Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats look to make it eight in a row today at Nationals Park.
So, no reason to start making tweaks now. Jayson Werth remains in the leadoff spot today against the Orioles, and Jordan Zimmermann will bat eighth. Only change from last night is a swap of catchers, with Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.
Brian Matusz, who has struggled since returning from the DL, starts for Baltimore. He'll face a stiff challenge in baseball's hottest team. With a victory today, the Nats would match their second-longest winning streak since arriving in the District.
Plenty of updates to come...
ORIOLES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV: MASN, MASN2
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), WTEM (980 AM), XM 189
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 84 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS12:25 p.m. -- Couple of pregame items to pass along ... Rick Ankiel's strained ribcage muscle continues to improve, though not to the point he's ready to return to action. The Nationals need to make a roster move tomorrow morning to open a spot for Tom Gorzelanny. Ankiel to the DL is a possibility, but as Jim Riggleman put it: "I don't want to do that." ... Gorzelanny, by the way, will probably be limited to five or six innings and about 90 pitches in his first start in three weeks. ... Though Ian Desmond is 20-for-23 in stolen base attempts this season, he's still hampered by a nagging thigh injury. Riggleman said he plans to give Desmond tomorrow off, which coupled with Monday's team off-day should give the shortstop a chance to rest a bit. ... I mentioned last night that Wilson Ramos is having some problems receiving throws from the outfield. Well, I asked Riggleman about that this morning, and it turns out the skipper and Ivan Rodriguez discussed the same thing in the dugout during last night's game. Pudge is going to work with Ramos on it. The key point appears to be understanding who the baserunner is and whether or not you have enough time to better position yourself to receive the throw before setting up for the tag/collision. With Derrek Lee running last night, Riggleman and Rodriguez felt Ramos had enough time to make a better attempt at catching the ball before worrying about the tag.
RF Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Jerry Hairston
C Ivan Rodriguez
P Jordan Zimmermann
CF Roger Bernadina
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Derrek Lee
LF Luke Scott
3B Mark Reynolds
2B Robert Andino
P Brian Matusz
1:05 p.m. -- All right, we are underway. Fastball from Jordan Zimmermann to J.J. Hardy for strike one. Late-arriving crowd, but it looks like it'll be another large gathering today. Probably not quite as big as last night's crowd of 35,562.
1:10 p.m. -- Hmm, don't want to be falling behind 3-0 in the count to Adam Jones there, Jordan. After taking a strike to move it to 3-1, Jones crushed a fastball from Zimmermann into the left-field bleachers. Orioles take a 1-0 lead in the first.
1:20 p.m. -- We started to see signs last night of Ryan Zimmerman's swing coming together, and it just really came all together in his first at-bat today. Murdered an 88-mph fastball from Brian Matusz way back into the left-field bleachers. That's Zim's second homer of the season (first since April 5) and it ties this game 1-1 after one.
1:30 p.m. -- Another would-be basestealer gunned down by a Nats catcher. This time, Ivan Rodriguez gets Derrek Lee. Pudge and Ramos are now 21-for-43 at throwing guys out, a 49 percent rate that is far and away baseball's best. Next closest is the Rangers, at a mere 36 percent. In other words, the Nats could fail to throw out the next 13 guys trying to steal off them, and they'd STILL lead the majors in this department!
1:43 p.m. -- In other Pudge news, he lined into a 4-3 double play to end the bottom of the second. That does not, however, count against his pursuit of the all-time double play record. Those are only "grounded into double plays," not "lined into double plays." So Pudge remains 14 behind Cal Ripken's record of 350.
2:00 p.m. -- Hmm, Jayson Werth takes off for second with two outs in the third, stops as he sees Ian Desmond sky a fly ball to right, then runs back to first base even though the inning was over.
2:05 p.m. -- Zimmermann doesn't appear to have his best stuff today, but he's coming up big when he needs to. After Derrek Lee doubled in the fourth (amazingly, his seventh hit in as many at-bats this series) and Felix Pie added a single to put runners on the corners with one out, Jordan struck out Mark Reynolds and then got Robert Andino to ground out to first. Nice job, keeping this a 1-1 game in the middle of the fourth.
2:28 p.m. -- Still 1-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth. Something's gotta give here soon. Both teams have had chances, just haven't been able to convert.
2:39 p.m. -- Six innings in the books for Zimmermann, and he's allowed only the one early run on five hits. He's at 87 pitches, and there's no bullpen action yet. So it looks like he'll be back out for the seventh. He'll need his teammates to score a run, though, to give him a shot at the win.
2:46 p.m. -- And there it is: Ryan Zimmerman doubles off the right-field wall, then Michael Morse puts one into the right-field bullpen. Nats take a 3-1 lead, and Morse has now established a new career high with 42 RBI (and it's only Game No. 71).
2:57 p.m. -- Here's an interesting way to look at Mr. Morse. Over the last 365 days, these are his offensive numbers: 26 homers, 79 RBI, .290 average, .345 OBP, .513 slugging percentage, .858 OPS. This isn't just a nice hot streak. This is legit.
3:04 p.m. -- Uh-oh, trainer out to look at Jordan Zimmermann in the top of the seventh. Zimmermann tried to wave him off at first, but the trainer insisted on looking at him. He's staying in the game, so all appears fine for now.
3:08 p.m. -- And now Zimmermann allows back-to-back singles to Nolan Reimold and J.J. Hardy, the latter scoring a run. It's 4-2 with one out in the seventh, Zimmermann is being lifted and Henry Rodriguez is entering from the bullpen to face Nick Markakis. Hang on tight, folks.
3:15 p.m. -- Wow, did Rodriguez just come up big, or what? Fell behind Nick Markakis but battled back to get a flyball to left. Then blew away Adam Jones, finishing him off with a back-to-back combo of a 101-mph fastball and an 83-mph slider. That's just not fair. Nats still up 4-2 at the seventh-inning stretch.
3:19 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 36,614. That's slightly more than 1,000 more than they drew last night. Looks like the combination of a winning streak and the Orioles is bringing 'em out to the park.
3:35 p.m. -- Henry does it again. With Tyler Clippard apparently unavailable after pitching five of the last seven days, Rodriguez got to return for the eighth. He did issue a two-out walk to Felix Pie but bounced back to strike Mark Reynolds out looking at an 85-mph slider. We go to the bottom of the eighth, still 4-2.
3:43 p.m. -- We go to the ninth. Drew Storen will face Andino, a pinch-hitter (probably Vladimir Guerrero) and Hardy in search of his 17th save.
3:51 p.m. -- Ballgame. Nats win 4-2 and the streak is now up to eight. Jordan Zimmermann gets the win and is now 5-6 with a 3.07 ERA. Storen gets his 17th save in 19 tries. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse each homer. They'll go for their second straight sweep, ninth straight win and a .500 record tomorrow afternoon.