Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan faces Tommy Hanson today at Nationals Park.
So it's not really a surprise that Ramos is behind the plate today in only the season's second game. I don't think he's suddenly become the everyday guy himself, but if it wasn't clear already, it should be now: Ramos is at the very least splitting the job with Rodriguez.
John Lannan takes the mound for the Nationals, facing a Braves lineup that is unchanged from Opening Day. Right-hander Tommy Hanson starts for Atlanta. Plenty of updates to come...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Scattered storms, 48 degrees, Wind 10 mph LF to RF
STARTING LINEUPS12:15 p.m. -- The catching situation was the main topic of discussion pregame, and Jim Riggleman said the plan is to have Rodriguez and Ramos split the job 50-50 for now, starting every other day. It's pretty much the same thing they did last September. Riggleman doesn't want to refer to either guy as the starter, but instead is saying the team has "two No. 1's" behind the plate. Pudge is handling this all very well, and he had some good things to say a few minutes ago. Check back soon for a full article on that.
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
P John Lannan
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 Tommy Hanson
12:19 p.m. -- One other pregame news item: Tom Gorzelanny will make his first start of the season next Saturday against the Mets. He was available out of the bullpen Thursday, and he'll be available again today in that role. At some point in the next few days, Gorzelanny will likely throw a simulated game, putting him in line for his first start of the year.
12:46 p.m. -- Here comes the rain. The tarp is on the field, fans have been instructed to head to the concourses and the start of the game will be delayed.
1:36 p.m. -- And after a short delay, we're underway with a strike from John Lannan to Martin Prado.
1:42 p.m. -- Nice first inning for Lannan. He allowed a two-out single to Chipper Jones, but that's all. Especially nice job striking out Nate McLouth on a 3-2 fastball. Thirteen pitches, eight strikes for Lannan.
1:52 p.m. -- I mentioned after Thursday's game that the key to whole Jayson Werth batting second experiment is whether Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse can drive him in. So far this season, they haven't been able to do that. Despite Werth hustling to turn a one-out single to left-center into a double, then moving to third on Ryan Zimmerman's flyball to right, the $126 million man wound up stranded when LaRoche tapped back to the mound. So LaRoche and Morse are now a combined 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position this season. Obviously, that's a minuscule sample size. But it's something to watch.
2:02 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa helps save the day. I think you'll be hearing that phrase a few times over the next several years. With runners on first and second and one out in the top of the second, Espinosa went to his left to make a diving stop of Freddie Freeman's hard grounder. You could tell Espinosa was immediately thinking double play, but he couldn't get to his feet quite fast enough and had to settle for the out at first. Still, it helped prevent the Braves from scoring, because Tommy Hanson followed with a weak grounder to second. So we're still scoreless heading to the bottom of the second.
2:14 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know: The Nationals have scored a run! They were the last team in baseball to do that. And all it took was a walk, a wild pickoff attempt, a weak grounder to the right side and a sac fly. Hey, they'll take whatever they can get. Actually, they almost got another one after Ramos singled, Lannan drew a walk and Desmond smoked a ball down the third-base line. Chipper Jones, though, made a nice play to snag the ball and then race to third just in time to beat a sliding Ramos (who runs pretty well for a catcher, by the way). So the Nats lead 1-0 as we go to the third.
2:24 p.m. -- So much for that lead. The Braves just got the run back in the top of the third when Nate McLouth barely got grazed by an inside fastball, then took second when Lannan's pitch in the dirt got away from Ramos. Chipper singled to center, and that made it 1-1. On the bright side, Espinosa made a fantastic, diving stop of Prado's line drive to his right. And Zimmerman made a nice play on Uggla's grounder to end the inning.
2:36 p.m. -- Look out, the Nats' lineup is on fire! Werth leads off the third with his second double of the day (making him 3-for-6 now in his Nats career). Zim was drilled in the left shoulder, once again bringing up LaRoche and Morse with runners in scoring position. Technically, neither got a hit. But each hit fly balls deep enough to right field to advance Werth, who ultimately scored on Morse's sac fly. Moments later, Rick Ankiel (who swung from his heels and missed a 3-0 fastball from Hanson) tagged Hanson's 3-1 offering over the right-center field scoreboard. Just like that, the Nats have taken a 4-1 lead.
2:51 p.m. -- And we've got our second delay of the game. This time, it's hailing. Pretty intense system rolling through. Hopefully it won't last long.
3:21 p.m. -- OK, the skies are clearing and the tarp is being removed. We should have baseball in the next 20-25 minutes. The question then is whether to keep Lannan in the game or remove him. For what it's worth, Tom Gorzelanny is available today out of the pen. Might make sense to get a couple of innings out of him if the Nats don't want to send Lannan back out after the delay.
3:28 p.m. -- Looks like Lannan will stay in the game. He's playing catch in right field right now.
3:35 p.m. -- The Braves, on the other hand, are going to pull Hanson and go with right-hander Cristhian Martinez instead.
3:45 p.m. -- And we're back. Martinez facing Werth after a 55-minute delay.
3:50 p.m. -- Missed opportunity there. After Werth reached on an error by Chipper Jones and Zimmerman walked, LaRoche came up with the bases loaded and two outs. He tapped a weak grounder to second to end the inning. LaRoche is now 0-for-3 today and 0-for-4 for the season with runners in scoring position.
4:02 p.m. -- Lannan retired the side in the fifth, but he's done for the day. Final line: 5 ip, 5 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 3 k, 68 pitches, 38 strikes. Wasn't especially sharp, but he got the job done and is in line for the line. Chad Gaudin now pitching.
4:05 p.m. -- And Gaudin joins the list of relievers who gave up a home run to the first batter they faced as a member of the Nationals. Dan Uggla crushed his first pitch to left. Sean Burnett had it happen to him a couple summers ago in Florida, and I know there were a couple others the last few years. Nats now lead only 4-2.
4:19 p.m. -- Well, that turned into an interesting inning. Gaudin was yanked after issuing a one-out walk to Gonzalez. Doug Slaten entered and immediately gave up a deep fly ball to right field that Werth completely lost sight of. Turned into a double. So now Riggleman pulled off his first double-switch of the season, which of course included Morse getting taken out of the game in favor of Laynce Nix. Enter Tyler Clippard, who fell behind in the count to pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad yet somehow struck him out on a 92 mph fastball right down the heart of the plate. Prado flied out to deep left, so somehow the Nats still lead 4-2 as we go to the bottom of the sixth.
4:35 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 21,941.
4:41 p.m. -- For the second straight day, Clippard gets the job done and prevents the Braves from rallying. He got out of the sixth, and he got out of the seventh, inducing a 4-6-3 double play from Chipper and then getting Uggla to fly out to end the inning. Still 4-2 at the seventh-inning stretch.
4:55 p.m. -- Wow, all kinds of strategy coming into play in the bottom of the seventh. With Zimmerman on third and one out, the pitcher's spot (previously held by Morse) came up. Riggleman sent up Jerry Hairston to face George Sherrill, who immediately issued an intentional walk. So now Ankiel (historically terrible against lefties) had to face Sherrill in a huge spot. But here's one way to get around that: Squeeze bunt! Dropped a perfect one in front of the plate, scoring Zim and making it 5-2 as we head to the eighth. And now Drew Storen will pitch this inning, meaning Sean Burnett is in position to be the closer today. Makes sense, because McLouth, Chipper and McCann are all likely to bat in the ninth for Atlanta.
5:04 p.m. -- Storen got Heyward to start the inning, but then served up a solo homer to Alex Gonzalez on an 0-1 slider. He bounced back to strike out Freeman on three pitches. But when Eric Hinske came up to pinch-hit, Riggleman decided to go to Burnett. Got the final out of the eighth on one pitch. He'll need to get three more in the ninth for the save.
5:20 p.m. -- The Nats get the run back, thanks to a bouncer from Zimmerman off Chipper's glove. Desmond raced around to score from second, putting the Nats up 6-3 as we go to the ninth. Burnett will face the top of the order: Prado, McLouth, Jones. If anyone gets on, McCann.
5:28 p.m. -- Ballgame. Nats win 6-3. Lannan gets the win. Burnett gets the save. Ankiel gets the credit for both homering and dropping that perfect squeeze bunt. And give an assist to Riggleman, who did a fair bit of managing today and pretty much made all the right moves in the end.