Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals go for their first-ever NL East title tonight at Busch Stadium.
Exactly eight years later, a group of Washington Nationals wearing the same logo on their caps could have the opportunity to dog-pile in the middle of the diamond at Busch Stadium, celebrating their first-ever NL East crown and the first title of any kind for a D.C. baseball team since the 1933 Senators clinched tRHPhe AL pennant.
Two things must happen for that scene to play out: 1) The Nationals must defeat a hot Cardinals team that could be within one day of clinching its own postseason berth, and 2) The Braves must lose for the second consecutive night to the Mets. Both games will be taking place simultaneously, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching from the Nats dugout.
The man on the mound trying to win this potential milestone game will be Jordan Zimmermann, a major piece of the organization's long-term building plan and certainly an appropriate pitcher to take the ball tonight. His teammates face a stiff challenge in Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.77 ERA), though the Nationals did rough up the right-hander for eight runs four weeks ago in D.C.
Buckle up, folks. This could be a night to remember. I'll have all the updates right here, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Where: Busch Stadium
Gametime: 7:15 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 89
Weather: Clear, 67 degrees, Wind 4 mph LF to RF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
CF Jon Jay
3B Matt Carpenter
LF Matt Holliday
1B Allen Craig
C Yadier Molina
RF Carlos Beltran
2B Skip Schumaker
SS Pete Kozma
RHP Kyle Lohse
HP Cory Blaser
1B Chris Guccione
2B Jeff Nelson (cc)
3B Bill Welke
7:16 p.m. -- We are underway on a gorgeous night in St. Louis. 63 degrees as Kyle Lohse delivers his first pitch to Jayson Werth.
7:35 p.m. -- Wow, what a top of the first. The short version: Michael Morse hit a grand slam to give the Nationals a 4-0 lead. The longer version: Morse's blast to right field was initially ruled a live ball off the top of the wall, and for the second time in two months Adam LaRoche and Co. got caught asleep on the bases. Davey Johnson came out to argue, though, and asked the umps to review the play, which they did. It quickly became obvious the ball cleared the fence and hit an advertisement behind the actual wall, so Morse was awarded the grand slam. Except the umpires made everybody return to their initial place on the bases and run around them to make sure they did everything in the proper sequence. Thus, Morse got to live out every kid's fantasy: He stood at home plate in a big-league ballpark, took a fake swing and then ran around the bases celebrating a grand slam. Unreal.
7:38 p.m. -- The only bad news: The Braves scored in the bottom of the first, so they already lead 1-0.
7:42 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann responds with a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the first. Nice play by Ian Desmond on a sharp grounder up the middle.
8:00 p.m. -- Two scoreless innings now for Zimmermann, who looks sharp early. He did give up a one-out single to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the second, but no harm, no foul. This place is still buzzing about the bizarre Morse grand slam, everyone trying to figure out why exactly they made everybody re-run the bases. Still 4-0 Nats after two.
8:17 p.m. -- Things have calmed down considerably here, with Lohse settling into a groove and Zimmermann continuing to pitch well. The Braves still lead the Mets 1-0, now in the fourth.
8:35 p.m. -- Make it 2-0 Atlanta in the bottom of the fifth. Doesn't sound like the Mets have done much of anything at the plate against Mike Minor.
8:38 p.m. -- First real test of the night for Zimmermann, who had two on with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth. He responded by getting Molina to line out to third (with Zimmerman making a nice diving stab), getting Beltran to ground out to first and by striking out Schumaker. Still 4-0 after four.
8:57 p.m. -- Five scoreless innings for Zimmermann now. He's thrown 82 pitches, scattering four singles and a walk. He's really been quite sharp from the get-go. Still 4-0 as we move to the sixth.
9:11 p.m. -- Make it six scoreless for Zimmermann, who retired the side in the bottom of the sixth with ease. He's at 93 pitches (63 strikes) so we'll see if he's allowed back out for the seventh. The Braves, meanwhile, got out of a jam in the seventh, so they still lead the Mets 2-0 and are six outs away from preventing the Nats from clinching tonight.
9:22 p.m. -- A couple more baserunners for the Nats in the seventh, but still no runs since the Morse slam. So it's time to stretch in St. Louis, with Zimmermann back on the mound and the Nats still leading 4-0.
9:44 p.m. -- Keep the champagne on ice, folks. The Braves won 2-0. So the Nats can't clinch tonight.
9:47 p.m. -- On the bright side, the Nats still lead here. Barely. Zimmermann finally succumbed in the seventh, putting four straight men on base before Davey finally brought out the hook. Sean Burnett entered to face Jon Jay and surrendered a seeing-eye, RBI single, and suddenly this was a 4-3 game. Burnett clamped down, though, and got Matt Carpenter to fly out. Ryan Mattheus then entered and got Matt Holliday to fly out, ending a tense inning with the Nats clinging to a 4-3 lead as they move to the eighth.
9:54 p.m. -- The Nats still haven't scored since the first. Onto the eighth of a one-run game, and here's Tyler Clippard.
10:05 p.m. -- Wow, a big-time scoop by Desmond of Beltran's hot smash to short, starting a 6-4-3 double play to end the eighth and give Clippard reason to pump his fist. The Nats still lead 4-3 as Drew Storen warms for the ninth.
10:13 p.m. -- Here we go: Bottom of the ninth, still 4-3, Storen coming in.
10:24 p.m. -- Hold the phone. The Cardinals storm back to tie it in the bottom of the ninth on a pair of singles and a sac fly. We're going extra innings tonight.
10:42 p.m. -- Kurt Suzuki to the rescue! After Mike Matheny intentionally walked Danny Espinosa with two outs to leave two men on in the top of the 10th -- has he been watching the Nats lately? -- Suzuki responded by scorching a double off the wall in left-center. Just like that, the Nats are back up 6-4, and now Craig Stammen will enter with a chance for a save.
10:53 p.m. -- There's your ballgame. Nats win 6-4 in 10 as Stammen gets the save after Suzuki got the big hit. The magic number is down to 1. They'll go for the clinch tomorrow afternoon.