Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
After a long (and successful road trip) the Nats are back home for a while.
The corresponding roster move is a bit of a surprise: Craig Stammen has been optioned to Class AAA Syracuse, leaving the Nationals with only six relievers for the time being. We'll find out from Jim Riggleman and/or Mike Rizzo the exact logic here, but my guess is they're concerned about Roger Bernadina (hamstring) and Ian Desmond (thigh) are not 100 percent, so they'd rather keep an extra position player on the bench (ie. Brian Bixler) just in case.
As for the rest of the lineup tonight ... Jayson Werth is again hitting leadoff, though Desmond is batting between him and Zimmerman. (I kind of figured if Werth was leading off, Zimmerman would bat second.) Yunesky Maya will bat eighth, and Jerry Hairston (moving to left field) will bat ninth.
Plenty of updates to come, so please check back...
CARDINALS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 189
Weather: Mostly sunny, 73 degrees, Wind 10 mph LF to RF
STARTING LINEUPS5:22 p.m. -- Talked briefly to Tom Gorzelanny in the clubhouse this afternoon. He made a rehab start at Syracuse last night and indicated he's ready to return from the DL now. "I felt strong out there," the lefty said. "It was a good one, it was definitely needed to get my legs back under me. All in all, I felt really good out there." The Nats will need to decide who starts Sunday's series finale against the Orioles: Either Gorzelanny returns or Yunesky Maya gets another shot. My guess is they'll be very interested to see how Maya pitches tonight.
RF Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
CF Rick Ankiel
P Yunesky Maya
LF Jerry Hairston
SS Ryan Theriot
CF Colby Rasmus
1B Albert Pujols
LF Lance Berkman
C Yadier Molina
RF Andrew Brown
2B Skip Schumaker
3B Daniel Descalso
P Jaime Garcia
7:08 p.m. -- We are underway with a strike from Yunesky Maya to Ryan Theriot. Had a little bit of rain earlier during BP but nothing serious. It's a very pleasant night to be at the ballpark. For some of Ryan Zimmerman's pregame thoughts and Jim Riggleman's explanation for going with a six-man bullpen, here's my story on CSNwashington.com.
7:13 p.m. -- Note to Maya: 69-mph hanging curveballs probably aren't the best way to attack Albert Pujols. Unless you want to give up two-run homers into the left-field bullpen. Yikes. Nats in an early 2-0 hole.
7:22 p.m. -- Big cheer for Ryan Zimmerman as he steps to the plate for his first at-bat in nine weeks. And Zim fits right in with his struggling Nats lineup-mates, striking out swinging. He also broke his bat earlier in the at-bat. 1-2-3 first inning for Jaime Garcia.
7:36 p.m. -- Huh, strange: Roger Bernadina just pinch-hit for Rick Ankiel in the bottom of the second. Ankiel recorded the final out of the top of the inning, catching a fly ball from Daniel Descalso. Didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. I'll let you know when we hear an explanation for his early departure.
7:39 p.m. -- Well, Bernadina singled off the lefty, putting two on with two out for the Nats and bringing the No. 8 hitter to the plate. Unfortunately, that was the pitcher. Maya struck out feebly. Not a ringing endorsement there for the unconventional lineup.
7:59 p.m. -- Another strikeout for Zim in his second at-bat of the night, this one coming with Werth on first and two outs in the third inning. Well, no one said he was just going to slide right into the lineup and rake. Nats still trail 2-0 after three.
8:03 p.m. -- Maya opens the top of the fourth with an 80 mph meatball down the heart of the plate to Lance Berkman, who deposits it into the right-field bullpen. It's 3-0 Cardinals, and Maya is not looking like he's going to earn his first career win tonight.
8:12 p.m. -- Here's your update on Ankiel: He was removed from the game with a strained left intercostal (ribcage) muscle. His status is day-to-day. For what it's worth, Ryan Zimmerman had the same injury last September. He wound up missing the season's final 10 games.
8:23 p.m. -- Ankiel's injury is Bernadina's gain. Roger is now 2-for-2 tonight and just delivered a two-out, RBI single up the middle to score Morse and trim the lead to 3-1 after four innings.
8:42 p.m. -- Yunesky Maya fails to make it through the fifth inning, and how many people out there are surprised by this? In his defense, Maya did what he needed to get out of the inning, inducing a tailor-made double-play grounder from Lance Berkman with the bases loaded and one out. But in a rare display of shaky defense, Danny Espinosa was late to cover second base and thus couldn't turn the double play. So a run scored, and Maya couldn't stop the bleeding. Yadier Molina singled home a run. Anthony Brown singled home another run, recording his first career hit in the process. That made it 6-1 and knocked Maya from the game. If you're keeping track, in nine career starts now, Maya has recorded an out in the sixth inning twice. That's not going to cut it.
8:56 p.m. -- Not the best return for Zimmerman so far. He just grounded into a double play to end the fifth. So he's now 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and that double play. Ugh.
9:15 p.m. -- Well, the Nats got one run back in the sixth, thanks to some wretched defense by Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot. I mean, just wretched. Somehow, he wasn't charged with an error for any of it. And somehow, the Nats only scored one run after loading the bases with nobody out. Bernadina tapped a grounder to second, and Wilson Ramos (the runner on first) made an astute move in slamming the brakes and forcing second baseman Skip Schumaker to throw to first to get Bernadina (though he looked really close to beating it out). Ramos then got caught in a rundown, not for long enough to allow Danny Espinosa to score from third, though. And when Brian Bixler struck out looking to end the inning, the Nats had only one run to show for all that. It's 6-2 after six.
9:29 p.m. -- Welcome back to NatsTown, Miss Iowa! Miguel Batista on to pitch the bottom of the seventh.
9:41 p.m. -- Zimmerman finally strikes, delivering an RBI double down the right-field line off Batista. Morse adds an RBI groundout after that, and then Espinosa singles up the middle for another RBI. All of a sudden, the lead is down to 6-5 in the seventh. Really underscores how damaging that top of the fifth was, between the botched double-play turn and then Maya's implosion. Nats easily could be winning this game right now.
9:52 p.m. -- Wow, what a turn of events. With two on and two out, La Russa yanked Miss Iowa and summoned lefty Trever Miller to face Roger Bernadina. Seemed like a favorable match-up for the Cardinals. Except Miller plunked Bernadina with his first pitch, loading the bases and bringing Ivan Rodriguez to the plate in a huge spot. Before Pudge could swing the bat, though, Miller uncorked a wild pitch, bringing the tying run home. Just like that, it's 6-6, and after Pudge was intentionally walked, the bases are loaded again for Jerry Hairston, with right-hander Jason Motte now in from the St. Louis bullpen.
10:08 p.m. -- That, folks, was a six-run, five-hit, three-walk, one-hit batter, one-wild pitch, 12-batter rally by the Nationals to take the lead. Fantastic job by Laynce Nix (who pinch-hit for Hairston) to battle his way through an 11-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded, fouling off six offerings from Motte before drawing a walk to force in the go-ahead run. Then Werth added an RBI single of his own, leaving Nationals Park rocking. I'll tell you what: There is actual energy in this ballpark tonight. Not scoreboard-induced. Actual, fan-induced energy. First time I remember sensing that since the last time Stephen Strasburg pitched here last season. It's 8-6, and Tyler Clippard is on for the eighth.
10:16 p.m. -- Clippard mows 'em down in the eighth, striking out both Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso. Some might say he's making a case for an All-Star selection. Oh wait, a bunch of you have said that!
10:24 p.m. -- OK, we go to the ninth. Drew Storen in to pitch. A pinch-hitter, Theriot and Rasmus due up for the Cardinals. If anybody gets on base, some guy named Pujols will come to the plate.
10:37 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win a thriller, 8-6, with Storen intentionally walking Pujols to bring the winning run to the plate in the form of Lance Berkman ... and getting Berkman to hit a comebacker for the final out. That's about as impressive a win as they've had this year. Henry Rodriguez gets the W. Storen gets the save. Big-time performances from all sorts of guys. And, how about this: They finally won a game started by Yunesky Maya!