Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats need to beat Josh Johnson tonight to avoid a series sweep.
Josh Johnson (career 7-0, 3.27 ERA) starts for Florida, five days after he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Opening Day against the Mets. He'll be opposed by John Lannan, who also pitched well in his season debut but is 2-3 with a 5.34 ERA in six career starts against the Marlins.
As expected, Wilson Ramos is behind the plate for the Nats. As was not expected, he's batting fifth behind Adam LaRoche. Michael Morse (2-for-17 to begin the season) is on the bench, with Laynce Nix starting in left field and batting eighth.
Meanwhile, up in Rome, Ga., tonight, Bryce Harper and the Hagerstown Suns take the field for the first time this season. I'll provide some updates from that game (which starts at 7 p.m.) within this game thread, so be sure to check back for that...
NATIONALS at MARLINS
Where: Sun Life Stadium
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees, Wind 10 mph in from RF
STARTING LINEUPS7:10 p.m. -- We're underway here in Miami, and they're already underway in Rome, Ga., where Bryce Harper delivered an RBI single to center in the first at-bat of his minor-league career.
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Laynce Nix
P John Lannan
CF Chris Coghlan
2B Omar Infante
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Gaby Sanchez
LF Logan Morrison
C John Buck
3B Wes Helms
RF Emilio Bonifacio
P Josh Johnson
7:15 p.m. -- Very quick top of the first for the Nats, with Ian Desmond flying out to center, Jayson Werth caught looking at an inside fastball for strike three and Ryan Zimmerman popping out to second. Obviously, I'm not in Rome at Harper's debut, but I'm betting they've got a bigger crowd there than we've got here at Sun Life Stadium. Can't be more than 1,500 people actually in their seats right now.
7:27 p.m. -- Not a promising start to evening for John Lannan. He walked Chris Coghlan to open the bottom of the first, then served up a single to Omar Infante and an RBI double to Hanley Ramirez. It could've been much worse, though. Lannan battled to get out of the inning allowing only two runs, stranding Hanley on third thanks to a big strikeout of Logan Morrison. Still, that's a daunting 2-0 deficit to be staring at after one inning.
7:35 p.m. -- Let's see. Josh Johnson has faced six batters in two innings. He's yet to put a man on base. And he's retired three by called strikeout. Draw up the worst-case scenario for how this game might start, and this is pretty much it.
7:44 p.m. -- Another shaky inning for Lannan and Co., but they got out of it without allowing another run. Lannan walked the leadoff man for the second straight inning. Ramos attempted an ill-advised throw to second on a sac bunt attempt (and was charged with an error when he pulled Desmond off the bag). Still 2-0 after two.
7:50 p.m. -- Hoo-boy, Josh Johnson is dealing tonight. Nine up, nine down. Four strikeouts, all of them looking. Only one ball has left the infield so far: Desmond's game-opening flyout to center.
7:53 p.m. -- Bryce Harper update: He's 2-for-2, having added a bunt single in his second at-bat of the night. So, the greatest power-hitting prospect in a generation has two singles, one of them on a bunt, and a stolen base in his debut?
8:11 p.m. -- Well, Johnson's perfect game is over, and so is Werth's home run drought. Werth clubbed a solo shot off the top of the right-field fence with one out in the fourth, though no one knew for sure at first whether it was a homer or not. Werth kept running and wound up sliding into third base. First base ump D.J. Reyburn signaled home run, but the crew convened and decided to review it. After a short delay, they emerged and upheld the call, saying the ball struck a metal railing behind the fence. So Werth has his first homer as a Nat, and the Nationals have trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the fourth.
8:29 p.m. -- And now it's a 2-2 game, thanks to some shaky defense from Hanley Ramirez. He made a great diving stop of Ramos' sharp grounder to his left but threw the ball away. Then he couldn't handle Ankiel's bouncer up the middle. With runners on first and third, Espinosa nearly placed a hit-and-run single through the right side of the infield. Instead, Gaby Sanchez made the play and Espinosa had to settle for an RBI groundout.
8:40 p.m. -- Lannan isn't exactly in top form tonight, but he's somehow managed to be effective. Through five innings, he's allowed only those two early runs on five hits. His pitch count is at 84, so figure one more inning for him. Still 2-2 here in the top of the sixth.
8:43 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Bryce Harper struck out in his third at-bat of the night. So he's now 2-for-3 with two singles, a strikeout, a stolen base and a caught stealing. Hagerstown leads Rome 2-0 in the sixth.
8:48 p.m. -- How about that, the Nationals have taken the lead. Desmond led off the sixth with a single, then stole second and advanced to third when John Buck's throw sailed into the outfield. Ryan Zimmerman delivered the RBI single to right, and just like that the Nats have taken a 3-2 lead on Johnson and the Marlins.
8:53 p.m. -- Another minor-league update for you, this time from Harrisburg. Senators play-by-play man Terry Byrom reports that Henry Rodriguez hit 100 mph on the stadium radar gun tonight in his first rehab appearance. Rodriguez is pitching in relief of Brad Meyers, the organization's 2009 pitcher of the year, who battled a foot injury last season but enjoyed a nice debut tonight in striking out nine Bowie Baysox batters over five scoreless innings.
9:05 p.m. -- We're tied again, though once again the Nats were fortunate to get out of a jam without giving up more. Lannan got knocked out after two batters, the second of which launched a double to the deepest part of the ballpark, off Rick Ankiel's glove in front of the 434-foot sign. Riggleman turned to Tyler Clippard to try to pitch out of the second-and-third, two-out jam, and Clippard did about as best as you could ask. He did allow a run-scoring groundout to Bonifacio, but he then struck out both Greg Dobbs and Chris Coghlan to end the sixth. So it's now tied 3-3, and both starters are out of the game.
9:16 p.m. -- Missed opportunity for the Nats to retake the lead in the seventh. Ramos drew a leadoff walk, but that put Ankiel in the awkward position of having to face a left-hander (Mike Dunn). As you might expect, Riggleman had Ankiel drop a sacrifice bunt, which worked but put the pressure on Espinosa and Jerry Hairston (pinch-hitting for Nix) to drive in the run. Neither did. Espinosa popped out. Hairston grounded out. Still 3-3 at the stretch.
9:27 p.m. -- What a job by Clippard. He wound up throwing 17 of 21 pitches for strikes, recording six outs, three via strikeout. His final pitch in the seventh was a ball, but he'll take it. Perfectly timed pitchout to nail Hanley trying to steal second. So it remains 3-3 as they go to the eighth.
9:29 p.m. -- Bryce Harper grounded out to second in what was likely his final at-bat of the night. So he goes 2-for-4 with two singles, a stolen base, a caught stealing, a strikeout and a groundout. Hagerstown leads Rome 3-2 in the eighth.
9:40 p.m. -- Another golden opportunity to retake the lead: Two on, one out, Zimmerman at the plate ... and he grounds into a 6-3 double play. Killer. The Nats are now 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position tonight, 7-for-50 for the season. Drew Storen on to pitch the bottom of the eighth, still 3-3.
9:46 p.m. -- Storen has quietly started to pitch really well. Just retired the side in the eighth, striking out Wes Helms on a 95-mph fastball. This after a strong appearance Tuesday night.
9:53 p.m. -- And we go to the bottom of the ninth, still tied 3-3. Storen is back out there to face Bonifacio, a pinch-hitter and Coghlan. Hanley Ramirez due up fifth.
10:00 p.m. -- Another stellar inning from Storen, who retired the side again and struck out two. He completely froze Mike Stanton on back-to-back sliders for his second K of the inning. Really impressive fastball-slider combo from the right-hander. So we go to the 10th.
10:11 p.m. -- Smallball just reared its ugly head in the top of the 10th. After Espinosa led off with a single, Hairston sacrificed him to second. That allowed the Marlins to pitch around Matt Stairs, putting runners on first and second with one out for the red-hot Desmond. So what happened? Espinosa got gunned down trying to steal third. Yeah, why was he trying to steal third in that situation, with your hottest hitter and then your two best hitters due up next? Whatever the reason, it didn't work. We go to the bottom of the 10th, Todd Coffey on to face Infante, Hanley and Sanchez.
10:18 p.m. -- Well, Coffey's appearance tonight sure turned out a lot better than his appearance from last night. Retired the side, striking out Hanley Ramirez on a tight slider. Let's go to the 11th! Who cares that we all have early flights to New York tomorrow morning!
10:25 p.m. -- Ladies and gentlemen: Adam LaRoche, he of the .130 batting average. Two-run bomb to right. Nats take a 5-3 lead in the 11th.
10:34 p.m. -- Ballgame. Nats get a much-needed, 5-3 victory in 11 innings over the hated Marlins. Coffey gets the win. Burnett gets the save. LaRoche gets the big hit. And the Nats bullpen gets a hearty thank-you for a spectacular performance. Clippard, Storen, Coffey and Burnett's combined line: 6 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 8 k.