Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Sparkling Camden Yards, home of the not-so-sparkling Baltimore Orioles.
That's about the only thing the Orioles can hang their hats on right now, though. They were struggling last month when they came down to D.C. and lost two of three, and they're struggling worse now. Dave Trembley was fired, Juan Samuel has taken over as interim manager and the search for a permanent replacement goes on. In the most astounding stat you'll ever find, Baltimore first basemen have yet to hit a single home run this season. Think about that. Just mind-boggling.
So, once again, the Nationals have an opportunity to seize the moment and take down an inferior opponent. They won't have Stephen Strasburg in this series, but they will have J.D. Martin (who has pitched well despite his 0-3 record), Livan Hernandez (who was fantastic his last time out) and Luis Atilano (also coming off a strong start).
Now, the question on everyone's mind: Who is DH'ing tonight? The answer; Josh Willingham. Willie Harris is in left field. (Don't blame me, I'm just the messenger.) However, Michael Morse is starting in right field. Roger Bernandina is on the bench.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS at ORIOLES
Where: Camden Yards
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN-HD (Nats pregame and postgame shows on MASN2)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 88 degrees, Wind 3 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
DH Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Michael Morse
LF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
(P J.D. Martin)
LF Corey Patterson
3B Miguel Tejada
RF Nick Markakis
DH Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Garrett Atkins
2B Julio Lugo
SS Cesar Itzuris
(P Jake Arrieta)
5:22 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman, on Nyjer Morgan's struggles and what the future holds for him: "I've got a lot of patience with Nyjer. I think one thing we kind of hang our hat on is: Last year when we got Nyjer at this time of the year, Nyjer had been doing OK in Pittsburgh, not having a great start, just kind of treading water. And about this time of the year, he took off. I really was encouraged the last four or five games that he had some better at-bats. He played a very good center field. He kind of did some things that we saw him do last year when we got him in the trade. Again, the glass is half-full. He's just treading water right now, and he knows he hasn't gotten it going yet. This is the time he got it going last year, and he feels like he's ready to get it going. We need him at the top of the lineup, so we're going to be real patient with him."
7:02 p.m. -- Looks like it's gonna be a good crowd tonight. Decent number of Nats fans in attendance, but not overwhelming.
7:05 p.m. -- Before we get started, for those who don't know, John Lannan makes his Harrisburg debut tonight against Reading. I'll provide some updates along the way.
7:08 p.m. -- And away we go. Jake Arrieta starts Nyjer Morgan off with a fastball for ball.
7:23 p.m. -- It was the ultimate manufactured run, but the Nats will take it. Morgan leads off with a groundball single through the right-side hole, takes second on Cristian Guzman's walk (yes, a Guzman walk!), takes third when Matt Wieters throws away a pickoff attempt, then scores on Adam Dunn's grounder to first. Prior to tonight, Nyjer had scored in only one of his last 18 games played. Yeah.
7:26 p.m. -- So, the first two batters John Lannan faced at Class AA? Struck them out. This is a guy who struck out on 24 batters in 75 big-league innings this year.
7:29 p.m. -- Last thing J.D. Martin wanted to do: Walk Corey Patterson to open the bottom of the first. (Patterson had drawn only nine free passes to that point.) First thing Martin wanted to do as soon as Patterson got on: Get Miguel Tejada to hit into a double play. Add a lineout to left from Nick Markakis, and Martin has himself a scoreless first. 1-0 Nats after one.
7:34 p.m. -- And with a bunt single, Willie Harris just ended his 0-for-20 slump.
7:47 p.m. -- Wow, the Orioles just loaded the bases with no outs and managed not to score a run. After putting three men on via two singles and a hideous error on Guzman, Martin got Garrett Atkins to ground into a tailor-made, 5-2-3 double play, drawing some big-time boos from the crowd. Julio Lugo then roped a liner at Guzman, who caught the ball this time to end the inning and preserve the Nats' 1-0 lead after two.
7:56 p.m. -- Nyjer Morgan and Cristian Guzman have combined to reach base four times in three innings tonight. And they've proceeded to score three runs, thanks to two RBI from Adam Dunn and one from Ivan Rodriguez. So let's see: When the top two guys in the lineup get on, they're able to score. What a novel concept! Nats lead 3-0.
8:09 p.m. -- Holy cow did Nyjer Morgan just make an unbelievable catch to rob Corey Patterson of a homer. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone go that high over the fence like that. Unbelievable. Nyjer came to play tonight.
8:31 p.m. -- Now Nyjer's just showing off. Roped an RBI double to left-center in the fourth. So he's now 3-for-3 with an RBI, three runs scored, a stolen base and one whale of a catch. Even Adam Dunn is coming through with clutch hits -- a two-out, two-run double to right. Nats lead 6-0 in the fourth and exorcising all their demons in the process.
8:40 p.m. -- Lannan update: He's allowed one unearned run through six innings. Three hits, one walk, five strikeouts. Ten of 11 outs via groundballs. A couple more starts like that and he'll be back up here in no time.
8:50 p.m. -- It was just pointed out to me that the Orioles, at 20-52, have the same record as the 1988 club that is widely considered the worst in franchise history. If they lose tonight, they'll also be on pace for 120 losses this season. Yeah, these guys are really bad.
9:04 p.m. -- Handed a 6-0 lead, J.D. Martin can't even get through the fifth. He just got yanked with one out, two runs in and two more runners on. Two errors on Ian Desmond (including an inexplicably bad throw to second base when he had no chance to retire the runner) didn't help. But Martin hasn't particularly shown an ability to overcome mistakes made behind him. The Nats still lead 6-2, but Martin can't be credited with the victory now because he couldn't go the minimum five innings. Doug Slaten now pitching.
9:15 p.m. -- The fifth inning is over at last, but not before the Orioles score another run on a swinging bunt single. It's now 6-3 through five, and Jim Riggleman will need four strong innings out of the rest of his bullpen to get through this one.
9:23 p.m. -- Nyjer Morgan is now 4-for-4, with three runs, an RBI, a stolen base and two fantastic catches in center field. And he may come up to bat twice more before this one's over.
9:47 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman just used four relievers (Slaten, Batista, Burnett and Storen) to record five outs. In the fifth and sixth innings of a 6-3 game. Tonight's attendance: 43,484. You'd have thought they'd sell out Game 7 of the World Series.
10:04 p.m. -- Another no-hitter in MLB! Edwin Jackson of the Diamondbacks just did it to the Rays down in St. Petersburg. Walked eight. Threw 149 pitches! Arizona won, 1-0. What's the record for most pitches ever thrown in a no-hitter? My first thought was A.J. Burnett (who walked nine in his) but I just looked it up and he only got to 129.
10:06 p.m. -- Nice job by Drew Storen. He struck out Tejada to end the sixth, then got through the seventh unscathed thanks to a 5-4-3 double play. The official scorer is going to have an interesting call crediting one of the Nats' relievers with the win if the lead holds up. Storen might have the strongest case when it's all said and done. It's 6-3 in the eighth.
10:23 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Tyler Clippard walked Wieters to open the eighth, then fell behind pinch-hitter Scott Moore 3-0, then served up a two-run homer that makes it 6-5.
10:32 p.m. -- And it's now tied 6-6. We can probably stop talking about Clippard as an All-Star candidate now. His ERA just went from 1.58 to 2.12.
10:51 p.m. -- Great at-bat from Roger Bernadina with two on and two out in the ninth, but he couldn't beat out a great throw from shortstop Cesar Izturis deep in the hole. So it's still 6-6 heading to the bottom of the ninth, and Tyler Clippard (who threw 35 pitches in the eighth) is back out to pitch for the Nats.
10:55 p.m. -- Well, that was predictable. Clippard gets the first out, then puts two runners on. So after 44 pitches, now Matt Capps has to come out of the bullpen and try to pitch his way out of a jam.
11:01 p.m. -- What a horrible loss. Capps gets what should have been an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, but Guzman threw it away and allowed the winning run to score. Nats turned a 6-0 lead in the fourth into a crushing 7-6 loss. Four errors committed tonight (two apiece by Desmond and Guzman).