Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Petco Park, the beautiful home of baseball in beautiful San Diego.
And for the first time in several years, this fantastic town has a good baseball team to call its own. The surprising Padres own the National League's best record at 28-19, thanks to a deep and talented pitching staff that takes full advantage of the spacious outfield here at Petco Park.
Left-hander Clayton Richard, one of the key acquisitions from the White Sox in last year's Jake Peavy trade, takes the mound tonight looking to improve to 5-2. Jim Riggleman counters with a lineup somewhat similar to yesterday's (Adam Dunn hits third, with Ryan Zimmerman fourth) though Nyjer Morgan is back at the top with Justin Maxwell in right and Cristian Guzman at second. Better defensive alignment for this park. John Lannan looks to build off back-to-back strong starts.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS at PADRES
Where: Petco Park
Gametime: 10:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 63 degrees, Wind 10 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
SS Ian Desmond
RF Justin Maxwell
C Wil Nieves
P John Lannan
LF Will Venable
2B David Eckstein
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Chase Headley
C Yorvit Torrealba
LF Oscar Salazar
SS Jerry Hairston
CF Chris Denorfia
P Clayton Richard
8:56 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann update: The right-hander, coming back from Tommy John surgery, pitched one inning in an intrasquad game in Viera earlier this week, a key step in his rehab. The Nats, though, still plan to be very cautious with Zimmermann. They won't let him return to the majors until he is a full 12 months removed from the surgery (which took place last August).
10:06 p.m. -- Let's play ball! Clayton Richard starts Nyjer Morgan off with a ball.
10:09 p.m. -- Quick top of the first for Richard, who retired the side on 11 pitches. John Lannan takes the mound for the Nats. Pennant fever hasn't exactly gripped San Diego. I think I've seen bigger crowds at a Marlins home game.
10:11 p.m. -- Uh-oh, we've got some kind of lineup card issue here.
10:14 p.m. -- You know, I wonder if someone forgot to flip-flop Dunn and Zimmerman, meaning Dunn just batted illegally in the top of the first.
10:17 p.m. -- OK, here's what happened: The official lineup card given by the Padres had Adam Russell listed as the starting pitcher, not Clayton Richard. Russell was sent down earlier today. The Nats have protested, saying the Padres made an illegal substitution. The umpires have accepted the protest. So if the Nats lose this game, this could get really interesting!
10:24 p.m. -- Richard has retired all six Nationals batters he's faced so far. The real question: Will any of this matter by the end of the night?
10:31 p.m. -- OK, here's how this all works ... The Nationals formally protest because the Padres submitted an invalid lineup card. The umpiring crew accepted the protest, which basically means they accept this is a valid reason to protest. They don't have the final say. It will have to go to the commissioner's office for a ruling. The question will be: Did the incorrect lineup card in any way alter the outcome of the game? It's probably going to be hard to prove that. The Nats knew Richard was tonight's starting pitcher all along and probably just noticed the Padres made a mistake. Russell was optioned to Class AAA earlier today, so it's not like anyone legitimately thought he was going to start this game. In the end, this is probably all much ado about nothing. But that doesn't change the fact it's really bizarre.
10:47 p.m. -- For what it's worth, teams file protests all the time. But MLB hasn't upheld one since 1986. Seems pretty unlikely they'd do it in this case.
10:49 p.m. -- The Nats can make this all moot by simply winning the game. And thanks to Josh Willingham's three-run homer to center in the top of the fourth, they're now headed in that direction. A three-run deficit, to the Padres, is like a 30-run deficit.
10:56 p.m. -- And as if on cue, the Padres pounce on Lannan for a run in the bottom of the fourth. Back-to-back hits from David Eckstein and Adrian Gonzalez. That's just inexcusable for the Nats to allow a hit to Eckstein. If anyone should have a scouting report on that guy, it's a Nationals coaching staff that -- HELLO! -- includes his brother Rick!
11:34 p.m. -- So anyways, the Nationals now lead 4-1 at the seventh-inning stretch, with Ian Desmond providing the latest run on a solo homer in the top of this inning. John Lannan has just been cruising through the San Diego lineup and sits at only 77 pitches through six. This is vintage Lannan, and it certainly looks like he's past his elbow problems from earlier in the season.
11:42 p.m. -- The Padres picked up another run in the seventh (thanks to a throwing error on Ian Desmond on a play in which Adam Dunn may have tagged Oscar Salazar anyway). No harm, though. Lannan pitched out of it without allowing anything more, so the Nats will carry a 4-2 lead into the eighth. Lannan's due up second, we'll see if he gets to hit or not.
11:45 p.m. -- Michael Morse pinch-hitting for Lannan. Really nice outing for the lefty. His final line: 7 ip, 7 h, 2 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 1 k. 88 pitches, 56 strikes.
11:50 p.m. -- It's Clip 'n Save time. Tyler Clippard on to pitch the eighth. If that goes well, Matt Capps will be on for the ninth.
12:03 a.m. -- Clippard did his job. Eckstein singled with one out, but he blew away Gonzalez with a high 93 mph fastball and then got Headley to fly out to end the inning. We go to the ninth, still 4-2 Nats.
12:08 a.m. -- We had a good discussion earlier today about when (or if) to sub Adam Dunn out for defense. Well, Jim Riggleman just did it here, sending up Adam Kennedy to pinch-run in the top of the ninth with a two-run lead. Based on all of your arguments earlier, I'd say about half of you like this move and half of you don't.
12:12 a.m. -- Wow, a perfect squeeze bunt from Desmond adds an insurance run. Nats lead 5-2. Beautifully executed by Desmond.
12:23 a.m. -- Uh-oh. Bases loaded, nobody out. Winning run at the plate. Shades of Sept. 18, 2005 here...
12:26 a.m. -- It's 5-3 after four straight singles off Capps (one of them a bad play by Desmond, another a little dribbler to third). Bases still loaded, winning run on first, Matt Stairs at the plate.
12:31 a.m. -- Wow, what a pitch from Capps to Stairs. 3-2 slider caught him looking. Still only one out, bases still loaded for Will Venable.
12:33 a.m. -- And now Capps blows away Venable with a 95 mph fastball for out two. David Eckstein the Padres' last hope.
12:19 a.m. -- Ballgame. Nats win, 5-3. Guess that protest proved to be worthless in the end. Lannan gets the win. Capps gets the save. Willingham and Desmond provide all the offense.