Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats try to get out of their rut this afternoon against the Orioles.
Thus, the Nationals enter today's rare 4:05 p.m. start (due to the fact Fox is televising Yankees-Mets in primetime) under .500, having lost seven of their last eight. Clearly, their momentum is careening downhill at this moment.
But all that can change if Craig Stammen takes the mound today and gives the Nats a quality start. After a nice, three-week stretch in which he allowed three earned runs or less in four straight starts, Stammen has regressed some his last two times out (though he's still only allowed four runs each of those two starts).
Check back for updates throughout...
ORIOLES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m.
TV: MASN-HD, MASN2-HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM, WTEM-980 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 74 degrees, Wind 12 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
RF Roger Bernadina
P Craig Stammen
LF Corey Patterson
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
1B Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
SS Cesar Izturis
P Brad Bergesen
3:59 p.m. -- We're just about ready to go, but if you haven't seen it already, here's my story on CSNwashington.com about Scott Olsen missing at least one start, and the possibility the Nats could call up Stephen Strasburg to replace him next Saturday in San Diego.
4:05 p.m. -- And this game in underway with a ball from Craig Stammen to Corey Patterson.
4:17 p.m. -- Not a good first inning for Stammen. He served up three singles and a wild pitch, resulting in two runs. It didn't help that Nyjer Morgan, who was given yesterday off, booted Miguel Tejada's base hit and allowed Nick Markakis to advance an extra base on the error. But both runs remain earned, and Stammen must regroup following a ragged, 24-pitch inning. The Orioles lead 2-0.
4:19 p.m. -- Oh, and I forgot to mention: The skies are darkening, and there's a line of storms fast approaching from the southwest.
4:28 p.m. -- Wasted opportunity from the Nats in the bottom of the first. They loaded the bases but couldn't score. It didn't help that Morgan popped up a bunt attempt to begin the inning, something that has happened several times to him already this season. To put it bluntly, Nyjer is strugg-a-ling.
4:34 p.m. -- Much better second inning from Stammen. He retired the side on 12 pitches, 11 of them strikes. Still 2-0 O's.
5:02 p.m. -- The Hammer to the rescue. Josh Willingham hammers a first-pitch fastball from Bergesen into the left-field bleachers, knotting the game at 2 in the bottom of the third.
5:07 p.m. -- Wil Nieves has replaced Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate for the fourth inning. Not that surprising if you saw Pudge grimace after taking a swing in the bottom of the third. He's been dealing with some lower back issues all season, and he probably tweaked it on that swing.
5:15 p.m. -- If Nyjer Morgan is allowed to take his position in center field for the fifth inning, I will be stunned. After missing a leaping attempt at Adam Jones' drive to the wall (a catchable ball), Morgan slammed his glove to the ground, thinking it had cleared the fence. The ball, though, was sitting about five feet from him. By the time Josh Willingham ran all the way over to get it, Jones raced his way around with an inside-the-park home run, the second surrendered by the Nationals in this homestand. This one was totally preventable, and Morgan was entirely to blame. I can't imagine Jim Riggleman will let him take his position for the next inning, but we'll see.
5:25 p.m. -- Wow, what a sequence of events we're seeing here. Nyjer was allowed to hit in the bottom of the fourth and was resoundingly booed as he stepped to the plate. He was then cheered when he singled to right. Moments later, he got a huge jump on a hit-and-run and advanced to third when Guzman's single bounced past the vacant shortstop's hole. It's now 4-3 Orioles in the fifth, and Morgan has retaken the field. This has suddenly turned into a really interesting ballgame. Oh, and they've closed the press box windows, which means rain is imminent.
5:34 p.m. -- And in another bizarre development, first-base coach Dan Radison was ejected for arguing that Zimmerman beat out a grounder in the fourth. So now coaching first base is ... Tim Foli. How is that allowed? Well, bench coach John McLaren is not with the team today (he had an excused absence for a personal matter), so Foli (who works with the team pregame but is not normally allowed to be in the dugout during games) was serving as bench coach for the day. Now he's on the field coaching first. What a strange game this has become.
5:42 p.m. -- And here comes the rain. Fans scurrying for cover.
5:46 p.m. -- Craig Stammen just gave up his second homer of the day. The first one (the inside-the-parker) wasn't his fault. This one was. Ty Wigginton crushed a 1-0 fastball from Stammen into the left-field bleachers to put the Orioles on top 6-3. And after a subsequent single by Matt Wieters, Stammen's day is done. Tyler Walker coming in from the bullpen with one out in the sixth.
5:53 p.m. -- We already suspected this, but we have confirmation now that Pudge came out of the game with a strained lower back. His status is day-to-day.
6:12 p.m. -- And after all that, the Nats have retaken the lead. With five hits in the sixth (three off Bergesen, two off Mark Hendrickson), a hit batter and a nice sacrifice bunt by (who else?) Nyjer Morgan, the Nats have scored four runs and now lead 7-6 in a crazy ballgame.
6:23 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 30,290. Biggest crowd since Opening Day.
6:31 p.m. -- Looks like it'll be the Clip 'n Save Show today. Tyler Clippard warming up to pitch the eighth.
6:40 p.m. -- Not sure if they showed it on TV, but Nyjer threw his helmet about 30 feet after grounding into that double play to end the seventh. Tim Foli had to jog over to the tarp to retrieve it. Given everything that's happened today, wouldn't you think Morgan would go out of his way not to have any more outbursts or anything that could be construed negatively the rest of the evening.
6:45 p.m. -- Nice, clean inning for Clippard. Set them down in order. Struck out one, got two popouts. He needed one of those. Still 7-6 Nats heading to the bottom of the eighth.
6:53 p.m. -- OK, the Nats were THIS close to just hitting into a triple play. Which would have meant they would have allowed an inside-the-park homer and hit into a triple play twice in four days. And (if they hang on here in the ninth) would have still WON both games!
6:56 p.m. -- Here we go ... the final countdown.
7:03 p.m. -- And there it is, just your average, run-of-the-mill, 7-6 Nats victory. Tyler Walker gets the win. Matt Capps gets his 16th save in 16 tries. Plenty of heroes (and goats) in this one. And plenty for me to dissect in the postgame analysis story. Stay tuned for that one.