Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
After a mostly successful road trip, the Nats are back home tonight.
We've seen Laynce Nix essentially take over as the starting left fielder in place of Michael Morse. We've seen Roger Bernadina take over as the starting center fielder while Rick Ankiel is on the DL. We've seen Drew Storen essentially take over as closer and be incredibly effective at, too. (Did you know he hasn't allowed an earned run since his first outing of the season?)
And, of course, we saw Nats Insider go down for about 21 hours. Thankfully, the issue has been resolved. There are still several postings (and hundreds of comments) missing from late Wednesday and all day yesterday). If you happened to miss my article on Bryce Harper's vision correction and the local optometrist who has worked with him, here's a link to that.
Thanks to everyone for your patience through this. I'm back at the ballpark tonight, and I'll have updates throughout, so please check back often...
MARLINS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Chance of showers, 65 degrees, Wind 8 mph RF to LF
STARTING LINEUPS6:58 p.m. -- Excellent rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner just now by loyal reader Gene! Nice to meet you down in the tunnel leading to the field earlier, too. Sorry I couldn't chat longer, was running late for my live TV spot on CSN.
CF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
LF Laynce Nix
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Jerry Hairston
P Tom Gorzelanny
CF Chris Coghlan
3B Emilio Bonifacio
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Gaby Sanchez
C John Buck
LF Logan Morrison
RF Mike Stanton
2B Omar Infante
P Chris Volstad
7:05 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Tom Gorzelanny to Chris Coghlan. Cloudy skies but no rain so far. Keep your fingers crossed.
7:14 p.m. -- Gaby Sanchez has become the new Hanley Ramirez. He's just killing Nats pitching this season. With a two-run homer to deep left-center in the top of the first, the Marlins first baseman is now hitting .375 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBI in seven-plus games against Washington so far. And if that wasn't bad enough, John Buck did his best Gaby Sanchez impersonation seconds later, crushing his own solo homer into the left-field bullpen. Both came on fastballs from Gorzelanny, who actually recorded three strikeouts in the inning. His breaking ball looked much more effective than his fastball in the early-going. Nats in a big hole early, down 3-0.
7:20 p.m. -- In more pleasant news, it appears Laynce Nix has assumed the starting left fielder's job from Michael Morse. Read more about that in this just-posted CSNwashington.com article. In other pregame news ... Ryan Zimmerman jogged today for the first time since undergoing abdominal surgery early last week. Zim hasn't begun any baseball activities yet, and he's still a little sore at times. But all signs are that he's progressing on schedule. That doesn't make watching the Nats on TV any easier for the Face of the Franchise: "Yeah, that's the hardest part, being patient, I think," he said. "Just sitting around, watching them play and not being able to do anything is really hard to do."
7:27 p.m. -- Jayson Werth sure has struck out looking a lot this season, hasn't he? After watching another strike three go by to end the bottom of the first, I decided to figure out just how much. Turns out 18 of Werth's 36 strikeouts have come with his bat sitting on his shoulder. So exactly 50 percent. For comparison's sake, Ryan Howard (who leads the NL with 44 strikeouts) has been caught looking only 23 percent of the time.
7:46 p.m. -- They finally gave in and decided not to pitch to Gaby Sanchez, and it worked. After intentionally walking Sanchez with one out and a man on second, Gorzelanny got Buck to ground into a 6-3 double play. So it's still 3-0 Marlins heading to the bottom of the third.
8:02 p.m. -- The good: Both Bernadina and Desmond put together a couple of really nice at-bats to put the Nats on the board. The bad: Werth struck out again, this time on a check-swing of a breaking ball way low and outside the zone. That's strikeout No. 37 for the season and his sixth in his last seven at-bats. Then LaRoche finished off the rally killing by grounding into a fielder's choice. It's time for the Nats' No. 3 and No. 4 hitters to start coming through in these situations. So far, they're not doing it nearly enough. 3-1 Marlins after three.
8:07 p.m. -- Man, Mike Stanton hits the ball really hard. He just crushed a homer to left that needed about two-thousandths of a second to leave the yard. Just a laser off Gorzelanny, who has now allowed three homers tonight, all on fastballs. Marlins lead 4-1 in the fourth.
8:13 p.m. -- OK, legitimate beef here by the Nationals over a blown call. Chris Volstad bunted with one out and a man on first. Ramos made a poor decision in trying to throw out the lead runner (he was late and threw way wide of second base) but Hairston and Gorzelanny immediately started arguing with plate umpire Paul Nauert. Why? Because the ball clearly hit Volstad's bat as it bounced up off the ground. He was in the batter's box, so that should be ruled a foul ball. Instead, both runners were safe. It didn't come back to haunt them, but still a terrible call by the umps.
8:19 p.m. -- Looks like Laynce Nix is intent on locking down that left field job, huh? Just crushed a homer, his fifth of the year, to right-center. That trims the Marlins' lead to 4-2 in the fourth and raises Nix's season average to .301. He's got more homers in 73 at-bats this season than he had in 165 at-bats all last season.
8:30 p.m. -- Speaking of trying to lock down a starting job ... Roger Bernadina is a man on a mission. He just raked a two-out, two-run double to tie the game 4-4 in the fourth, then stole third base for good measure. Bernie is now 3-for-3 tonight, and he's now hitting a robust .348 for the season. Impressive.
8:33 p.m. -- Meanwhile, in Lakewood, N.J., Bryce Harper just extended his hitting streak to 17 games by beating out a chopper back to the mound.
8:44 p.m. -- Oh. My. God. Bernadina just made a ridiculous catch to end the top of the fifth and bail out both Gorzelanny and Todd Coffey (who replaced the lefty with two outs and Stanton at the plate). Stanton tagged a liner to straightaway center. Bernadina did take one step in first before recovering, but man did he recover. Caught the ball with a full, over-the-shoulder leap, then fell in a heap as his body twisted and turned. He stayed down for a few seconds, too, as the crowd feared he was injured. But he bounced back up eventually and then got a huge, standing ovation as he trotted back in to the dugout. Still 4-4 in the middle of the fifth after the catch of the year.
9:02 p.m. -- Well, things have settled down a bit since Bernadina's Web Gem. The Nats' bats have gone cold since Roger's two-run double in the fourth. Coffey is now on for his third inning of work. Still 4-4 heading to the seventh.
9:06 p.m. -- By the way, if you missed Bernadina's catch, you can see it here on MLB.com.
9:14 p.m. -- Matt Stairs with his second hit of the season! Batting average now over .100!
9:23 p.m. -- And the Marlins retake the lead on a home run by Logan Morrison, in his first game back from the DL. Took a 2-2 fastball from Tyler Clippard to deep right-center, putting the Nats down 5-4 in the eighth.
9:44 p.m. -- Here's all you need to know about Michael Morse's status right now: With the game on the line in the bottom of the eighth, a man on third and two out, Riggleman left Nix in to face lefty Mike Dunn rather than pinch-hit Morse and force Edwin Rodriguez into bringing in righty Burke Badenhop. Then again, Nix delivered big-time, drilling a grounder just inside the first base bag to score Werth and tie the game 5-5.
9:53 p.m. -- Man, Drew Storen is throwing as filthy as any reliever in baseball right now. Just filthy. Made Hanley Ramirez look silly to end the top of the ninth. Chance for the Nats to walk off now ... and guess who's due up third? The one and only Roger Bernadina.
10:07 p.m. -- Well, Bernadina did draw a two-out walk, then took third on a hit-and-run single by Desmond. But after Ian stole second -- not a real wise move there) -- the Marlins were able to intentionally walk Werth and bring in lefty Randy Choate to face LaRoche. Bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the ninth, tie game. It's up to LaRoche now to get a hit off a lefty.
10:13 p.m. -- And LaRoche grounds out to second on a 2-2 pitch from Choate, and for the third straight day, the Nats are going to extra innings. Interesting scene during the changeover: Riggleman came out of the dugout and walked way out toward second base to have a word with Desmond. Guessing the manager wasn't too happy with his shortstop stealing second on his own.
10:21 p.m. -- Another dominant inning from Storen. We go to the bottom of the 10th. Due up: Ramos, Nix and the pitcher's spot.
10:29 p.m. -- Michael Morse, pinch-hitting for Storen, crushes a ball to deep center, points his index finger to the sky as the crowd stands in anticipation of the walk-off homer ... only to watch the ball hit about 2 inches shy of clearing the fence in the deepest part of the park. That's only a 405-foot double, folks. And now we're going to the 11th, with Brian Broderick on to pitch.
10:39 p.m. -- And the Marlins take a 6-5 lead, but only because of an incredible slide by Omar Infante. Infante came all the way around on Greg Dobbs' double to right. Jerry Hairston's relay throw beat Infante to the plate, but he managed to somehow pull his left arm bag and elude Wilson Ramos' tag, then just barely touch the plate with his fingertip before Ramos could re-apply the tag. We're talking a margin of inches here deciding this game.
10:48 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. The Nats lose a heartbreaker, 6-5 in 11 innings. Game of inches tonight. Morse misses a homer by two inches. Infante then gets his fingertip on the plate with Ramos' tag about one inch away. Hmm, I sense a theme for a postgame analysis story. Stay tuned...