Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats have their work cut out for them tonight against Justin Verlander.
Tonight, another big name is added to the list: Justin Verlander, the Tigers' flamethrower from just outside Richmond who has established himself as one of the best young right-handers in the game. In 4 1/2 seasons in Detroit, the 27-year-old is already 72-47 with a 3.89 ERA. He owns a no-hitter, a Rookie of the Year award, two All-Star Game appearances, a 19-win season and a 269-strikeout season.
Oh, and like a certain Nationals rookie, he regularly tops 100 mph on the radar gun.
Not exactly the kind of opposing pitcher the Nats want to face when needing a win. Unfortunately, this is the scenario they've left themselves in after losing last night 7-4 in a very winnable game. They had Max Scherzer on the ropes but went silent at the plate the final five innings. And they couldn't overcome John Lannan's ragged start.
So Jim Riggleman will try a little different lineup tonight. As promised, Josh Willingham gets a scheduled night off. Willie Harris is in left field, with Michael Morse DH'ing.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS at TIGERS
Where: Comerica Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 77 degrees, Wind 15 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
LF Willie Harris
DH Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
(P Livan Hernandez)
CF Don Kelly
DH Johnny Damon
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
LF Brennan Boesch
2B Carlos Guillen
3B Brandon Inge
C Gerald Laird
SS Ramon Santiago
(P Justin Verlander)
7:06 p.m. -- Play ball! Justin Verlander starts Nyjer Morgan off with a 95 mph fastball for ball one.
7:11 p.m. -- There may not be a deeper center field in the majors than Comerica Park. To that, Adam Dunn says: Pish-posh! Dunn crushed a 95 mph heater from Verlander off the top of the fence just to the left of the 420-foot mark. The locals say only a handful of balls have ever been hit out there, maybe 20-to-30 since the ballpark opened 10 years ago, only a couple per season. Dunn's blast (his 15th of the year) puts the Nats on top 1-0.
7:16 p.m. -- Nice, clean first inning for Livan Hernandez. Cristian Guzman made a diving stop of Don Kelly's grounder to his left, then Livo got Johnny Damon to hit a soft liner/pop-up to third and Magglio Ordonez to fly out to right.
7:21 p.m. -- And now Roger Bernadina takes Verlander deep, sending an 0-1 fastball well over the right-field fence. The guy really is starting to heat up at the plate and is making solid contact with more consistency. Verlander had allowed only two homers over his last nine starts. He's now served up two in two innings. Nats lead 2-0.
7:41 p.m. -- So much for that. Livo just gave both runs back, and then two more for good measure during a frustrating bottom of the second. He walked three, including Brandon Inge with the bases loaded. Couldn't locate his slider to save his life. How bad was it? Miguel Batista was already warming up in the bullpen. Batista has taken a seat now, but Livan had better figure things out quick or else I don't imagine his night is going to last much longer. Tigers lead 4-2 after two. Nice pitchers' duel here.
7:58 p.m. -- Slightly better job by Livo in the third, but he still was victimized by a leadoff walk. Ordonez reached, took second on a groundout and then scored on Brennan Boesch's single up the middle. Hernandez continues to have trouble was his slider. Seems like every one he's thrown has either been out of the strike zone or clobbered by the Tigers. It's now 5-2 after three.
8:23 p.m. -- Livo has settled down and gotten things under control, but unfortunately so has Verlander. Morse led off the fifth with a single, but Desmond immediately grounded into a double play, killing that possible rally. So the Tigers have made those five early runs (on three hits and four walks) hold up so far. It's 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth.
8:37 p.m. -- At last, a clutch hit. Pudge Rodriguez comes through with a two-out, RBI single in the sixth. Guzman scores from second as the Nats trim the lead to 5-3. They're staying within striking distance.
8:48 p.m. -- If you had told me three innings ago that Livan Hernandez would make it through the sixth on only 92 pitches, I'd have dragged you to the nearest mental facility. What a turnaround for Livo. Since surrendering Boesch's RBI single in the third, he's retired 11 of 13 batters. The Tigers still lead 5-3, but there's perhaps a glimmer of hope as we head to the seventh.
9:04 p.m. -- Oh well. Just when you thought Livan might navigate his way through this one without giving up another run, he serves up an absolute bomb to Boesch with two outs in the seventh. Left an 85 mph fastball right over the plate. So that'll be eight runs allowed by Hernandez in 6 2/3 innings tonight, and that's going to skewer his ERA big-time. It goes from 2.28 to 2.94 in the blink of an eye. Nats trail 8-3 still in the bottom of the seventh, and there would appear little hope of a comeback.
9:15 p.m. -- What was Hernandez's primary problem tonight? Command. He issued six walks, his most since May 1, 2007 when he was pitching for the Diamondbacks.
9:18 p.m. -- Adam Dunn is now 0-for-26 with two outs and runners in scoring position this year. Yes, 0-for-26.
9:20 p.m. -- Is it good if your closer is pitching the eighth inning down five runs? Generally speaking, that means his services haven't been needed very much lately. Sure enough, Matt Capps hasn't been on the mound since one week ago today, saving his second straight win over the Pirates.
9:31 p.m. -- It's over. Tigers win 8-3. Nats fall to 1-4 on this road trip. They've also now lost 20 of their last 31 to fall to four games under .500. Is it Friday yet?