Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann and Cole Hamels meet on Sunday Night Baseball.
The Nationals couldn't have asked for better timing to unveil their 18-9 club to a nationwide audience. Sure, they'd love to have Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche in the lineup. Then again, the current group has successfully put 40 men on base the last two days. Not wanting to tinker with perfection, Davey Johnson will go with the same lineup tonight, even though left-hander Cole Hamels is on the mound for Philadelphia.
Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, gets the start for the Nationals. Here's hoping the right-hander (often the forgotten man of this rotation) gets some well-deserved national attention.
Lots of updates to come, so please check back...
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WWXT (92.7 FM), WWXX (94.3 FM), WTEM (980 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), WNEW (1580 AM), XM 89
Weather: Partly cloudy, 69 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
SS Ian Desmond
3B Steve Lombardozzi
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Chad Tracy
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
SS Jimmy Rollins
LF Juan Pierre
CF Shane Victorino
RF Hunter Pence
1B Laynce Nix
C Carlos Ruiz
3B Placido Polanco
2B Pete Orr
LHP Cole Hamels
HP Andy Fletcher, 1B D.J. Reyburn, 2B Rob Drake, 3B Sam Holbrook
8:06 p.m. -- And we are underway with a ball from Jordan Zimmermann to Jimmy Rollins. This will be the least-attended game of the series, but they did sell more than 30,000 advance tickets, so it'll still be a strong crowd. They'll also top the 100,000 mark for the weekend, only the second time the Nationals have reached that threshold for a series in April or May in this ballpark.
8:10 p.m. -- And that's a six-pitch, five-strike top of the first from Zimmermann. Nice way to start this one off and let a national audience know what he's all about.
8:21 p.m. -- Hey world, meet Bryce Harper. What a way for the kid to introduce himself. After getting drilled in the back by Cole Hamels' first-pitch fastball -- on what certainly looked like a purpose pitch -- Harper went first-to-third on Jayson Werth's single to left. Then he stole home. Yes, stole home. As Hamels tossed a pickoff throw to first, Harper took off from third and slid in just underneath Carlos Ruiz's tag. The ballpark erupted. What a moment. I'll tell you what: If Harper can channel his emotions into aggressive play like that ... wow, this could get scary. Nats lead 1-0 after one.
8:34 p.m. -- Nothing happening in the second inning, but this place is still buzzing about Harper's hustle. He got a standing ovation from the left-field bleachers as he took his position for the top of the second.
8:43 p.m. -- There's your retaliation. Zimmermann plunks Hamels in the leg as the opposing pitcher squares to bunt. Plate umpire Andy Fletcher warned both dugouts. Tell you what, that was a gutsy move on Zimmermann's part, putting two on with one out in a 1-0 game. But credit to the right-hander, who calmly pitched his way out of the jam by retiring Rollins and Pierre on groundballs. Guess what, folks: This thing just became a legitimate rivalry.
8:50 p.m. -- And Harper wins Round 2 vs. Hamels, lacing a base hit to left and then taking a huuuuuge turn around first base. Werth did strike out to end the inning, but still Harper is in control tonight. 1-0 as we go to the fourth.
9:06 p.m. -- Uh-oh, things kind of falling apart for Zimmermann in the fourth. He served up a towering, two-run homer to Hunter Pence, one that landed way up in the Red Porch. Pence hit that ball with some serious purpose, almost like he had a chip on his shoulder or something. ... Meanwhile, the Phillies picked up three more hits in the inning, getting singles from Laynce Nix, Placido Polanco (scoring Nix) and even Hamels, who had to take some satisfaction out of that. All of a sudden, the Phillies lead 3-1.
9:19 p.m. -- Zimmermann really needed that. Though he walked Pierre to open the fifth, he immediately got Victorino to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, then got Pence to ground out. On the other hand, Hamels has really been in control for a while now. He's retired 10 of 12 batters since Harper stole home. Still 3-1 as we go to the bottom of the fifth.
9:23 p.m. -- FYI: Harper was the first teenager to steal home in a major-league game since the Angels' Ed Kirkpatrick on May 5, 1964 (according to the Elias Sports Bureau).
9:26 p.m. -- Needing a spark from someone, Desmond delivered a two-out triple to deep left-center. That got the crowd going, even prompting a true, spontaneous "Let's Go Nats!" chant. And Lombardozzi almost brought the house did with his first career homer. Unfortunately, it landed a bit foul down the left-field line. And then he grounded out weakly to the pitcher. So it remains 3-1 through five.
9:35 p.m. -- Oh dear. Werth is seriously hurt after trying to make a sliding catch of a sinking line drive to right. His left wrist got seriously twisted on that play, and he could barely retrieve the ball to throw it back to the infield. He walked off under his own power but was holding the wrist very carefully. Xavier Nady takes over in right. I suppose the good news is that Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are both expected back on Tuesday. But you've got to assume the Nats will continue to be short-handed for some time with both Michael Morse (and now Werth sidelined).
9:45 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 33,058. The total for the series was 106,931.
9:59 p.m. -- Craig Stammen has been coming up huge all season, and he just outdid himself. Handed a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the seventh, he escaped. Assists to Harper and Ankiel, who made nice catches and kept Hamels from tagging at third. But then Stammen struck out Nix to end the inning and give the Nats hope. Still 3-1 at the stretch.
10:04 p.m. -- A 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh as Hamels continues to cruise. The Nats are down to their last six outs.
10:19 p.m. -- Harper did his part in the eighth, turning a two-out, little looper to left into a double. What hustle. But new right fielder Xavier Nady (hitting .121) grounded out to end the inning. Still 3-1 as we go to the ninth.
10:44 p.m. -- The Phillies add one ... no, two ... no, four ... no, six big insurance runs in the top of the ninth, in part because Ryan Perry and Wilson Ramos couldn't hold Jimmy Rollins on first base. Despite several pickoff attemps, Rollins timed his stolen base attempt perfectly and swiped second without a throw. That allowed him to score on Juan Pierre's single. And moments later, Pierre also scored on Shane Victorino's triple down the right-field line. Then Hunter Pence delivered the kill shot: a two-run homer to left. And then Freddy Galvis added a two-run single, just for good measure. It's 9-1 and anybody still inside this park probably has spent a good portion of their life in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
11:01 p.m. -- Mercifully, this one is over. Final: 9-3 after the Nats got two runs in the bottom of the ninth. A bad night in NatsTown, to say the least. But perhaps this will cheer everyone up: When you wake up tomorrow morning, the Nationals will still be in first place. And the Phillies will still be in last place.