Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Coors Field, the mile-high home of the Colorado Rockies.
The Nationals open a four-game series tonight, with the unusual local starting time of 6:40 p.m. MDT (that's 8:40 p.m. for you folks back on the East Coast). Most notable thing about tonight's game is the return of John Lannan to the mound after missing his last start due to elbow inflammation. The lefty says he feels great after receiving a cortisone shot and throwing off a bullpen mound in New York. Then again, Jason Marquis also said he felt great after his own cortisone shot in the elbow and bullpen session. So there's obviously no guarantee here.
The Nats will field what's become their conventional lineup vs. right-handed starters, with Roger Bernadina in right field hoping to build off yesterday's breakout performance. Ivan Rodriguez back behind the plate, and Josh Willingham back in left field.
Plenty more to come later, so check back for updates throughout the evening...
NATIONALS AT ROCKIES
Where: Coors Field
Gametime: 8:40 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of late showers, 49 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
P John Lannan
LF Carlos Gonzalez
CF Dexter Fowler
RF Brad Hawpe
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
C Miguel Olivo
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes
P Jhoulys Chacin
7:38 p.m. -- What signs should you be looking for tonight to tell if John Lannan is OK? "If he's locating his pitches better," Jim Riggleman said. "It was very uncharacteristic of him to walk two or three guys in a row the way he has in some of his outings. If those things aren't happening, then we'll feel like he's getting back on track. But if he's not hitting his spots, if the velocity's way down or something, we might have some feeling that he's not right yet. It's a tough place to pitch. He's coming off  days without pitching. So it's going to be a challenge. We're not going to read too much into if they get some hits off him, because it's a tough place to pitch, period. But more the other things: location and the freeness in his delivery."
7:53 p.m. -- Had a nice chat a little while ago with Vinny Castilla, now a special assistant to the Rockies' GM. Castilla's in uniform, working out with players before most home games. He remains a beloved figure here in Colorado as one of the original Rockies of 1993. And, of course, he'll always hold a special place in Nationals lore as one of the first stars of the inaugural 2005 team. I'll always remember his performance in the RFK Stadium opener, when he came within a single of hitting for the cycle. His fourth-inning triple, which scored the game's first run, also produced my first bouncing-stands experience at RFK. I've written this before, but to me, that was the moment baseball truly returned to D.C. Anyways, Vinny was interested to hear what's going on with the Nats these days, both the current team and some former execs (coughJimBowdencough). He remains active with the Rockies and with the national baseball program in his native Mexico. "Got to stay in the game," he said. "I love it too much."
8:07 p.m. -- This just in: The start of tonight's game is going to be delayed. There's a big thunderstorm about to roll through town, and in anticipation of it, the grounds crew is covering the infield. No word on when this game will get underway, but everyone seems confident the game will be played in its entirety once this storm passes through. I'll provide updates as I get them.
8:48 p.m. -- The tarp's off, they're preparing the infield and the game is scheduled to begin at 9:15 p.m. EDT.
9:17 p.m. -- And as promised, we are underway following a 37-minute rain delay. Jhoulys Chacin starts Nyjer Morgan off with a strike.
9:23 p.m. -- Wow, did Ryan Zimmerman just crush that 2-2 slider from Chacin. It nearly reached the concourse at the top of the left-field bleachers, instead fell just short of that. Nats lead 2-0 on Zim's seventh homer of the year.
9:26 p.m. -- FYI: That was the 700th hit of Zimmerman's career.
9:29 p.m. -- Another FYI: Zim's .667 slugging percentage now ranks third in the NL, behind Andre Ethier and Jayson Werth.
9:31 p.m. -- Nice first inning for Lannan, who retired the side (with some major help from Ian Desmond, who made a spectacular play diving to his left and hopping to his feet to gun down Brad Hawpe. Lannan's fastball was right around 88 mph, didn't appear to be in any discomfort.
9:48 p.m. -- Little bit of a scare there in the second inning for Lannan, beginning with a booted grounder by Adam Dunn, who threw to his pitcher just in time but not without threatening the integrity of Lannan's groin muscles. He then issued a two-out walk followed by a groundball single. But all's good after Clint Barmes flied out to end the inning. Still 2-0 Nats after two on a nasty night in Denver.
10:12 p.m. -- It's raining pretty hard here, looks like some fielders have been slipping a bit. They're currently working on the mound and the batter's box, adding Diamond Dust to sop up the moisture. We'll see how long they can continue like this. Nats still lead 2-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth.
10:31 p.m. -- Some nice hustle by Ian Desmond puts the Nats on top 3-0. From the moment he left the box after lining a base hit over the second baseman, Desmond was thinking double. He slid in well ahead of the throw, and that opened the door for him to score two batters late on Nyjer Morgan's single to right.
10:35 p.m. -- Break open the floodgates! Zimmerman blasts another Chacin slider to left. This one's a three-run homer and puts the Nats up 6-0 in the fifth. Zim's updated numbers: 8 homers, 21 RBI, .696 slugging percentage.
10:51 p.m. -- Something (the layoff, the weather) finally got to Lannan in the fifth. His velocity dipped, his pitches weren't as sharp and the Rockies started hitting him. He's now out of the game after 4 2/3, the Nats up 6-3. Miguel Batista coming in with two on and two out. Lannan cannot earn the victory.
11:10 p.m. -- Interesting decision there by Jim Riggleman. He had Cristian Guzman in the on-deck circle to hit for Batista. But after Desmond's sac fly brought home a run and put the Nats up 7-4, Riggleman pulled Guzman back and let Batista hit for himself. He struck out, as expected, and now he's back out to pitch the bottom of the sixth. Considering that innings right now are more important that runs, the move seems to make sense. FYI: Riggleman said before the game he'd like to avoid using both Tyler Walker and Tyler Clippard tonight. We'll see if he can actually do it.
11:22 p.m. -- As much as I enjoy covering games out west, it's never good to look at the out-of-town scoreboard and see every other game has gone final while you're just starting the seventh inning.
11:24 p.m. -- Um, what exactly did Nyjer Morgan think he would accomplish there slamming on the brakes about 10 feet shy of second base? (Aside from risking serious injury to himself, of course.) Not a smart play. Accept that you've been thrown out and just take the tag.
11:35 p.m. -- Quick quiz: Who on the Nationals' pitching staff has surrendered the most home runs this season? John Lannan? Jason Marquis? Craig Stammen? No, it's Miguel Batista, who just served up his fifth bomb in 22 1/3 innings. Miguel Olivo absolutely crushed Batista's high-and-inside 85 mph pitch to left. So now it's 7-6 Nats in the bottom of the seventh, with Doug Slaten entering from the bullpen. This team refuses to play lopsided games, one way or the other.
11:43 p.m. -- I hate to say it, but this field is simply not playable right now. There are huge puddles on both sides of the infield. The grounds crew is out dumping more Diamond Dust over it, trying to stay ahead of the rain. But it's coming down harder now, and it's a miracle no one's injured themselves yet. Guess they're going to try to squeeze these last two innings in, but it's not going to be pretty. And whoever loses this game may have a legitimate complaint about the conditions.
12:00 a.m. -- Big, BIG, bases-clearing double from Cristian Guzman there to break the game open. It's now 11-6, possibly negating what would have been a fascinating dilemma for the official scorer. Tyler Clippard was warming up and would have entered to protect a two-run lead in the eighth. Here's the thing: He could wind up as the pitcher of record. Since Lannan didn't go the minimum five innings, he's ineligible. It's then the scorer's discretion to award the win to whomever he feels was most effective out of the bullpen. Batista allowed two runs and put five guys on in 1 2/3 innings. Doug Slaten was fine, retiring two of three batters, but it's not like he dominated. If Clippard was to pitch a 1-2-3 eighth and strike out a batter or two, there's an argument he would deserve the win (his eighth of the year and his sixth straight appearance with a decision). But the Guzman double may prevent Clippard from pitching at all, and even if he does, it's not exactly a high-pressure situation anymore. Still, a potentially fascinating situation.
12:07 a.m. -- Whoa, fan on the field! No taser, but the security guard did make a nice, hard tackle that would make Brian Orakpo proud.
12:12 a.m. -- Ryan Zimmerman now with a career-high six RBI tonight. Nats winning 12-6. Maybe the official scorer can just credit Zim with the W. He deserves it more than anyone else tonight.
12:18 a.m. -- OK, now it's 14-6. The Nats have scored seven runs in the eighth, matching the club record (since 2005) for a single inning.
12:22 a.m. -- So much for the potential Clippard situation. Brian Bruney is now in, protecting an eight-run lead. Zimmerman is also out. My guess is that Doug Slaten will be awarded the win.
12:32 a.m. -- Brian Bruney is unhittable when pitching with an eight-run lead.
12:33 a.m. -- They're pulling the tarp. I think this means we're required to wait at least an hour before they can call this one official. Shoot me now.
12:45 a.m. -- OK, just found out they're required to wait 30 minutes before calling the game. So this will be official at 1:03 a.m. on the East Coast.
12:49 a.m. -- FYI: The official scorer just said Slaten will be the winning pitcher. (Assuming this game isn't resumed and the Rockies rally to score eight runs in the ninth.)
1:12 a.m. -- That's it! It's all over! Nats win! Nats win! Final score: 14-6. Number of fans still attendance when game officially ended: Three. Winning pitcher: Slaten (1-0). Nats record: 20-15. If the season ended today, they'd win the NL wild card.