Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The sun is out right now, but it was pouring earlier, and it may rain again tonight.
Case in point: It was absolutely pouring when I arrived here a little while ago, with a ferocious wind that forced the grounds crew to hold down the tarp with about nine tractors. The amazing thing is, this wasn't anything new around here. Hardly a game day goes by without some sort of delay or squeegeeing of the field. Fortunately, the new park (which is being built on the site of the old Orange Bowl) has a retractable roof.
As for tonight's game, the first in a three-game series with the Marlins, the Nationals' lineup will have its first new look of the young season. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa are on the bench, with Jerry Hairston and Alex Cora taking over middle infield duties. Before you get all worked up about Jim Riggleman benching the two young guys (especially Desmond, who is 0-for-13), this was planned all along. The manager has wanted to make sure both Hairston and Cora get some at-bats during the season's first week. Desmond and Espinosa should be back in the lineup tomorrow.
Jason Marquis faces Anibal Sanchez, each right-hander making his 2011 debut. Plenty of updates (hopefully none of them weather-related) to come, so check back throughout the evening...
NATIONALS at MARLINS
Where: Sun Life Stadium
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WHFS (1580 AM)
Weather: Scattered storms, 80 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS5:22 p.m. -- Update on the lineup: Jim Riggleman said Danny Espinosa will hit leadoff tomorrow night, with Ian Desmond hitting seventh. Sounds like Riggleman is going to mix and match with both young infielders, waiting to see if one of them seizes the job. Full post on that coming soon.
2B Jerry Hairston
RF Jayson Werth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
SS Alex Cora
P Jason Marquis
CF Chris Coghlan
2B Omar Infante
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Gaby Sanchez
LF Logan Morrison
C John Buck
3B Donnie Murphy
RF Emilio Bonifacio
P Anibal Sanchez
5:24 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Tom Gorzelanny threw a four-inning simulated game yesterday. That puts the lefty in line to start Saturday in New York.
5:25 p.m. -- And one final pregame note: Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton is not in the lineup tonight due to a mild hamstring strain. He may be available to pinch-hit, but it sounds like there's a good chance he won't start any game in this series, which would be a pretty big break for the Nationals.
7:10 p.m. -- And away we go with a fastball from Anibal Sanchez to Jerry Hairston for ball one. It's quite possible there are 2,000 people here for the start of this game, though it's quite possible I'm overestimating that.
7:18 p.m. -- Jayson Werth may have whiffed on three pitches, making him 2-for-20 with 14 strikeouts in his career against Anibal Sanchez, but his teammates certainly picked him up. Ryan Zimmerman drew a two-out walk, setting the stage for a nice rally. Adam LaRoche singled to right, then Michael Morse delivered an RBI single to left. The rally might have continued if not for a spectacular catch by Chris Coghlan on Rick Ankiel's drive to deep left-center. Really, just a fantastic catch by Coghlan, saving what would have been at least a two-run double. Still, the Nats will take a 1-0 lead.
7:28 p.m. -- Kind of a shaky bottom of the first for Jason Marquis, but he escaped without damage. Chris Coghlan led off with a double down the right-field line (very nice throw by Werth almost nailed him), then moved to third on Omar Infante's bunt. With the heart of the Marlins lineup, you had to assume Marquis would give up a run. Instead, he came through with a big strikeout of Hanley Ramirez (on a slider that sure looked inside to Hanley and pretty much everyone watching on TV), then got Gaby Sanchez to hit a fly ball to left that just hung up enough for Morse to make a jumping catch at the fence and avert disaster.
7:41 p.m. -- If I said Wilson Ramos and Alex Cora were going to lead off the second with singles, you'd have assumed the Nats would bring at least one of them home, right? Wrong. Despite Marquis' well-placed sac bunt, both Hairston and Werth struck out swinging at 2-2 pitches from Sanchez. It was only Werth's second at-bat this season with a runner in scoring position. He's still looking for his first RBI.
7:49 p.m. -- Mistake from Marquis to Logan Morrison to start the bottom of the second: a 3-2 sinker that hung over the inner part of the strike zone and wound up over the left field fence. Marquis did bounce back, though, and retired the next three batters to keep this game tied at 1-1 after two.
8:01 p.m. -- Man, did Ryan Zimmerman smoke that pitch from Sanchez to open the third inning. Nearly put a dent in the Marlins' World Series banners down the left-field line for his first homer of the season ... and amazingly his first homer since August 30 last season in this same ballpark. How many of you remembered Zim was homer-less in September? I didn't. Nats re-take a 2-1 lead.
8:07 p.m. -- Zimmerman commits an error when he bobbles Infante's bouncer, but Marquis made up for it inducing a groundball from Hanley on the next pitch. Pitch count update after three innings: Marquis 36, Sanchez 66. Once again, the Nats are making the opposing starter work.
8:11 p.m. -- And as soon as I type that, Sanchez gets through the fourth on seven pitches. Sigh.
8:28 p.m. -- Zimmerman isn't having much trouble reaching base (he's now sporting a .600 OBP for the season after reaching for the third straight time tonight with a fifth-inning walk). The rest of the guys are still haven't trouble making contact off Sanchez, who now has six strikeouts (including LaRoche and Morse to end the inning). His pitch count is up to 88. Nats still lead 2-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
8:38 p.m. -- Marquis has been far from perfect tonight, but give him credit because he's getting the job done so far. Five innings, one run on four hits. He's throwing strikes and making the Marlins beat him. So far, they haven't been able to do it.
8:50 p.m. -- Well, they managed to knock Sanchez out after only 5 2/3 innings thanks to a whopping pitch count of 105. That said, the Nats still have only managed two runs despite seven hits and three walks. They're 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. On the bright side, Wilson Ramos is now 5-for-8 to start the season. (Pudge, by the way, is 0-for-6.) Still 2-1 as we go to the bottom of the sixth.
9:00 p.m. -- It's been sort of a bizarre night for Marquis. He's allowed a runner to reach second base in five of his six innings but has allowed only one run (the Morrison homer in the second). He's thrown only 74 pitches, but you get the sense now would be the time to pull him. Don't take any chances. Give Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Sean Burnett one inning a piece. No action yet in the Nats bullpen, but there is some stirring.
9:20 p.m. -- You can't say the Nats haven't had opportunities tonight. They've put 12 men on base in seven innings. Yet they still only have scored two runs, thanks to 1-for-8 hitting with runners in scoring position. Morse and Ramos just contributed to that in the top of the seventh. Facing lefty Mike Dunn, Morse struck out with two on and one out. Dunn then walked Ankiel to load the bases but got Ramos to ground out to end the inning. Still 2-1, and Marquis is returning to the mound for the bottom of the seventh, though Clippard is warming.
9:25 p.m. -- And Marquis can't get through the seventh. Donnie Murphy led off with a double down the left-field line, then took third on Bonifacio's sac bunt. So here comes Riggleman to make the double-switch. Clippard will pitch. Danny Espinosa takes over at second base. Hairston moves to left field. And Morse is once again the ultimate victim of the double-switch.
9:29 p.m. -- And Greg Dobbs sends a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Murphy and tying the game 2-2. Marquis can't get the win, or the loss.
9:33 p.m. -- Here's your bang-your-head-against-the-wall stat of the night: Nationals starters have posted a 2.66 ERA while issuing only four walks in 23 2/3 innings so far this season. Yet they own a collective 1-2 record.
9:42 p.m. -- Oh boy, what a squandered opportunity there. With two outs and Hairston on first, Werth crushed a ball off the left-field wall. Morrison, though, got it back into the infield quickly. Which made Bo Porter's waving motion to Hairston all the more confounding. Hairston never had a chance and had to put on the breaks and get into a rundown. Inning over. Still 2-2. Wow.
9:48 p.m. -- People back in D.C. are saying Porter put up the stop sign. I (and my colleagues here in the press box) swear we saw Porter waving Hairston in. And the only replay the Marlins broadcast showed (a very wide angle from deep left field) appeared to confirm that Porter was waving him in. We'll find out for sure afterward.
9:56 p.m. -- Just when you think the Nationals are going to blow it, they find a way to keep this thing going. Clippard issued a leadoff walk to Infante to bring the heart of the Florida lineup up. Yet he somehow got Hanley to ground out, then got Sanchez to whiff at a 2-2 pitch. After Morrison was intentionally walked, Buck grounded out to short on a 2-0 pitch. So the Marlins are now 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The Nats are slightly better at 1-for-8. We go to the ninth, still tied 2-2.
10:03 p.m. -- Nothin' doin' for the Nats in the ninth. Not even a Matt Stairs pinch-hit appearance could help out. So we go to the bottom of the ninth, and Drew Storen is entering from the bullpen. Bottom of the order due up for Florida: Murphy, Bonifacio, pinch-hitter.
10:08 p.m. -- Some tense moments there in the bottom of the ninth, especially when injured Mike Stanton stepped up to pinch-hit with two outs and nobody on. Storen appeared to have him on a 3-2 slider that sure looked like it caught the outside corner of the strike zone. Bill Welke thought otherwise, so Stanton was awarded first base on the walk. No worries, Storen got Coghlan to hit a sharp grounder to second. So, we go to our first extra-inning game of the season.
10:23 p.m. -- 1-2-3 for the Nats in the top of the 10th. Storen coming back out for the bottom of the inning. Infante, Ramirez and Sanchez due up for Florida.
10:35 p.m. -- Oh, dear. Bases loaded. Nobody out. Storen's out after throwing 35 pitches. Burnett is in. So is Desmond. And so is Hairston as the Nats go with a five-man infield.
10:41 p.m. -- They very nearly got out of it. Alas, after Burnett got Morrison to pop out and Buck to strike out, Murphy lined a base hit to left-center, bringing the winning run home. Nats lose 3-2 on an unearned run in the bottom of the 10th, that run made possible by Werth's error to start the inning. Crushing loss.