Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats try to complete a four-game sweep of the Cubs tonight.
Livan Hernandez (who has been excellent his last two starts) takes the ball for the Nats. He'll face Matt Garza, who was a potential trade target of the Nationals over the winter and has been OK (but not great) for Chicago.
Couple of changes to the Nats' lineup tonight. Laynce Nix takes a seat, perhaps to rest his sore Achilles' tendon, so Roger Bernadina slides to left field and Rick Ankiel starts in center. Ivan Rodriguez is behind the plate, giving Wilson Ramos the night off.
In other roster news: The Nationals have officially secured optional waivers on Collin Balester. He's reported to Class AAA Syracuse, and he's back on the 40-man roster.
Updates to come...
CUBS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to LF
STARTING LINEUPS5:05 p.m. -- Lineup change for the Nats: Ivan Rodriguez has been scratched with a bad back. Wilson Ramos will start behind the plate. Pudge didn't appear too pleased when informed during batting practice he was being scratched. Stormed down the dugout steps and back to the clubhouse. I would think he was trying to lobby hard to stay in the lineup.
LF Roger Bernadina
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
CF Rick Ankiel
Ivan RodriguezWilson Ramos
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez
RF Kosuke Fukudome
SS Starlin Castro
3B Aramis Ramirez
1B Carlos Pena
C Geovany Soto
CF Marlon Byrd
LF Alfonso Soriano
2B Darwin Barney
P Matt Garza
5:58 p.m. -- A more specific explanation on Pudge: He's got a tweak in his right oblique. According to a Nats spokesman, the scratching was precautionary and he's available to pinch-hit tonight if needed. We'll see.
6:30 p.m. -- Michael Morse finished fourth out of five in the NL All-Star Final Vote. Shane Victorino won. But could Morse, or maybe even Danny Espinosa squeeze their way onto the All-Star roster? Read my post on the homepage.
7:07 p.m. -- And we're underway with Livan Hernandez facing Kosuke Fukudome. Ninety-one steamy degrees at gametime.
7:17 p.m. -- Not the prettiest top of the first for Livo, but he got the job done. After allowing a leadoff single to Fukudome and then plunking Aramis Ramirez on an errant, 66-mph curveball, but struck out both Carlos Pena and Geovany Soto, both looking at mid-80s "fastballs." Livo is the master.
7:31 p.m. -- Ugh, two on with one out for the Nats in the bottom of the first, and they can't score either. Michael Morse swung through an 86 mph slider from Matt Garza. Jayson Werth then watched another 86 mph slider cross the heart of the plate for another called third strikes. He's now 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in this series. Scoreless after one.
7:45 p.m. -- Nothin' doin' for either team in the second. Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond each struck out in the bottom of the inning, giving Garza four K's through two.
7:51 p.m. -- A quick top of the third for Livo, including a nice play by Morse at first base. He had to range to his right to snag Fukudome's bouncer, then make an off-balance throw that perfectly led Livo to the bag to record the out. Still scoreless.
8:36 p.m. -- So, I left the press box for an inning to visit some friends who are in the stands tonight. Did I miss anything? Just kidding, I saw the Nats' 7-run bottom of the third from the seats. Man, what a rally (actually, it's the team's biggest one-inning output of the season). Eight batters came to the plate and all reached safely against Garza, leading to his early departure. Big hits all around, with RBI from Espinosa, Morse, Werth (yes, even Werth), Ramos and Bernadina. The Nats take a 7-0 lead, and Davey Johnson may finally get his wish and enjoy a game that doesn't involve his team carrying a 1-run lead into the ninth.
8:43 p.m. -- Meanwhile, in Harrisburg tonight, Chien-Ming Wang put forth another strong rehab effort. Five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, with two strikeouts and no walks. Only needed 43 pitches, and he topped out at 92 mph. So his totals over three rehab starts now: 12 ip, 7 h, 2 er, 2 bb, 7 k. I think it's probably safe to say now we're going to see this guy in D.C. by the end of the month. Pretty remarkable when you think how little progress he had made over the course of 1 1/2 seasons.
9:09 p.m. -- Oh dear, so much for that laugher Davey was hoping for. The Cubs have scored six -- yes, SIX -- runs in the top of the sixth, capped by Blake DeWitt's three-run homer off the right-field foul pole. Complete meltdown by Livo, who is now out of the game before he could record enough outs to earn a quality start. Just like that, it's 8-6, and Davey is going to have to coax 10 big outs from his bullpen.
9:23 p.m. -- Wow, what a catch by Bernadina. He had to go way to his left and back a ways to make an all-out, diving, backhand grab of Starlin Castro's line drive. Really impressive effort there to save a double in the top of the seventh.
9:29 p.m. -- And we are tied. Unbelievable. Sean Burnett enters to face Carlos Pena and serves up a two-run homer on his first pitch. It's 8-8 in the top of the seventh. Unbelievable.
9:45 p.m. -- So, let's see. The Nationals scored seven runs on eight hits during the third inning alone. In the other six innings played tonight, they've totaled one run on three hits. Really is remarkable how many times this season they've put together one good offensive inning and then been totally shut down after that. Still 8-8 heading to the eighth, with Henry Rodriguez on the mound now. Remember, Drew Storen is almost certainly not available tonight after appearing in five of the last six days.
9:57 p.m. -- Aramis Ramirez with the two-out, line-drive single just past Espinosa's leaping attempt, and the Cubs have come all the way back from an 8-0 deficit to take a 9-8 lead in the eighth. Just staggering.
10:13 p.m. -- Michael Morse to the rescue. Smokes a first-pitch fastball from Sean Marshall back up the middle for a huge, two-out RBI single, bringing Bernadina home. It's tied again, 9-9, as we go to the ninth. Rodriguez back out there for his second inning of work.
10:23 p.m. -- And now the Cubs come right back and re-take a 10-9 lead in the ninth. Darwin Barney with a two-out, RBI double just inside the right-field line, scoring Tony Campana. That's two runs scored off Henry Rodriguez in the last two innings (not to mention 10 runs scored by the Cubs in the last four innings).
10:26 p.m. -- For those asking, Drew Storen is almost certainly not available tonight. But Tyler Clippard should be. He didn't pitch last night.
10:27 p.m. -- Well, here we go. Last chance for the Nats. They trail by a run heading to the bottom of the ninth. Carlos Marmol will face Ankiel, Ramos and Desmond. If anyone gets on, Davey Johnson will have his pick of pinch-hitters.
10:39 p.m. -- That'll do it. The Nats threatened in the bottom of the ninth, getting Ankiel to third base with one out. But Matt Stairs (pinch-hitting for Desmond) popped out to third. And after Laynce Nix walked, Bernadina lined out to right field to end it. A game they once led 8-0 ends as a 10-9 loss. That's about as bad as it gets.