Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It's win or get swept today at Comerica Park.
Congrats, you're getting it today. Nyjer Morgan takes a seat on the bench this afternoon against Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman. Cristian Guzman is serving as today's DH, so Adam Kennedy is starting at second base. Ivan Rodriguez is also getting today off -- no surprise, since they obviously want him behind the plate tomorrow night working with Stephen Strasburg. Wil Nieves will attempt to hit his way out of an 0-for-19 slump.
Luis Atilano takes the mound for the Nationals, trying to salvage one win in this series in Detroit. A loss today would mean a 1-5 interleague road trip and a new low-point for the season (five games under .500).
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS at TIGERS
Where: Comerica Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 74 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
DH Cristian Guzman
CF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
(P Luis Atilano)
2B Ryan Raburn
SS Ramon Santiago
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
LF Brennan Boesch
DH Carlos Guillen
3B Brandon Inge
C Alex Avila
CF Don Kelly
(P Jeremy Bonderman)
12:38 p.m. -- Before we get to today's game, a note about tomorrow night. The Nationals are expecting a big crowd for Stephen Strasburg's second home start, but tickets are still available. A quick attempt to purchase seats on the team's website shows most of the available seats are in the lower deck, the seats that generally go to season-ticket holders. Looks like they've released some of those to the public for single-game purchase.
12:46 p.m. -- For all those in the "Alberto Gonzalez should be the everyday second baseman" camp ... over the second half of last season, when he became the Nats' regular second baseman, he hit .244 with a .263 OBP and .326 slugging percentage. Some guys get exposed when they play too much. I believe Gonzo would fall into that category. Solid utility infielder to bring off the bench, but not an everyday player in the big leagues.
1:00 p.m. -- Today's national anthem sung by ... Kenny Loggins?! I have to say, I was disappointed there wasn't a dancing gopher next to Kenny as he belted it out.
1:04 p.m. -- OK, let's get down to baseball. Jeremy Bonderman starts off Cristian Guzman with a strike. Gorgeous day here in downtown Detroit.
1:06 p.m. -- The good news: Roger Bernadina and Ryan Zimmerman each absolutely smoked balls to center field off Bonderman. The bad news: Both were caught by Don Kelly. Kelly made a really nice, sliding-into-the-wall catch of Bernadina's shot, then backtracked to snag Zimmerman's drive. Nothing to show for the top of the first, but perhaps those two well-struck balls were a good omen.
1:14 p.m. -- Luis Atilano put himself in a real jam -- two on, nobody out, heart of the Tigers order up -- but give the rookie credit because he came through big-time. Got Magglio Ordonez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, then struck out Miguel Cabrera on a nice 2-2 sinker. Encouraging to see Atilano can retire some of the best hitters in the game.
1:19 p.m. -- I don't know if Bonderman is specifically trying to pitch to the big part of the ballpark, taking advantage of the wide-open dimensions here, but it certainly looks like it. Four of the Nats' first six batters have driven the ball to left-center and center fields, yet all resulted in fly outs. It's entirely possible three of those drives (by Bernadina, Zimmerman and Adam Dunn) would have been home runs elsewhere. Here, they're nothing but long fly outs. Still scoreless going to the bottom of the second.
1:32 p.m. -- Looks like the ball's going to fly today. That doesn't mean it'll leave the park, but it's going to come close. Two more Tigers belted drives to the wall in the bottom of the second. Brennan Boesch's shot to left was hauled in by Josh Willingham. Alex Avila's poke to right-center was uncatchable. It bounced off the wall and in the process scored two runs. Detroit leads 2-0 after two.
1:56 p.m. -- Over his last six games, Cristian Guzman is 4-for-23 with nine strikeouts. In this series, he's 1-for-10 with six strikeouts. Not the kind of production you're looking for from the guy atop the lineup.
2:10 p.m. -- Five innings, one hit for the Nats. One baserunner (Ryan Zimmerman, who singled in the fourth). They continue to hit some balls hard, but every one of them seems to get swallowed up by the cavernous outfield here at Comerica Park. Atilano has managed to hold the Tigers to two runs through four. At this rate, he may not be able to afford giving up anything more if his team is going to have a chance at winning today and avoiding the sweep.
2:20 p.m. -- Apparently, Atilano doesn't read this blog in between innings. He just did exactly what I suggested he not do in the bottom of the fifth. Two runs, three hits and an intentional walk later, he's out of the game. Lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowed nine hits. Jim Riggleman decided not to mess around anymore. Drew Storen is on, trying to extend his perfect streak of stranding inherited runners (he's 12-for-12 so far this year). Tigers lead 4-0 in the fifth.
2:26 p.m. -- And there goes that streak. Carlos Guillen singles up the middle, scoring Miguel Cabrera. First inherited runner to score off Storen in 13 tries. Tigers lead 5-0 after five.
2:36 p.m. -- With that strikeout, Wil Nieves is now 0 for his last 21 with seven strikeouts. Now hitting a cool .167.
2:43 p.m. -- Well, the Nationals have finally scored, thanks to a double by Desmond, a wild pitch by Bonderman and an infield single by Guzman. But that's all they can muster, despite continuing to hit the ball hard. By my count, they've had four fly outs to the warning track, plus two other smoked line drives that were caught. It's now 5-1 in the sixth.
2:54 p.m. -- This is getting ugly. 7-1 in the sixth. Looks like the Nats are going to have to ask Strasburg to be a stopper for the third time in 10 days.
3:03 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know: Someone hit a ball beyond the warning track! Adam Dunn just barely gets one over the fence in right-center for his 16th homer of the season, his sixth in nine games. Unfortunately, it was also his 11th solo shot of the year, so it's still 7-2 in the seventh.
3:12 p.m. -- Now on the mound for the Tigers: A pitcher named Ni. Lame Monty Python jokes coming in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
3:17 p.m. -- Here it is. Your bang-your-head-against-the-wall stat of the day: In this series, Detroit starting pitchers have recorded 27 strikeouts while issuing only two walks. And one of the walks was intentional.
3:23 p.m. -- Breaking news: The streak is over! Adam Dunn got a hit with two outs and a runner in scoring position! He's now 1-for-27 in those situations after singling home Guzman. Big -- BIG -- hit to bring the Nats back to within 7-3 in the eighth.
3:47 p.m. -- Mercifully, this ballgame and this road trip are over. With an 8-3 loss today, the Nats complete a sweep at the hands of the Tigers and finish 1-5 against Cleveland and Detroit. They've fallen to five games under .500 for the first time this season