Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals try to avoid a series sweep tonight at the hands of the Mets.
If this was another town, or if this was another pitcher, the crowd response tonight might not be very pleasant. I have a hunch, though, that Hernandez will be greeted warmly as always when he emerges from the dugout shortly before 7:05 p.m. We shall see.
In other news, Ian Desmond has returned from paternity leave and has been added back to the roster. The Nationals optioned outfielder Roger Bernadina back to Class AAA Syracuse to make room for Desmond, who will start at shortstop tonight and bat sixth.
Plenty of updates to come...
METS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Partly cloudy, 70 degrees, Wind 12 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS6:24 p.m. -- Here's a rarity: They're going to play with a three-man umpiring crew tonight. Crew chief Tim McClelland has been scratched with what was announced as a "medical condition." I happened to see all four umps walk into the stadium about 45 minutes ago and noticed McClelland was limping somewhat. So they'll go without a second base ump tonight.
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
3B Jerry Hairston
C Ivan Rodriguez
P Livan Hernandez
SS Jose Reyes
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
RF Carlos Beltran
LF Jason Bay
1B Ike Davis
C Josh Thole
CF Willie Harris
P Chris Capuano
7:08 p.m. -- We're underway on what turned into a beautiful night at the ballpark. Livan Hernandez got a typical round of applause when he was announced as the starting pitcher. Nothing out of the ordinary, but nothing to suggest a good number of fans are upset about the right-hander's legal situation.
7:12 p.m. -- And a very efficient top of the first for Livo, unlike his last outing in Pittsburgh. Struck out Jose Reyes on three pitches, the last one a 67 mph curveball. Got Daniel Murphy to ground out. Got David Wright to fly out. 14 pitches, 9 strikes.
7:23 p.m. -- They didn't have much to show for the bottom of the first, but Danny Espinosa did put together a nice leadoff at-bat, working the count full and forcing nine pitches out of Chris Capuano before grounding out to third. Rick Ankiel singled, but Jayson Werth fouled out and Adam LaRoche grounded into a fielder's choice. Scoreless after one.
7:28 p.m. -- After Jason Marquis threw a 55-mph pitch the other day in Pittsburgh (admittedly, after he slipped on the mound), Livo boasted that he wanted to try to go even lower. Well, it looks like he just did. His curveball to Jason Bay in the top of the second didn't register on the scoreboard or on MASN2. But according to Pitch F/X on MLB.com, it was 53 mph. Yes, 53 mph. Bay, of course, barely made contact in grounding out to short.
7:42 p.m. -- Livo allowed his first hit in the third when Josh Thole singled. But the big guy quickly erased it when he got a double-play grounder out of Willie Harris. Capuano then froze on a 68 mph curve, which is just way too hard for Livo to be throwing that pitch. Still scoreless heading to the bottom of the third.
7:55 p.m. -- That was a bit of an unconventional rally, but it gave the Nats a 1-0 lead nonetheless. Singles by Hernandez and Ankiel (who is 2-for-2 against the lefty) put two on with two out for Werth. Needing a big hit pretty badly, Werth lofted a deep fly ball to right. It looked like Carlos Beltran had a bead on it, but the ball landed a few inches beyond his glove (he didn't exactly make a full-throttle attempt at it). It probably would have scored two runs except that it bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, leaving Ankiel stranded at third. But the Nats have taken a lead after three.
8:05 p.m. -- And the Mets get the run right back in the fourth. Reyes led off with a double to deep right, then took third and scored on a pair of groundballs to first. 1-1 in the middle of the fourth.
8:18 p.m. -- Wow, kind of a crazy bottom of the fourth, resulting in two runs for the Nats. Ian Desmond got things started with a triple to deep left-center, then scored on Jerry Hairston's single. Another single by Pudge put runners on the corners for Livo, who dropped a squeeze bunt just up the first-base line. Thole went for the ball, but Livo was in his way, and that brief delay allowed Hairston to cross the plate before he was tagged. I'm not sure Livo actually interfered with the play, but I'm surprised Terry Collins didn't at least try to argue that. Oh well. On the negative side, the Nats wound up stranding the bases loaded when Ankiel grounded out and Werth struck out. They'll have to hope that doesn't come back to haunt them. Up 3-1 now in the fifth.
8:32 p.m. -- And the Mets get one back in the fifth thanks to some shaky defense from Pudge, who couldn't get a handle on a bunt in front of the plate (he would have had the out at third base if he could hold onto the ball). Instead, he couldn't get anybody out and left the bases loaded with one out. That allowed Davis to score on Reyes' sac fly to center. Ankiel tried to gun him down at the plate, but his throw was way wide and required Pudge to go way out of his way to haul it in. Unfortunately, Pudge wasn't watching as Thole advanced to third. It didn't cost the Nats, because Livan struck out Murphy looking at an inside fastball. But not a real clean inning there. 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth.
8:40 p.m. -- Hmm, proud papa Ian Desmond certainly seems to have a clear mind so far tonight. He's crushed two balls to deep left-center each of the last two innings. The first one, of course, was a triple. This time, he stuck one over the fence for his third homer of the season. Nice return to the lineup for Desmond, who has given the Nats a 4-2 lead heading to the sixth.
8:49 p.m. -- Neither pitcher is doing a particularly good job taking advantage of their run support tonight. Livo just gave up another run in the sixth, the sixth straight half-inning in which either team has scored. It's 4-3, and there's still a LONG way to go in this one.
9:10 p.m. -- Ivan Rodriguez may not do much at the plate anymore, but he's still got a cannon of an arm. Just made a perfect throw to second to nail Reyes trying to steal. Reyes even had a pretty good jump. It's still 4-3 as we go to the bottom of the seventh, and there's no action in the Nats' bullpen yet. Livo sitting on 99 pitches.
9:20 p.m. -- Wow, Hernandez needed only six pitches to get through the eighth. So he's at 105 through eight, with the Nats clinging to a 4-3 lead. Let him finish this one out, or go to the bullpen? What say you all?
9:27 p.m. -- No complete game tonight. Drew Storen will pitch the ninth, up one, facing the exact same part of the Mets lineup that was due up in the ninth last night: Bay, Davis, Thole, Harris.
9:37 p.m. -- That's it. A curly W is in the books. Nats win, 4-3. Livo (3-2) gets the win. Storen gets his fourth save. Desmond gets a nice welcome-back present, with a homer and triple.