Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chase Field hosts the Nationals and Diamondbacks tonight.
The Nationals open an 11-game, West Coast trip tonight against the surprising Diamondbacks, who have won 14 of 16 and have taken over first place in the NL West. With left-hander Zach Duke on the mound for Arizona, Jim Riggleman is eschewing his usual righty-heavy lineup and going with Roger Bernadina in left field and Rick Ankiel in center field. The reason: Ankiel is 5-for-8 with a homer in his career against Duke, one of the few lefties he hits.
Jordan Zimmermann is on the mound, hoping to continue his hot streak. Zimmermann has tossed five consecutive quality starts, allowing only two runs in four of those outings.
Plenty of updates to come, so stay up late and check back often...
NATIONALS at DIAMONDBACKS
Where: Chase Field
Gametime: 9:40 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Clear, 91 degrees, Wind 11 mph LF to RF
STARTING LINEUPS8:10 p.m. -- Lineup change for the D'backs: Juan Miranda has been scratched due to an illness. Xavier Nady will replace him at first base.
LF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
1B Michael Morse
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
CF Rick Ankiel
3B Jerry Hairston
P Jordan Zimmermann
3B Ryan Roberts
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Justin Upton
SS Stephen Drew
CF Chris Young
C Miguel Montero
Juan MirandaXavier Nady
LF Gerardo Parra
P Zach Duke
8:34 p.m. -- Hitting coach Rick Eckstein was made available to reporters today for the first time in about one month. Check the homepage for the full transcript of his session with us.
9:40 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Zach Duke to Roger Bernadina. Pretty small crowd on hand here. Doesn't appear the locals have caught D'backs fever quite yet.
9:51 p.m. -- It appears the Nationals remembered to bring their bats west with them. They just exploded for three runs in the top of the first. It all started with some nice hustle from Ian Desmond, who came charging out of the box on what looked like a routine pop-up down the first-base line. Kelly Johnson wound up dropping it, and Desmond coasted into second base with a double. Michael Morse smoked an RBI single up the middle to extend his streak to 11 games. Danny Espinosa singled to left. And Wilson Ramos put a definitive stamp on the inning by crushing a 415-foot double off the center-field wall, scoring two. Yes, the Nats are already up 3-0 after a half-inning.
10:10 p.m. -- It's not just Desmond who hustles. Jordan Zimmermann booked it down the line to beat out an infield grounder in the top of the second. That's his third hit in 17 at-bats this season. Roger Bernadina, on the other hand, has already whiffed twice in two innings against Duke. Nats still lead 3-0 heading to the bottom of the second.
10:26 p.m. -- It's truly staggering just how bad Michael Morse looked in April ... and how good he's looked since then. Just smoked another rocket up the middle to improve to 2-for-2 tonight. He's now hitting .418 (28-for-67) since May 1, the highest mark in the majors over that span. Still 3-0 Nats as we go to the bottom of the third.
11:05 p.m. -- Bottom of the fifth now, the Nats now up 4-0 thanks to another hit from Morse (now 3-for-3) in the top of this inning, followed by an Espinosa single and a fielder's choice from Ramos. They've racked up 10 hits in five innings against Duke, a well-balanced attack. Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, has cruised so far, allowing just two hits and a walk. He's gotten some nice defense behind him, including on a double play to end the fourth.
11:13 p.m. -- For those who haven't heard yet, Bryce Harper hit a walk-off homer tonight in the bottom of the 10th to lead Hagerstown past Greenville. That capped a 4-for-5 night for Harper, who did get picked off first base earlier in the game on a fake-to-third, throw-to-first move by the opposing pitcher.
11:16 p.m. -- Chance for the D'backs to score off Zimmermann in the bottom of the fifth after Gerardo Parra and pinch-hitter Sean Burroughs singled with two outs. But Zimmermann got Ryan Roberts to line out to right to end the inning. He also saw Espinosa make a spectacular, diving stop of Miguel Montero's smash to open the inning, with Espinosa gunning a throw to first to complete the Web Gem. Still 4-0 Nats after five.
11:29 p.m. -- Six innings in the books, and Zimmermann still hasn't allowed a run. He did take a glancing blow off a comebacker from Justin Upton, bringing Jim Riggleman and trainer Lee Kuntz running out of the dugout to check him out. Now, I'm no lip reader, but I believe Jordan's response was: "Dude, I pitched in college with my jaw wired shut. Leave me a alone."
11:46 p.m. -- The Diamondbacks finally scored a run off Zimmermann in the seventh. More concerning was the fact there were four really hard-hit balls off him in the inning -- a double to left-center, a fly out to the wall in right field and a pair of smoked grounders to first that Morse made nifty plays on. Zimmermann's at 97 pitches, gotta figure he's done for the night. It's 4-1 heading to the eighth.
11:56 p.m. -- Zimmermann is indeed done for the night as Todd Coffey sprints in for the bottom of the eighth. He winds up allowing one run on six hits over seven sparkling innings. That's his sixth consecutive quality start. And he's now allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his 11 starts this season. This guy's legit, folks.
12:00 a.m. -- And Coffey's done after one pitch (resulting in a Ryan Roberts single). He burned more calories sprinting in from the bullpen than he did doing his actual job. Sean Burnett now in to face Kelly Johnson, up 4-1 with a man on first.
12:08 a.m. -- And now Burnett is pulled after striking out Johnson and Stephen Drew (sandwiched around a plunking of Upton). Drew Storen in, as is Brian Bixler on a double-switch, to face Chris Young with two on, two out and the Nats still up three runs.
12:11 a.m. -- Storen gets the job done, though Young did connect pretty solidly on a line drive to right to end the inning. We go to the ninth.
12:25 a.m. -- Some insurance, provided by Bernadina, who roped a triple to right-center to score Bixler and make it 5-1. And then, after Aaron Heilman drilled Werth in the left elbow, Morse caps off his brilliant night with an RBI single to center. That's the second four-hit game of Morse's career, and it puts the Nationals up 6-1 in the ninth.
12:39 a.m. -- That'll do it. Storen finishes out the ninth, and the Nats beat the D'backs, 6-1, for their third straight victory. Jordan Zimmermann gets a well-deserved win, improving to 3-6. Michael Morse gets a four-hit game. Storen gets credit for his 11th save.