Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
If the rain holds off, Livan Hernandez will face Joe Blanton tonight at Nationals Park.
So the heart of the Nationals' lineup includes Matt Stairs, Wilson Ramos and Laynce Nix. Jerry Hairston is at third base today, but Jim Riggleman said that will be a revolving door between Hairston, Alex Cora and Morse. Jesus Flores, just called up from Class AAA Syracuse, will be used mostly as a pinch-hitter. Riggleman said Flores will also get some work during batting practice at first base, just in case he's needed there at some point.
The forecast tonight doesn't look good, but it doesn't look bad enough for the Nats to call the game off in advance. In other words, bring your parka and be prepared for some delays.
Updates to come...
PHILLIES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Chance of rain, 56 degrees, Wind 20 mph in from RF
STARTING LINEUPS7:09 p.m. -- We are underway, on time and everything. Skies are gray, but it's dry for now. That said, there is nobody here. This is one of the smallest crowds I can remember seeing here, and I don't think it's only because of no-shows. There are plenty of sections without a single seat filled.
SS Ian Desmond
CF Rick Ankiel
RF Jayson Werth
1B Matt Stairs
C Wilson Ramos
LF Laynce Nix
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Jerry Hairston
P Livan Hernandez
CF Shane Victorino
3B Placido Polanco
SS Jimmy Rollins
1B Ryan Howard
RF Ben Francisco
LF Raul Ibanez
C Carlos Ruiz
2B Wilson Valdez
P Joe Blanton
7:12 p.m. -- Nice top of the first for Livan Hernandez. He got a grounder out of Shane Victorino, a flyball to right out of Placido Polanco (Jayson Werth was greeted with boos from the Philly fans after he caught it) and then a shot off the bat of Jimmy Rollins that looked like a sure base hit to right. But wait, was that really Matt Stairs making a lunging grab of the ball to rob Rollins? Yes it was. Nicely done by the 43-year-old first baseman.
7:17 p.m. -- Nothing going on for the Nats in the bottom of the first. Ian Desmond swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded out to short. Rick Ankiel struck out. Werth (greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos, all of them vociferous) worked the count but then tapped a weak grounder to third. He's now hitless in his last 11 at-bats, and we're scoreless after one.
7:34 p.m. -- When Ryan Howard took a 1-0 pitch from Livo to the opposite field, just over the left-field fence to lead off the second, the stadium rose to applaud him. Seriously, are there more than 1,000 Nats fans here tonight? Sure doesn't look like it. There was some nice applause when Wilson Ramos and Laynce Nix each singled in the second and then Ramos scored on Danny Espinosa's sac fly, but not the same kind of roar that greeted Howard's homer. After two, it's now 1-1.
7:46 p.m. -- Livo has made only one mistake so far, the Howard homer. Otherwise, he's retired the other nine batters he's faced, striking out two. The Nats haven't done much against Blanton, though. Desmond and Ankiel are a combined 0-for-4 with two groundballs and two strikeouts. Still 1-1 after three.
7:54 p.m. -- Here's one you don't see very often: Desmond tagged Rollins with his glove as the latter tried to advance to second on a groundball. The ball, however, was in Desmond's right hand as he prepared to throw to first to try to complete a double play. The ball never touched Rollins. Second base ump Tom Hallion had no idea, though, and called Rollins out. The Phillies threatened in the fourth, but Livo got Ibanez to fly out with two on and two out.
8:07 p.m. -- The Nats may need to strike an endorsement deal with Tropicana. Or Charmin. They just love to squeeze. (Sorry, I had to.) For the third time in 10 games, they pulled off a successful squeeze bunt, this one by Livan Hernandez to score Laynce Nix with the Nats' third run of the fourth. They already got a leadoff double from Werth (snapping his 0-for-11 slump), an RBI double from Ramos (now 9-for-19 this season), and singles from Nix and Jerry Hairston. Just like that, the Nats have taken a 4-1 lead.
8:18 p.m. -- So much for Werth's slump. He doubled in the fourth and just clubbed a line drive just inside the left field foul pole for his first homer at Nationals Park as a National. That got some people up on their feet to cheer. Nats lead 5-1 and are taking it to Blanton pretty good.
8:34 p.m. -- Here comes Livo to start the seventh inning, a much needed development. Only once previously this year had a Nats starter pitched into the seventh (Jason Marquis against the Marlins). Livo's only at 79 pitches, so he's obviously got plenty left in the tank. And he's got a 5-1 lead at his disposal.
8:52 p.m. -- His right arm may fall off at some point, but for now Tyler Clippard has just been downright amazing. Came in to relieve Livo with the bases loaded, two outs and Victorino at the plate. And blew him away for his 11th strikeout in nine innings this season. Just when it looked like things were getting dicey, Riggleman summons his rally killer to pitch out of yet another jam. Still 5-1 at the seventh inning stretch.
9:11 p.m. -- Another tack-on run for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to three consecutive walks by Philly relievers, including one to Michael Morse (who was feeling well enough to pinch-hit and now take over at first base) and one to Wilson Ramos with the bases loaded. So it's 6-1 as we go to the eighth, Clippard still on the mound.
9:24 p.m. -- Hmm, maybe I spoke too soon. Clippard just put three straight guys on with one out in the eighth, including back-to-back walks. All of a sudden, Sean Burnett is entering to face Raul Ibanez with the bases loaded, up five runs, in what amazingly is a save situation.
9:29 p.m. -- Well, Burnett just allowed two of his inherited runners to score, both of them charged to Clippard (who no longer has a 0.00 ERA). But ultimately, he did what was most important: record two outs to end the eighth. It's now 6-3.
9:39 p.m. -- Another tack-on run in the bottom of the eighth as Espinosa draws a leadoff walk, moves to second on Pudge's groundball and then scores on Cora's single. For the record, this makeshift lineup everybody was panning earlier this afternoon has produced seven runs, nine hits and five walks.
9:451 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Got a little dicey late, but the Nats win 7-4. Livo (1-1) gets the win. Burnett gets his third save, though his Nats-record 22 2/3-innings scoreless streak comes to an end. Werth goes 2-for-3 with a homer, double and walk against his old team. And, yes, the Nationals are a .500 ballclub at this moment, tied with the Marlins for second place in the NL East, two games behind the Phillies.