Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nationals Park is ready to go for Opening Day.
Actually, the forecast is much better today than it looked yesterday. The chance of rain from 1-4 p.m. is only 10 percent (though it skyrockets to 70 percent at 4 p.m., so you better hope they don't go extra innings). Temperatures will be in the low 40s, so bundle up, but be ready for baseball.
Livan Hernandez gets the ball for the Nationals, making the ninth Opening Day start of his career. Amazingly, there's only one other active pitcher with as many: Roy Halladay, who also makes his ninth Opening Day start tomorrow in Philadelphia.
Veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe starts for Atlanta, a bit of a surprise considering Tim Hudson's dominance over the Nationals franchise (10-2, 1.91 ERA in his career) vs. Lowe's career numbers (8-7, 3.64 ERA). Lowe, though, was huge for the Braves down the stretch last season, going 5-0 in September. And Hudson will start Atlanta's home opener next week.
Plenty of updates to come, so be sure to check back often...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV: MASN, Ch. 50
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Chance of rain late, 42 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from CF
STARTING LINEUPS11:37 a.m. -- Hey folks, for those of who went out to The Bullpen to see our live broadcast on ESPN-980, unfortunately they had technical difficulties. So I had to come back to the ballpark to call in to the show. I'll still be on til noon with Al Galdi and then for a while with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro if you want to listen.
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
C Ivan Rodriguez
P Livan Hernandez
LF Martin Prado
CF Nate McLouth
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jason Heyward
SS Alex Gonzalez
1B Freddie Freeman
P Derek Lowe
12:58 p.m. -- OK, we're just about ready to go. The players have been introduced. The national anthem has been played. Ryan Zimmerman has been presented with his Silver Slugger Award. And the ceremonial first pitches are being thrown by five members of the military as we speak. Let's play ball!
1:11 p.m. -- And we are underway. Livan Hernandez starts Martin Prado off with a fastball for strike one. Gametime temperature: 41 frigid degrees.
1:17 p.m. -- Well, the Nats are going to have to play come-from-behind baseball right off the bat. Livo worked quickly to retire Martin Prado and Nate McLouth, but then Chipper Jones laced a two-out hit down the right-field line and beat Jayson Werth's wide throw to second for a double. Moments later, Brian McCann sent a single up the middle that scored Chipper and put the Braves up 1-0.
1:29 p.m. -- The Nats decided to bat Werth second because he gets on base so much. And he delivered in his first at-bat, singling up the middle. Then Werth showed his speed going first to third on Ryan Zimmerman's base hit to right. So first and third, one out, golden opportunity for Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse. Result: A LaRoche popout and a Morse groundout. Both runners stranded. Nats still scoreless. This is going to be a big thing to watch all season. If Werth is going to hit second, LaRoche and Morse are going to have to take advantage of their RBI opportunities. This time, they didn't.
1:33 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Jason Heyward takes Livo deep to open the second, crushed a 2-1 offspeed pitch over the scoreboard in right-center. Braves lead 2-0.
1:44 p.m. -- Rick Ankiel drove the ball to the warning track in right, giving the crowd brief moment to jump to its feet. But Heyward caught it at the base of the wall. Danny Espinosa beat out a little dribbler, then took second when Ivan Rodriguez managed not to hit into a double play. Livo tapped one back to the pitcher, though, to end the second. Still 2-0.
1:51 p.m. -- Livo has settled down since the Heyward homer. He's retired six straight, including Nate McLouth, who froze at a 68 mph curveball from the right-hander for a third-inning strikeout.
1:58 p.m. -- Lowe strikes out the side in the third. Desmond and Werth swinging. Zimmerman looking at a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner that Zim clearly thought was a ball. Tim Welke clearly thought otherwise.
2:07 p.m. -- Livo has really gotten into a nice groove. He's now retired nine straight after a 1-2-3 fourth. LaRoche made a nice stop on McCann's grounder, tossing to first from his knees. He then struck out Uggla on my favorite pitch in the major leagues: the 60 mph Bugs Bunny curveball. Livo then cranked it up to 65 mph to get Heyward looking to end the inning. Still 2-0 Braves in the middle of the fourth.
2:15 p.m. -- Tim Welke has an, um, interesting strike zone today. No consistency at all, and you can tell both Hernandez and Lowe are a bit frustrated. Not that either pitcher is struggling. Lowe continues to cruise. He did issue a two-out walk to Ankiel in the fourth, but Ankiel was then gunned down trying to steal second. Why was he trying to steal second with two outs? Perhaps the Nats don't have a ton of confidence in Pudge to come through with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Sure looked like they were desperately trying to get Ankiel into scoring position for Espinosa. One glimmer of hope for the Nats: Lowe is already up to 73 pitches after only four innings. Even though he's been mostly untouched, he may not be able to go all day at this rate.
2:20 p.m. -- Twelve in a row retired by Livo. He's holding up his end of the bargain so far. Can his teammates get something going at the plate? Bottom of the order due up in the fifth.
2:30 p.m. -- These two teams have combined to put one man on base in the last three innings: Ankiel, who drew that two-out walk in the fourth. And he was immediately thrown out trying to steal. Both starters are dominating, but something's got to give eventually. Still 2-0 Braves as we go to the sixth.
2:34 p.m. -- Make it 15 in a row retired by Livan Hernandez since that Heyward homer. Three nice plays in the field by the Nats in the sixth: Werth on a sliding catch, Espinosa going to his right and Zimmerman charging in.
2:41 p.m. -- Well, the Nats knocked Lowe out, if you want to call it that. They got only three hits and two walks off the right-hander, but his pitch count is up to 105 with two outs in the sixth after walking Zimmerman. So Fredi Gonzalez is going with lefty Eric O'Flaherty to face LaRoche.
2:46 p.m. -- LaRoche did his job, battling back from an 0-2 count to single to left. Interestingly, Gonzalez kept the lefty in to face Morse, who smoked a grounder right to shortstop. Alex Gonzalez flipped it to second for the force out, and the Nats are down in the sixth. They still trail 2-0, and time is starting to run out.
3:04 p.m. -- Nice job by Tyler Clippard to get out of a jam in the top of the seventh. Livo was pulled after facing only two batters with his pitch count at only 77. Doug Slaten entered to face Heyward and issued a walk. Clippard, though, came to the rescue, striking out Gonzalez on a 3-2 changeup and getting Freeman to fly out to left.
3:12 p.m. -- Chance for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh is squandered. Espinosa doubled with one out, then took third on Pudge's groundout to the right side. Riggleman had Jerry Hairston ready to go to face O'Flaherty, but Fredi countered with right-hander Peter Moylan. So Riggleman countered with Laynce Nix. It didn't work. Nix struck out on four pitches, leaving the score at 2-0 and leaving the Nats down to their last six outs.
3:26 p.m. -- Top of the order does nothing in the eighth. Three groundballs to the left side. Down to three outs.
3:43 p.m. -- That will do it. Nats lose 2-0. Disappointing way to start the season. The pitching staff was outstanding. The lineup not so much.