night, five of the Nats' last 11 batters have homered! That's insane. 2-0 after one.
7:22 p.m. -- Hmm, it would appear the ball is carrying quite well tonight, because Matt Holliday (in his first at-bat off the DL) hammered a pitch from Lannan to the last row of the left-field bleachers. It's 2-1 in the top of the second, and there's still a long way to go in this one.
7:39 p.m. -- Things have calmed down considerably for both pitchers. Lohse retired the side in the second, not letting a ball leave the infield. Lannan, meanwhile, has retired four straight. The only hit he's given up so far was Holliday's bomb. Still 2-1 as we go to the bottom of the third.
7:45 p.m. -- By the way, if you're wondering the last time the Nationals/Expos' first two batters of the game homered ... it was June 16, 2002, courtesy Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro.
7:55 p.m. -- The Cardinals have tied it up 2-2 in the fourth, and for that give credit to Albert Pujols, who drew a leadoff walk but more importantly made a heady move on the basepaths. Standing off second base as Lance Berkman tapped a grounder to short, Pujols purposely slowed down and got in the way of Ian Desmond. The ball never touched him, and he never touched Desmond, so there was no interference. But that little delay prevented Desmond from having any chance of turning a double play. That allowed Pujols to score moments later on Yadier Molina's groundout. It's a small thing, but actually a big thing, and one of the many reasons this guy is the best PLAYER in the game, not just the best hitter.
8:15 p.m. -- Michael Morse continues to be in "Beast Mode." (If you've seen his postgame interviews on MASN the last two nights, you'll know what I'm talking about.) Crushed an opposite-field double off the out-of-town-scoreboard, coming just short of another home run. Of course, that double will probably cause his slugging percentage to drop, but oh well. More importantly, Espinosa followed with a single to right, and Bo Porter astutely sent Morse around third to test Berkman's arm. Bad throw allows Morse to score and Espinosa to take second. Nats re-take a 3-2 lead after four.
8:35 p.m. -- Few pitchers have taken advantage of the double play this season more than John Lannan. In fact, after getting Tyler Greene and Matt Holliday to ground into twin killings each of the last two innings, Lannan has now induced 12 double plays this season. That's second-most in the NL, behind only Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton (13). Still 3-2 in the middle of the sixth.
8:37 p.m. -- And just as the rain begins to fall in buckets, Laynce Nix crushes one to right for his 10th homer of the season. Nats take a 4-2 lead. And this game is now official, by the way.
8:55 p.m. -- Boy, is Lannan on top of his game right now, or what? Even when he gets himself in a bit of trouble -- as he did in the seventh putting two on with one out -- he very calmly pitches his way out of it via the groundball. Got Anthony Brown to ground to short, then Jon Jay to ground to second to end the inning. Lannan's at 86 pitches, 56 strikes. Nats still lead 4-2.
9:07 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard on to pitch the eighth, ending Lannan's night. But what a night it was for John: seven innings of two-run, six-hit ball. Over his last five starts, his ERA is a minuscule 1.08.
9:16 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Albert Pujols turns on a 93-mph fastball from Clippard and puts it into the bullpen. It's 4-3 all of a sudden, and then Clippard walks Holliday. But then Clippard gets back on track and blows Berkman away with a 93 mph heater. So the lead is preserved, ever so slim, as we head to the bottom of the eighth.
9:24 p.m. -- OK, we go to the ninth. Drew Storen to face Molina, Schumaker, a pinch-hitter and possibly Jon Jay. Pujols due up seventh.
9:27 p.m. -- So much for that. Yadier Molina crushes Storen's 1-0 fastball to left-center to tie the game 4-4. That's only Storen's second blown save in 18 tries this season. Not the best time for this one to happen.
9:30 p.m. -- And there goes the error-less streak. Espinosa throws wide to first on a slow roller, ending the streak at 13 games. That was only three shy of the NL record (1992 Cardinals) and five shy of the MLB record (2009 Yankees).
9:45 p.m. -- We're going extras after the Nats fail to win it in the bottom of the ninth. So it'll be Sean Burnett to face Colby Rasmus to begin the 10th. Looming in the on-deck circle is Pujols. Todd Coffey is warming, so Riggleman could go with the big guy. Or he could just walk Pujols.
9:55 p.m. -- Wow, not only did Riggleman let Burnett pitch to Pujols, the lefty came through big-time. Got Pujols to hit a weak flyball to right, then got Berkman looking at a pitch that certainly appeared to be outside (though not to plate umpire C.B. Bucknor). We go to the bottom of the 10th, and leading off will be Mr. Walk-Off himself, Ryan Zimmerman.
10:07 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa is your hero: 3-run bomb to right in the bottom of the 10th. That caps a brilliant series for the rookie: 8-for-14 with two homers. Nats win 7-4 in 10 and extend the winning streak to six.