Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan faces the Astros today at Space Coast Stadium.
John Lannan starts today against the Astros, his second-to-last tune-up before the season begins. At the moment, Lannan is slotted to start the second game of the season (April 2 against the Braves) but that's not set in stone. In fact, Riggleman said everything after Livan Hernandez on Opening Day is still subject to reshuffling.
Because of two off-days in the season's first week, the Nats don't need a No. 5 starter until April 9 in New York, their eighth game. So it's possible they'll only put four starters on the Opening Day roster to open a spot for another reliever or bench player. The problem if that happens, though, is that they can't send likely No. 5 starter Tom Gorzelanny to the minors. He's out of options. And they can't send Hernandez or Jason Marquis. Which means it's possible Lannan or Jordan Zimmermann could draw the short straw and actually have to make one minor-league start before joining the big club.
Plenty of updates from today's game to come. If you notice a significant gap in the updates, it's probably because I left the press box to 1) take photos, 2) interview someone in the clubhouse or 3) make a TV or radio appearance...
ASTROS at NATIONALS
Where: Space Coast Stadium, Viera
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: Astros radio via XM 183 and MLB Gameday Audio
Weather: Mostly sunny, 78 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS1:06 p.m. -- And we're underway with a fastball high and inside from John Lannan to Michael Bourn. Pretty sparse crowd on hand on a gorgeous afternoon. Eighty-one degrees at first pitch and only a light breeze blowing.
CF Jerry Hairston
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
LF Michael Morse
C Wilson Ramos
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Brian Bixler
1B Alberto Gonzalez
P John Lannan
CF Michael Bourn
SS Clint Barmes
2B Bill Hall
LF Carlos Lee
C J.R. Towles
1B Matt Downs
RF Brian Bogusevic
3B Oswaldo Navarro
P Wandy Rodriguez
1:08 p.m. -- Real quick top of the first for Lannan. He got a pair of groundouts sandwiched around a lineout to left field.
1:13 p.m. -- And an equally quick bottom of the first for Wandy Rodriguez, who retired the side. Jerry Hairston scorched a line drive right at third baseman Oswaldo Navarro. Ian Desmond tapped a weak comebacker. And Jayson Werth skied a fly ball to shallow right field. End of one, no score.
1:18 p.m. -- Lannan is cruising along nicely so far. Six up, six down, with only one ball leaving the infield. In the top of the second, he got a pop-up, a groundball and then blew away Matt Downs with a high fastball. Meanwhile, Alberto Gonzalez is playing first base today for the Nats. He's got to be the shortest first baseman in the majors since Carlos Baerga manned that position on occasion for the 2005 Nats.
1:29 p.m. -- The Nats didn't score in the bottom of the second, but they did start to hit the ball harder. Michael Morse laced a single up the middle. Wilson Ramos then scorched a drive to the warning track in left-center that was tracked down by Carlos Lee. The rally fizzled, though, when Danny Espinosa struck out and Brian Bixler grounded into a fielder's choice. Still scoreless as we go to the third.
1:37 p.m. -- The Astros finally put a man on in the third when Oswaldo Navarro singled to center. But Wilson Ramos erased that with a snap throw to first to pick Navarro off. Lannan, meanwhile, made a nifty play to catch a popped-up bunt. Through three innings, he's faced the minimum, allowing only Navarro's single.
2:07 p.m. -- The Zuckerman Effect lives on. Went down to take photos for two innings, and sure enough the Nats scored in the bottom of the fourth. Wilson Ramos reached on a two-out error, then scored moments later on Danny Espinosa's RBI double to center. Lannan continues to cruise along, having faced the minimum through five innings now. Only one man has reached: Navarro, who singled in the third and was subsequently picked off. Really nice outing from Lannan. Nats lead 1-0 in the middle of the fifth.
2:26 p.m. -- The Astros finally got to Lannan in the sixth, thanks to a one-out walk to Navarro. A sac bunt moved him to second, and then Michael Bourn singled to left-center to bring in Houston's first run of the day. So Lannan's final line should be: 6 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 3 k. Game tied 1-1 headed to the bottom of the sixth.
2:42 p.m. -- Boy, Collin Balester has pitched very well this spring. He just blew away the Astros in the seventh, striking out two and inducing a foul-pop for the other out. He's now allowed only two earned runs in 9 1/3 innings this spring, certainly deserving of a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. The question is whether he'll be a victim of the options game. We're still tied here, 1-1, at the seventh-inning stretch.
2:54 p.m. -- Wow, Matt Stairs just ran right into Jerry Hairston's grounder toward second, and thus was called out to end the seventh. I know Stairs doesn't run the bases often, but come on, he's gotta know better than that!
3:00 p.m. -- OK, Stairs made up for the baserunning gaffe with a nifty scoop of a one-hop throw at first base. Yes, he still plays the field sometimes. Still 1-1 in the eighth.
3:13 p.m. -- And the Zuckerman Effect strikes again. Well, sort of. We were just down in the clubhouse talking to John Lannan about his start when we heard a semi-roar from the crowd outside. Turns out Michael Morse clubbed a two-run homer to right, his sixth of the spring, to put the Nats ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth. Drew Storen is slated to pitch the ninth in what will be an actual save situation. Stay tuned.
3:21 p.m. -- And Storen gets the job done in efficient fashion. 1-2-3 ninth, with first-pitch strikes to all three. Nats win, 3-1.