Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals need to beat the Marlins today to avoid a series sweep.
John Lannan takes the mound, riding a prolonged hot streak both on the mound and at the plate. Over his last 11 starts, the lefty is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA, a span during which he's limited the opposition to a paltry .593 OPS. He's also got four hits (including a homer) in his last six at-bats.
Rookie left-hander Brad Hand starts for Florida, so Davey Johnson is stacking his lineup with right-handed hitters. Jerry Hairston is leading off in center field for the second straight day. And newly acquired Jonny Gomes makes his first start in left field.
Plenty of updates to come...
MARLINS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 12:35 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 189
Weather: Partly cloudy, 91 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to LF
STARTING LINEUPS12:36 p.m. -- And we're underway on a 90-degree afternoon in the nation's capital. The lower bowl is mostly empty, but the upper deck is swarming with kids from various summer camps, all decked out in their brightly colored T-shirts. Kind of an interesting scene here.
CF Jerry Hairston
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Jonny Gomes
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
P John Lannan
3B Emilio Bonifacio
2B Omar Infante
LF Logan Morrison
SS Hanley Ramirez
RF Mike Stanton
CF Mike Cameron
1B Wes Helms
C Brett Hayes
P Brad Hand
12:48 p.m. -- Scoreless after one inning. If nothing else, though, at least Ryan Zimmerman is starting to get really hot at the plate. Roped a double down the left-field line in the bottom of the first, giving him 10 hits in his last 23 at-bats. During that span, he's raised his average from .240 to .266. Finally starting to look like the real Zim.
1:03 p.m. -- Lannan has navigated his way through two innings without surrendering a run, but he's not exactly cruising. Allowed a double and a walk in the second, and he also plunked Mike Stanton. On a hot afternoon, the lefty has already thrown 40 pitches, putting himself in a hole early on even though the game is scoreless.
1:15 p.m. -- Apparently, "Longball Lannan" only shows up against right-handed pitching. Didn't look too good there against the lefty Hand, grounding out weakly to second base to end the bottom of the second with two runners stranded. Still scoreless here.
1:26 p.m. -- The Marlins get on the board in the third, with Emilio Bonifacio scoring from third after Danny Espinosa lost his handle on the ball trying to start a 4-6-3 double play. Espinosa was charged with an error, but the run still would have scored even if he turned the play cleanly. Espinosa and Ian Desmond made up for it moments later with a 6-4-3 twin-killing on Ramirez's grounder. So it's 1-0 Marlins in the bottom of the third.
1:40 p.m. -- Wow, I'm not even sure what to say about this. I'll just let the facts speak for themselves. Bottom of the third. Bases loaded. One out. Jayson Werth at the plate. Hand falls behind in the count 3-0. Werth then swings at the 3-0 pitch and pops it up behind first base. The crowd starts booing. Then the ball falls in between three Marlins fielders, just inside the foul line. A run scores and Werth reaches on an RBI single. Then Jonny Gomes grounds into a 4-6-3 double play on the first pitch he sees. After all that, it's now 1-1 after three.
1:51 p.m. -- Really sloppy defense there from Lannan in the top of the fourth. With runners on the corners, Hand dropped a sacrifice bunt in front of the mound. Lannan charged it to field the ball, but he failed to look Mike Cameron back to third base before throwing to first. That allowed Cameron to score easily and give the Marlins a 2-1 lead.
2:05 p.m. -- Jack McKeon has seen enough of Brad Hand. The 80-year-old skipper yanks his starter with a 1-0 count on Espinosa in the bottom of the fourth (after he'd already issued six walks). Can't say I blame Trader Jack. He's got to get this game moving if he's going to make it to Denny's in time for the early-bird special. (Sorry, cheap old man joke there. I couldn't resist.)
2:09 p.m. -- And before Espinosa gets a chance to drive the tying run in, Desmond gets thrown out at third base on the front end of a double steal. Can't say I really understand the thinking there. We'll see what Davey has to say later.
2:29 p.m. -- Call me crazy, but I think this Mike Stanton kid has a chance to be pretty good. Man, oh man, what power. Just crushed a pitch from Lannan about 440 feet way back into the Red Porch seats in deep left-center. It's now 3-1 Marlins in the sixth.
2:42 p.m. -- That'll do it for Lannan, who battled all afternoon. Wound up throwing 115 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. Was by no means his best outing. And after Sean Burnett allowed back-to-back hits to Bryan Peterson and Emilio Bonifacio (who now owns a 26-game hitting streak), Lannan has been charged with four earned runs for the first time in 12 starts. Marlins lead 4-1 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
3:18 p.m. -- Credit where credit's due: With two on and two out, Werth fouled off five straight 3-2 pitches from Edward Mujica before finally lacing an RBI single to center. That brought Zimmerman home and cut the lead to 4-2. Unfortunately, Gomes then swung mightily and missed a 3-2 fastball, ending the seventh.
3:33 p.m. -- How much longer can the Nats stick with Henry Rodriguez? At the very least, Davey Johnson has to stop sending him back to the mound for a second inning. He issued a four-pitch walk to Mike Cameron to lead off the eighth, let him steal second, advance to third on a wild pitch and then score on a groundout. Rodriguez's numbers over his last five outings: 6 2/3 innings, 10 earned runs, 9 walks, 1 hit batter, 3 wild pitches. This game is now 5-2, slogging its way into the bottom of the eighth as we reach the 3-hour mark.
3:41 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg continues to progress toward a big-league return. Strasburg today threw 51 pitches (39 strikes) over three innings in a simulated game in Viera, according to Mark DeCotis of Florida Today. Certainly seems close to beginning a minor-league rehab assignment, which would put him on course to pitch for the Nationals in September.
4:00 p.m. -- Is it over yet? Nope. Still the bottom of the ninth to play. Still 5-2.
4:14 p.m. -- OK, now it's over. Final score: 5-2. Five-game losing streak. The Nats are now 9-16 under Davey Johnson.