Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Behind Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals try to make it two in a row at Fenway Park.
But, as is always the case in baseball, there's another game to be played today, and you can't rest on your laurels for long. So the spotlight now turns to Gio Gonzalez and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the former looking to bounce back from a sub-par outing against the Braves and the latter making his season debut after missing 12 months following Tommy John surgery.
With the right-handed Dice-K on the mound, Davey Johnson brings back his regular lineup, with one slight twist. Michael Morse will remain as DH, so Rick Ankiel makes his first start in center field since May 29.
Plenty of updates and analysis to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at BOSTON RED SOX
Where: Fenway Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv, MLB Network (outside D.C. area)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 177
Weather: Partly cloudy, 75 degrees, Wind 7 mph LF to RF
LF Steve Lombardozzi
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
DH Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
(LHP Gio Gonzalez)
RED SOX (29-29)
LF Daniel Nava
2B Dustin Pedroia
RF Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
1B Kevin Youkilis
3B Will Middlebrooks
SS Mike Aviles
CF Darnell McDonald
C Kelly Shoppach
(RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka)
HP Dana DeMuth (cc), 1B Al Porter, 2B Paul Nauert, 3B Doug Eddings
4:07 p.m. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka starts off Steve Lombardozzi with a fastball for a strike, and we are underway on a gorgeous, 78-degree afternoon in Boston.
4:14 p.m. -- Dice-K didn't appear to have any trouble with the top of the Nationals' lineup. He struck out both Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman and got Bryce Harper to hit a weak popup to shallow left field. Needed only 12 pitches during a 1-2-3 top of the first. Gio Gonzalez now taking the mound for the Nats.
4:20 p.m. -- And Gio matches Dice-K with his own 12-pitch first inning. Got Dustin Pedroia flailing at a beautiful curveball for his first strikeout of the day. Also got Daniel Nava to fly out to center and Adrian Gonzalez to ground out to short. It's scoreless through one.
4:27 p.m. -- Adam LaRoche crushes Matsuzaka's first-pitch fastball in the top of the second into the home bullpen for his team-leading 10th homer of the season. At least, I believe it was a first-pitch fastball. Could've been the famed gyroball, though I doubt Dice-K would start off LaRoche with that, knowing his reputation as a good first-pitch gyroball hitter. ... Nats lead 1-0.
4:36 p.m. -- The Nats dodged a bullet in the bottom of the second ... though Jesus Flores wasn't able to dodge the bullet fired right at him. David Ortiz led off with a double into the left-field corner, a tough play for a novice outfielder like Lombardozzi, especially in his first-ever appearance at Fenway. Now with a runner on second, Gio and Flores got their signs screwed up, with Flores expecting a fastball and Gio throwing a curveball. The end result: Flores took a direct hit in his groin/upper thigh and went down in a heap for a few moments. He's OK, but Nats catchers just continue to take a pounding behind the plate. Gio, meanwhile, managed to get out of the jam, thanks to a nifty play from Zim at third base and a routine flyball to right. Still 1-0 Nats after two.
4:54 p.m. -- You know what we don't really talk about much anymore: Ian Desmond's defense. That's actually a good sign, because it means he's not making mistakes out there. But it needs to be noted just how good Desmond has been at shortstop this season. His play just now to end the bottom of the third -- charging in and making a quick throw to get Nava -- was incredibly smooth. And the kind of play he wouldn't have made look so smooth in the past. Desmond's defensive transformation over the last two seasons has been nothing short of remarkable. Still 1-0 after three.
5:10 p.m. -- Plenty to talk about in the top of the fourth. Let's start with Harper, who after drawing a leadoff walk advanced to third on Zimmerman's single to left. Then the kid started dancing off third base and appeared to completely consume Dice-K, who kept stepping off the mound and faking pickoff throws. Moments later, Michael Morse went out and poked a low-and-outside fastball into right field for an RBI double. That's Morse's sixth hit since coming off the DL, and five of them have been hit to right field. Desmond then did the same thing, poking a two-run single to right for his 29th and 30th RBI of the year. Just like that, the Nats have taken a 4-0 lead as the Fenway natives again get restless.
5:25 p.m. -- Gio has quietly been dealing today. Through four innings, he's allowed one hit (that Ortiz bloop double to left) without issuing a walk. He's struck out three, all on curveballs. And his pitch is a scant 46.
5:40 p.m. -- Gonzalez finally had to labor some to get through the fifth, though he wasn't helped by a rare LaRoche error at first base. His pitch count is up to 72, but he's still allowed only one hit and he's now got five strikeouts. And what do you know: Strasburg and Gonzalez are once again 1-2 in the majors in strikeouts. Still 4-0 as we head to the sixth, with Frankly Morales in to replace Dice-K.
6:02 p.m. -- Not much happening at the plate for the Nats since the big fourth inning. They've done very little against Morales. Fortunately, Gio continues to keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard, so it remains 4-0 at the seventh-inning stretch.
6:25 p.m. -- The wheels began to fall off in the bottom of the seventh. Gio issued a one-out walk and then a single, prompting Davey to emerge from the dugout and pull his starter after 98 pitches. In came Craig Stammen to face Ryan Sweeney with runners on the corners ... and proceeded to walk him to load the bases. With switch-hitter Jarrod Saltamacchia now pinch-hitting, Davey elected not to keep Stammen (one of his best relievers all season) on the mound and instead went with the just-recalled Michael Gonzalez. Curious move, and Saltamacchia pounced on Gonzalez's first pitch and poked a two-run single off the Monster. Gonzalez remained in the game and did manage to get out of the jam without inflicting any more damage, though. He struck out Nava looking at a nice fastball at the knees, then got Pedroia to foul out. So it's 4-2 as we head to the eighth, with a lot of baseball yet to be played.
6:32 p.m. -- The Nats have had no answer for Franklyn Morales. The lefty has come in and effectively silenced their lineup over three perfect innings. This game is turning quite tense as the Nats try to hang on for dear life, up 4-2 heading to the bottom of the eighth and Sean Burnett now in.
6:39 p.m. -- A 1-2-3 eighth for Burnett, which was much-needed by the Nats. Now they'll carry at least a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, with Tyler Clippard starting to get loose in the pen.
6:49 p.m. -- And here we go ... It'll be Clippard vs. Middlebrooks, Aviles and Sweeney in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats still leading 4-2.
7:00 p.m. -- That's it. It's all over. Clippard gets his seventh save as the Nats beat the Red Sox 4-2. Their record in 20 series this year is now 13-3-4. They've also incredibly won nine games this season when producing five or fewer hits.