Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann faces Casey Coleman on Independence Day at Nationals Park.
Here in the big leagues, the Nationals host the Cubs, who have dealt with all kinds of injuries to their pitching staff. Ryan Dempster was supposed to start today, but he was scratched with flu-like symptoms, so Casey Coleman (son of former Senators pitcher Joe Coleman) was called up from Class AAA for this game.
The Nats are dealing with their own nagging injuries, not on the pitching staff but in the lineup. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse are both out today. Zimmerman has been experiencing what he called "general soreness" in his abdominal area, where he had the surgery, though he insists it's just a matter of getting himself back into midseason form, not a recurrence of injury.
Morse is still bothered by a badly bruised forearm. Team officials were worried at first Morse had suffered a hairline fracture (an X-ray suggested that could be the case) but an MRI revealed no fracture or other structural damage. Jayson Werth, meanwhile, is back in the lineup despite taking a fastball off his wrist yesterday.
Plenty of game updates to come here, and be sure to check the earlier Harper story for more details, including quotes from Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson...
CUBS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 87 degrees, Wind 5 mph in from LF
STARTING LINEUPS1:06 p.m. -- We're underway, and Jordan Zimmermann very quickly gets Kosuke Fukudome to line out to left for the first out of the afternoon.
CF Roger Bernadina
3B Alex Cora
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Laynce Nix
RF Jayson Werth
1B Matt Stairs
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Ian Desmond
P Jordan Zimmermann
RF Kosuke Fukudome
2B Darwin Barney
SS Starlin Castro
3B Aramis Ramirez
1B Carlos Pena
CF Marlon Byrd
LF Alfonso Soriano
C Geovany Soto
P Casey Coleman
1:09 p.m. -- Please make sure to read my updated version of the Bryce Harper story, with quotes from Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson, and speculation about how today's move affects his eventual timeline to make his big-league debut.
1:28 p.m. -- The Nats jump out to a 2-0 lead after one inning, thanks to a string of clutch hits. Danny Espinosa (hitting third for the first time with Ryan Zimmerman getting a day off) sent a double to left-center. Laynce Nix then drove in a run with a sharp single to right. And then Jayson Werth -- yes, Jayson Werth -- sent a broken-bat, RBI single to right to bring home another run. Hey, the way things have been going, Werth should be downright giddy right now with that result.
1:34 p.m. -- Oof, an unfortunate misplay in center field by Roger Bernadina. Carlos Pena hit a drive to the wall, and Bernadina backtracked and set himself up to attempt a leaping catch. Except he probably never needed to leave his feet. The ball glanced off his glove, and Pena was credited with a generous triple. I guess you can't give him an error there, because it was by no means a routine play. But Bernadina could have gotten set under the ball better without needing to make that play more difficult. Marlon Byrd followed with a single, so it's 2-1 in the middle of the second. Jordan Zimmermann, however, already has five strikeouts and looks strong.
1:56 p.m. -- Three innings in the books already. It's still 2-1 Nats, and Zimmermann is on cruise control. Working very efficiently, having allowed only the Pena triple off Bernadina's glove and Byrd's subsequent single. Coleman has been effective himself, retiring eight straight since the Werth RBI single.
2:08 p.m. -- Oof, again, with Bernadina involved. Routine fly ball to shallow right-center field should have ended the top of the fourth with nary a run across the plate. But Bernadina and Werth each pulled up short and let the ball fall harmlessly to the ground. By the time they got the ball back in, two runs had scored and the Cubs had taken a 3-2 lead. Roger and Jayson have not exactly played alongside each other seamlessly this season. That's got to be addressed.
2:14 p.m. -- By the way, betting tip for July 4, 2012: They always let Jefferson win the Presidents Race on Independence Day. Bank on it. And yes, I'm ashamed to admit I know that.
2:27 p.m. -- Still 3-2 Cubs through five innings. The Nats have done very little at the plate since that first-inning rally. Zimmermann should hold a 2-0 lead, but shoddy defense leaves him in line to take the loss right now.
2:43 p.m. -- Make it 4-2 Cubs after a rally in the top of the sixth. It could've been worse, but Zimmermann came through by getting Alfonso Soriano to fly out to shallow center with the bases loaded. (Side note: Remember the Nats drafted Zimmermann with the compensation pick they got for losing Soriano to Chicago as a free agent.) Geovany Soto did single to right to bring one run home, but Werth gunned down Pena trying to score a second run.
2:57 p.m. -- Well, Werth has two RBI today, even though he hasn't made solid contact. Drove in his second run with a weak grounder to first. Fortunately, Nix was standing on third after legging out a triple on his bad Achilles' tendon, and thus scored to make it 4-3. We now go to the seventh, and Zimmermann is done. It wasn't entirely his fault, but his string of consecutive quality starts ends at 11. Bunch of changes from Davey Johnson results in Ryan Mattheus pitching, Roger Bernadina in left field, Rick Ankiel in center field and Laynce Nix at first base for the first time in his career.
3:07 p.m. -- And Nix makes a nice scoop of Cora's low throw to end the top of the seventh. He's a natural!
3:15 p.m. -- Today's official paid attendance: 32,937. Honestly, I can't find 8,000 empty seats here. Must have been a lot of comps or something.
3:30 p.m. -- Well, on the bright side, the Nats have tied this game 4-4 thanks to Kerry Wood's utter lack of control. He walked Ryan Zimmerman (pinch-hitting for Cora), then plunked Espinosa, then walked Nix to force in a run. That left the bases loaded for Werth. And what happened? He struck out on four pitches. The real problem with the at-bat was Werth swinging at a 1-0 fastball. Not that it wouldn't have been a strike. But given Wood's extreme wildness, you HAVE to take everything until he gets one strike on you there. With the count now 1-1, Werth took a called strike, then swung and missed a 1-2 breaking ball to end the inning. The crowd, needless to say, was not happy.
3:38 p.m. -- Stat of the day: With runners in scoring position this season, Jayson Werth has more strikeouts (24) than RBI (23). He's the only regular on the Nats roster who can say that.
3:54 p.m. -- Ugh, another squandered opportunity in the bottom of the eighth. This inning included Jason Marquis pinch-hitting (and striking out), Ian Desmond striking out, Rick Ankiel beating out an excuse-me roller to third and then Roger Bernadina grounding out with two on and two out. Over the last three innings, the Nats have hit only one ball out of the infield: Nix's triple. Yet they've put eight men on base during that span. And only scored two runs. Just a weird afternoon. It's 4-4 going to the ninth, and Drew Storen is in.
4:07 p.m. -- We go to the bottom of the ninth. It'll be Bixler, Espinosa and Nix ... and if anyone gets on, Werth.
4:15 p.m. -- And we go to extra innings, where the Nats have gone 8-5 this season and outscored their opponents 26-7.
4:30 p.m. -- Wow, so Werth leads off the 10th by drawing a walk off Marcos Mateo. Davey then sends up Livan Hernandez to put down a sac bunt, and the big guy gets a standing O after executing perfectly. And now Mateo is being pulled with an injury, so Carlos Marmol has to enter the game ice-cold. Where have we seen this situation before?
4:37 p.m. -- Whoa, Nats win, and all the credit goes to Jayson Werth. He bolted for third on Marmol's first pitch, stealing the base without the Cubs even attempting a throw. Then he bolted home on a wild pitch, scored the winning run and was mobbed by his teammates. Nats win 5-4 in 10 innings.