Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The sun is shining at Coors Field ... at last.
This could be as close to a must-win game as the Nats have faced in some time. Not that a loss would be devastating; they'd still head to St. Louis with a 20-18 record. But that would constitute the first three-game losing streak of the season, heading into a tough series against one of MLB's best clubs.
A win today, however, would salvage a four-game split with the Rockies and put the Nationals at 21-17 heading to St. Louis, where even a two-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals wouldn't be crushing.
Couple of interesting notes about Jim Riggleman's lineup today: 1) Adam Dunn has his first day off of the year, probably because of a bad matchup against Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis. 2) Mike Morse is in, but not in right field; he'll start in Dunn's place at first base. 3) Cristian Guzman is your starting right fielder for only the second time in his career. Riggleman hinted a few days ago he'd consider doing that, particularly against a left-hander. Guzie is hitting a stout .419 against lefties this season; he HAS to be in the lineup somewhere.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS AT ROCKIES
Where: Coors Field
Gametime: 3:10 p.m.
TV: Ch. 50-HD, MASN2-HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 62 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
RF Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Mike Morse
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Scott Olsen
CF Carlos Gonzalez
LF Ryan Spiloborghs
RF Brad Hawpe
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
C Miguel Olivo
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes
P Jeff Francis
1:54 p.m. -- A clarification: Adam Dunn is out of the lineup today not by Riggleman's choice but because the slugger has flu-like symptoms. Dunn showed up at the ballpark today feeling nauseous, so he's out. Also, for those wondering: Jeff Francis is making his first start today since Sept. 12, 2008. He's had a long road back from labrum surgery, though he appeared ready to go at the end of spring training until a triceps strain landed him back on the DL. The Rockies say he'll be restricted to 90-to-100 pitches, tops, today.
3:10 p.m. -- We are underway with a ball from Jeff Francis to Nyjer Morgan.
3:21 p.m. -- Nice start for the Nats. Morgan beat out a grounder to short, then took third when Ian Desmond roped a double to left-center. A sac fly from unconventional No. 3 hitter Cristian Guzman brought Morgan home and put the Nats up 1-0, though they missed a chance to add to it.
3:30 p.m. -- A fabulous double-play from Alberto Gonzalez and Ian Desmond just highlighted the bottom of the first. Gonzalez went far to his right to snag Brad Hawpe's hard smash, then flipped to Desmond, who fired to first to complete the twin-killing. Olsen should buy Gonzo dinner tonight when they arrive in St. Louis to say thanks.
3:48 p.m. -- A leadoff double by Troy Tulowitzki paves the way for the Rockies to tie the game. After Tulo roped that shot off the left-field wall, he advanced to third on Todd Helton's groundball and then scored on Miguel Olivo's sac fly. So we're now tied 1-1 after two.
4:05 p.m. -- If you haven't seen it yet, you may want to check the homepage for news about a certain rookie reliever who will be joining the Nats' roster tomorrow in St. Louis.
4:16 p.m. -- Meanwhile, back here at Coors Field, it's still 1-1 after four innings. Scott Olsen has settled in nicely, allowing only two hits without issuing a walk. He seems to be taking advantage of the spacious outfield here; four of the last six outs have been via flyball.
4:41 p.m. -- Is it just me, or does it seem like every game Scott Olsen starts turns into an epic pitcher's duel? We've got another one cooking today. It's still scoreless heading to the bottom of the sixth. The potential good news for the Nats is that Jeff Francis has thrown 87 pitches through six. He's supposed to be limited to 90 or 100 pitches, though no one's up in the Rockies bullpen right now.
5:00 p.m. -- Francis at 104 pitches, with two outs and two on in the seventh, and they're leaving him in? Wow. Big AB here with Ian Desmond.
5:01 p.m. -- And Desmond pops up. We are still knotted 1-1 at the seventh inning stretch.
5:34 p.m. -- OK, it's still 1-1, now in the bottom of the eighth. Tyler Clippard back on the mound after getting out of a jam created by Scott Olsen in the seventh. If Clippard keeps the Rockies from scoring here and then the Nats take the lead in the ninth, he'd be in line for his eighth win.
5:37 p.m. -- Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't this be a good time to move Guzman to second and put Bernadina in right? Do you really want to take the chance of Guzie having to throw out a runner at the plate in a tie game in the eighth? I wouldn't.
5:41 p.m. -- Sac fly. Rockies take a 2-1 lead. Clippard now in line for the loss. And his ERA is now over 2.00 for the first time this season.
5:44 p.m. -- So we go to the ninth. Barring a rally, Clippard will fall to 7-2, his sixth straight appearance with a decision. Manuel Corpas trying to close it for the Rockies. Morse, Gonzalez, and the pitcher's spot due up, both both Willie Harris and Adam Kennedy are in the on-deck circle.
5:46 p.m. -- Harris will hit for Morse. Kennedy will hit for Gonzalez. Looks like Adam Dunn has a helmet on in the dugout to hit for the pitcher.
5:50 p.m. -- It's over. Nationals lose 2-1 and drop three of four in the series, the last two by a single run. It's their first three-game losing streak of the season. At 20-18, they'll head to St. Louis, where Drew Storen awaits to join the roster tomorrow night.