Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg returns tonight to face the Marlins.
The Nats also will be honoring former Expos great Andre Dawson before tonight's game. Dawson, who now works in the Marlins' front office, also will see his name unveiled as part of a brand-new "Ring of Honor" that has been erected on the facade of the club level behind home plate. Eighteen people who are in the baseball Hall of Fame and have ties either to the Nationals, Senators, Expos or Homestead Grays will be honored in the ring: Dawson, James "Cool Papa" Bell, Ray Brown, Gary Carter, Joe Cronin, Rick Ferrell, Josh Gibson, Goose Goslin, Clark Griffith, Bucky Harris, Walter Johnson, Harmon Killebrew, Buck Leonard, Heinie Manush, Cumberland Posey, Sam Rice, Jud Wilson and Early Wynn.
Continuing with the Expos theme, several Nats players and coaches are wearing tri-colored Expos hats during batting practice today. They won't, however, be wearing them during the game.
Check back for updates before, during and after the game...
MARLINS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 91 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
CF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
P Stephen Strasburg
SS Hanley Ramirez
LF Logan Morrison
1B Gaby Sanchez
2B Dan Uggla
CF Cody Ross
RF Mike Stanton
3B Wes Helms
C Ronny Paulino
P Anibal Sanchez
3:44 p.m. -- Here's pitching coach Steve McCatty in an Expos cap...
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
6:42 p.m. -- The Andre Dawson ceremony is currently taking place behind the plate, with fellow Expos Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter on hand to catch Dawson's ceremonial first pitch. Meanwhile, in deep right field, Stephen Strasburg is playing catch and preparing to head toward the bullpen.
6:48 p.m. -- You can debate whether the Nats should be honoring Dawson and the Expos, and I understand the arguments on both sides. I'll just say this: Upon seeing his name included on the Nats' new Ring of Honor, Andre was in tears and unable to speak to Charlie Slowes. Clearly, this means something to him, and that's what should count more than anything.
7:02 p.m. -- Stephen Strasburg will start tonight's game. I repeat: Stephen Strasburg will start tonight's game.
7:08 p.m. -- We are underway, and Strasburg starts Hanley Ramirez off with a 99 mph fastball for ball one. Sighs of relief emanating from around Nationals Park.
7:20 p.m. -- On the bright side, Strasburg certainly didn't lose any velocity from the layoff. If anything, he gained some. He fired up five 99 mph fastballs in the top of the first and hit 100 mph once. On the down side, he struggled big-time to locate his curveball, which consistently put him behind in the count. Worse, Dan Uggla turned on a 98 mph heater and deposited it into the flower patch just over the left-field fence. Marlins up 2-0. Strasburg threw 23 pitches, 14 strikes in the first.
7:25 p.m. -- Nothing doin' for the Nats in the bottom of the first. Two flyouts and a groundout against Anibal Sanchez, who barely broke a sweat. Strasburg is right back on the mound for the top of the second, his team trailing 2-0.
7:33 p.m. -- That's more like it. Strasburg retires the side in the second, striking out the Marlins' first two batters. He blew away Mike Stanton with a 3-2 high fastball, then caught Wes Helms looking at a 2-2 curveball. Ronny Paulino grounded out to second to end the frame. Total of 38 pitches, 22 strikes so far from Strasburg, who has only thrown fastballs and curveballs. No changeups yet.
7:39 p.m. -- Another 1-2-3 inning for Sanchez, who got Dunn, Willingham and Morse. For what it's worth, since Nyjer Morgan went down last week, Morse is 4-for-23 (though two of the hits were homers).
7:52 p.m. -- Dan Uggla OWNS Stephen Strasburg. Drilled a two-run double to the base of the wall in left in the third, putting the Marlins up 4-0. So he's now 2-for-2 with a homer, a double and four RBI in three innings. Strasburg's biggest issue: He can't get ahead in the count. Threw first-pitch balls to the last four batters he faced in the third, went to a 3-0 count on two of them. Things got so shaky there, Craig Stammen actually started warming up in the bullpen. He got out of the inning, but he's at 60 pitches and trailing by four runs. Wonder how much more he'll get tonight.
8:22 p.m. -- It's now 4-1 Marlins after four, the Nats' lone run coming thanks to an error by Wes Helms in the third. Strasburg made it through the fourth on only 11 pitches, though he did allow a leadoff double to Stanton. He continues to fall behind batters -- he's gone 2-0 or 3-0 to five of his last eight batters.
8:45 p.m. -- Well, that didn't exactly go well for the kid. Gave up a leadoff double to Ramirez on an 0-2 curveball to open the fifth, and it quickly went downhill from there. When Sanchez also roped a line drive to deep left, off Willingham's glove -- it was inexplicably scored a double, not an error -- Strasburg's night was over. Sitting on 84 pitches, with Uggla coming up next, Jim Riggleman decided not to take a chance. He pulled the rookie an turned to Miguel Batista, who only added more fuel to the fire. He walked Uggla, walked Stanton, then allowed a two-run double to Helms that closed the book on Strasburg. His final line: 4 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 6 earned runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. That's both the shortest outing and the most earned runs he's allowed in 10 big-league starts. The Marlins now lead 7-1 in the bottom of the fifth of a game that feels even more lopsided than the score.
9:15 p.m. -- This is about as dead as this ballpark has been in a while. Just no energy at all. Perhaps that's because the Nats trail 8-1 after six excruciating innings. Perhaps it's because of the sweltering heat and humidity and stagnant air. And perhaps it's because a good number of those in attendance tonight have already left the park. Whatever the case, this game is officially a dud. And we've still got three innings to go.
9:25 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 25,939. That's the smallest crowd for any Strasburg start (home or away) by about 2,000. And it's the smallest crowd for a Strasburg home start by about 6,000. The reason: Tuesday night against the Marlins with not much advance notice about Strasburg pitching. Makes sense.
9:46 p.m. -- Great chance for the Nats to get back within striking distance in the bottom of the seventh. They scored on unearned run thanks to Anibal Sanchez's error, then loaded the bases with two outs for Adam Dunn. But Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez countered with recently acquired lefty specialist Will Ohman, who has very good career numbers against Dunn: 3-for-18, five walks, 10 strikeouts. Dunn nearly got him, driving an 0-2 pitch to the warning track in left. But Morrison camped underneath it and made the catch to kill the rally. So it's still 8-2 as we head to the eighth and more fans head to the exits.
10:05 p.m. -- Just what you want to see in the ninth inning of an 8-2 game: Rain.
10:12 p.m. -- And that will do it. Nats lose 8-2 in one of their worst all-around performances of the season. Strasburg falls to 5-3, his ERA rises to 3.07.