Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nationals Park hosts the potential NL East clincher tonight.
Officially, the Nationals have four shots to win one home game: three against the Phillies, then (in a worst-case scenario) a tiebreaker game Thursday against the Braves. Needless to say, they would really prefer to finish this thing tonight and not subject themselves to anymore torture.
John Lannan is on the mound, hoping to duplicate his solid start in Philadelphia last week. He'llLannan be up against a Phillies lineup without Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins. And his teammates will go up against Kyle Kendrick (who they knocked out in the third inning last week at Citizens Bank Park).
If you've got tickets to the game, hope you enjoy the experience. If you're watching at home, be sure to check back here for updates and analysis throughout...
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Cloudy, 64 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to LF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP John Lannan
3B Kevin Frandsen
CF John Mayberry
2B Chase Utley
C Carlos Ruiz
1B Ty Wigginton
RF Domonic Brown
LF Darin Ruf
SS Michael Martinez
RHP Kyle Kendrick
HP Gerry Davis (cc)
1B Manny Gonzalez
2B Greg Gibson
3B Phil Cuzzi
7:05 p.m. -- Meaningful October baseball in Washington is underway. John Lannan, who got the biggest ovation of anyone in pregame intros, fires a strike to Kevin Frandsen to get this one started. Fans still streaming into the park. It won't be a sellout, but it's going to be a good-sized crowd.
7:11 p.m. -- A solid first inning for Lannan. He gave up a leadoff single to Frandsen but immediately erased him with a 1-6-3 double play. Chase Utley then flew out to left to end a 12-pitch inning and bring the Nats to the plate.
7:20 p.m. -- A 1-2-3 inning for Kyle Kendrick, who got Jayson Werth to ground out, Bryce Harper to pop out and Ryan Zimmerman to ground out.
7:29 p.m. -- Uh-oh, that didn't look good. Darin Ruf's two-run triple into the deepest corner of left-center was bad enough, but potentially worse was Harper slamming into the fence trying to make the catch. He hunched over for a few moments and looked shaken up, but he remained in the game. Lannan, meanwhile, managed to strand Ruf at third with one out, but the Nats now trail 2-0 as we move to the bottom of the second.
7:44 p.m. -- The Nats gave themselves a chance in the bottom of the second, putting runners on second and third with two outs. But they were victimized by their spot in the lineup. With Kurt Suzuki at the plate, Carlos Ruiz held up four fingers and intentionally walked his counterpart to load the bases for Lannan, who grounded into a fielder's choice on the first pitch. So it's still 2-0 as we go to the third.
7:59 p.m. -- Another double-play grounder induced by Lannan off Mayberry's bat in the top of the third, but his teammates haven't been able to do anything yet against Kendrick, who retired the side in the bottom of the inning. Meanwhile, the Braves just took a 1-0 lead on the Pirates in the top of the third.
8:11 p.m. -- Well, the Phillies have had Lannan on the ropes tonight and had him close to a knockout punch in the top of the fourth when they loaded the bases with one out. But then the lefty got Michael Martinez to rap a sharp grounder to first, and LaRoche took care of everything else. He stepped on the bag, then fired home to complete a sweet 3-2 double play and keep this a 2-0 game in the middle of the fourth. Even better news: The Pirates have tied it up at PNC Park. Now 1-1 in the fourth.
8:19 p.m. -- No, Lannan hasn't been sharp so far. But it wouldn't matter if he was perfect, because the Nats' lineup has done nothing against Kendrick. Only two of the 15 batters they've sent to the plate have gotten the ball out of the infield. He's retired the last seven batters, all on groundballs. Still 2-0 after four.
8:29 p.m. -- Nice job by Lannan in the top of the fifth. He struck out Utley to end the frame and keep this a 2-0 game. At 80 pitches and due up third in the bottom of the inning, that might be it for him. Craig Stammen continues to warm in the pen.
8:40 p.m. -- This ballpark desperately wants a reason to explode, but the Nats just aren't giving them the opportunity. The place really perked up in the bottom of the fifth, first when the scoreboard showed the Pirates taking a 2-1 lead on the Braves on Starling Marte's homer, then even more when Kurt Suzuki went first to third (?!) on an errant pickoff throw. But with Suzuki on third and two out, Werth took a 2-2 slider on the insider corner to kill the rally. Onto the sixth...
8:47 p.m. -- A dominant top of the sixth from Stammen, who struck out the side. Impressive stuff. Figure he's back out for the seventh. Now, if the Nats could plate a run or two against Kendrick...
8:59 p.m. -- Another great chance for the Nats in the bottom of the sixth, with Harper doubling and then taking a big risk to tag up and advance to third on Zimmerman's popup to second base/shallow right field. But LaRoche popped up on the first pitch he saw and Morse (after getting a gift on a check swing that should've been strike three) struck out looking at a 3-2 pitch. Pretty much everyone but Harper is playing nervous, trying to do too much right now. Still 2-0 after six.
9:06 p.m. -- Make it six batters faced, six batters struck out by Stammen. What a performance in a huge spot. Still 2-0 at the seventh-inning stretch.
9:15 p.m. -- And still nothing for the Nats lineup against Kendrick, who retired the side in the bottom of the seventh and got Suzuki on a check-swing to end the inning. Still 2-0 as we go the eighth. The Pirates, meanwhile, still lead the Braves 2-1 after seven, with Jeff Locke and Jeff Karstens holding Atlanta to two hits so far.
9:40 p.m. -- Another opportunity squandered in the bottom of the eighth, with Zimmerman and LaRoche failing to drive in the tying or go-ahead run. But the Braves are now down to their last three outs, so the Nats are on the verge of backdooring their way to the division title.
9:46 p.m. -- It's over in Pittsburgh. The Braves lose 2-1. The Nats are NL East champs!
9:53 p.m. -- It's over here, too. The Nats lose 2-0. But nobody cares.