Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
After a dismal road trip, the Nationals return home tonight to face the Padres.
But if ever there was an opportunity to snap out of this funk and get things going in the right direction again, this is it: A weekend series against the equally reeling Padres, who have lost five of six and boast the majors' worst lineup. John Lannan, who hasn't pitched particularly well this month, needs to take advantage of this matchup.
With Clayton Richard on the mound for San Diego, Jim Riggleman is going with what appears to now be his regular lineup against lefties. That means Brian Bixler in left field over Laynce Nix, a career .192 hitter against left-handers.
In other words, first team to score tonight wins. Check back for updates...
PADRES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 189
Weather: Chance of storms, 80 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to LF
STARTING LINEUPS6:59 p.m. -- Before we get started, Jim Riggleman met with Jayson Werth today seeking clarity on the right fielder's cryptic comments from the other day in Milwaukee. Be sure to check out the story for Riggleman's take on the matter, and check back postgame for Werth's reaction (he told a team spokesman he'll speak after the game).
CF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
1B Michael Morse
C Wison Ramos
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Jerry Hairston
LF Brian Bixler
P John Lannan
RF Chris Denorfia
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Ryan Ludwick
1B Jorge Cantu
CF Cameron Maybin
3B Chase Headley
C Rob Johnson
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Clayton Richard
7:06 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from John Lannan to Chris Denorfia. Nice tribute for Harmon Killebrew (who passed away since the Nats were last home) before the game, and a No. 3 Killebrew jersey is again hanging in the home dugout.
7:10 p.m. -- Very nice top of the first for Lannan, who needed only 11 pitches to get three groundballs. And very nice job by new first baseman Michael Morse, who twice scooped throws from Ian Desmond out of the dirt to prevent errors. The second one, in particular, required Morse to stretch well to his right and make the backhanded stop. Who needs Adam LaRoche?
7:22 p.m. -- Another strong inning from Lannan in the second, and another example of stellar defense behind him. Danny Espinosa went way down the first-base line to make a sliding catch of Jorge Cantu's pop-up. Lannan then struck out Cameron Maybin on a 3-2 fastball and got Chase Headley to ground out. Two innings down, only 22 pitches from the lefty.
7:35 p.m. -- Those of you here at the park may have noticed a sudden change of PA announcers in the top of the third. Not sure why that is. Hopefully everything's OK with regular announcer Jerome Hruska.
7:38 p.m. -- OK, so Hruska fell ill, which is why he's not serving as PA announcer. Who is? Why, none other than everyone's favorite between-innings scoreboard guy Clint! (I wonder if this was the change Jayson Werth had been hinting at all along...)
7:46 p.m. -- The skies have darkened, the rain is falling sideways, the wind has whipped up and after a bolt of lightning, the umps have cleared the field. We're in a delay in the top of the fourth.
8:05 p.m. -- While we wait for the rain to pass, here's an update on Adam LaRoche, who was back at the park today and still hopes to return to play this season before needing surgery on his shoulder.
8:18 p.m. -- The rain has eased up and the tarp is currently being removed from the infield. They're hoping to resume play at 8:35 p.m.
8:23 p.m. -- John Lannan is jogging in the outfield. Looks like he'll remain in the game after a delay of what will be about 50 minutes.
8:33 p.m. -- And we're back after a 47-minute delay. Still top of the fourth, scoreless.
8:40 p.m. -- The Padres got their first baserunner in the fourth when Ryan Ludwick drew a walk. Lannan, though, has yet to surrender a base hit.
8:51 p.m. -- Lannan finally allowed a hit in the fifth on Headley's sharp single up the middle. That came moments after the Nats caught a break. Maybin appeared to beat out a bunt fielded by Lannan, but first base ump Ed Rapuano called him out, much to the chagrin of Padres manager Bud Black. So this game is halfway complete, and there has yet to be a run scored by either team. Anyone surprised by this? Didn't think so.
8:57 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa to the rescue! Solo homer into the left-field bullpen to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and the Nats have taken a 1-0 lead. That's Espinosa's seventh homer this season, third-most among all major-league second basemen and third-most among all major-league rookies. Not too shabby.
9:02 p.m. -- Pretty amazing: Lannan has allowed only one ball to leave the infield through six innings. Then again, he's done this against the Padres, so I'm not sure if it actually counts. Still 1-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
9:20 p.m. -- Seven innings in the books for Lannan, who has still allowed only the one single and one walk. He's only thrown 77 pitches, and he's due up fifth in the bottom of the seventh. No movement so far in the Nats bullpen, though.
9:32 p.m. -- Wow, Jerry Hairston ejected by plate ump Ed Hickox after flying out to center. Appeared Hairston was trying to call for time before the pitch was thrown by Richard, and Hickox didn't grant it. Hairston went livid, and before Jim Riggleman could get out there to protect his player, Hickox gave Jerry the heave-ho. Meanwhile, Lannan just crushed a ball to deep right, only to watch Chris Denorfia haul it in at the fence. The crowd was ready to explode, still gave Lannan a standing ovation as the seventh inning ended. Still 1-0.
9:43 p.m. -- Just when it looked like Lannan would get through the eighth, he gets squeezed by Hickox on a 1-2 breaking ball that appeared to nick the top of the strike zone. Lannan wound up walking Brad Hawpe to put two on with two out in the eighth, and Riggleman has come out to remove him. Big ovation for Lannan as he departs, and (surprisingly?) Drew Storen has come out of the pen in search of a four-out save.
9:47 p.m. -- Big-time strikeout by Storen to end the eighth. He got ahead of Denorfia with a fastball and a slider, then missed on his 0-2 pitch, then caught Denorfia looking at a fantastic 1-2 slider. So we go to the bottom of the eighth, the Nats still leading 1-0.
9:54 p.m. -- Nothin' doin' in the bottom half of the eighth, so we go to the ninth. Storen will face Bartlett, Ludwick and Cantu, trying to protect a 1-0 lead.
9:57 p.m. -- Oh, dear. Storen's first pitch of the ninth is a fastball up and in to Jason Bartlett, who deposits it just over the left-field fence. We are tied 1-1. Unbelievable.
10:04 p.m. -- Michael Morse to the rescue! Crushes the first pitch he sees from Mike Adams to left-center. Nats win 2-1.