Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ross Detwiler faces Rodrigo Lopez tonight at Wrigley Field.
Fresh off an impressive 3-1 victory last night, the Nationals look to make it three in a row when Ross Detwiler takes the mound for his third start of the season. The lefty has pitched pretty well when called upon this year, but he's yet to show he can pitch deep into a game. Perhaps tonight is the night we see him sustain it and reach the sixth or seventh inning.
It's the usual lineup for the Nats, aside from Jesus Flores behind the plate instead of Wilson Ramos (who is celebrating his 24th birthday). That means Jonny Gomes (who has homered the last two games) gets his fourth straight start in left field.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS at CUBS
Where: Wrigley Field
Gametime: 8:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Mostly clear, 73 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from LF
STARTING LINEUPS7:25 p.m. -- There's some uncertainty about the state of Ivan Rodriguez's strained oblique, but this much seems clear: He's not going to be playing for the Nats anytime soon. Here's my full posting on that.
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Jonny Gomes
SS Ian Desmond
C Jesus Flores
P Ross Detwiler
SS Starlin Castro
RF Reed Johnson
3B Aramis Ramirez
1B Jeff Baker
C Geovany Soto
CF Marlon Byrd
LF Alfonso Soriano
2B Darwin Barney
P Rodrigo Lopez
9:04 p.m. -- Oh, hi there! Long time, no speak. Sorry for the lack of postings, and for your inability to post comments for the last hour. Turns out Google's Blogger platform (which I use to operate this blog) was down for maintenance. Nice of them not to let me know in advance so I could warn everyone. Anyways, it's currently 1-1 in the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 18 games in the top of the first, then scored when Starlin Castro threw away Michael Morse's grounder to short. The Cubs got on the board in the second when Geovany Soto homered off a 2-2 pitch from Ross Detwiler.
9:20 p.m. -- The Cubs take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, in part because of an ill-advised attempt by Jayson Werth to make a sliding catch of Alfonso Soriano's blooper down the right-field line. Werth had to run a mile to even get close to the ball, and he had no chance of making the play. The ball caromed away, and by the time he picked it up, Soto scored easily from first. If Werth just lets the ball fall in and then picks it up, the run might not score. Detwiler then got into a big-time jam when he intentionally walked No. 8 hitter Darwin Barney, only to allow a base hit to Rodrigo Lopez. But credit to the lefty for striking out Starlin Castro on a nasty slider in the dirt. Big pitch there from Detwiler, keeping this a 2-1 game heading to the fifth.
9:29 p.m. -- Chance for the Nats to tie things back up, or even take the lead, in the fifth after Jesus Flores reached on a crazy bounce dribbler, then took third on Rick Ankiel's smoked two-out double down the right-field line. But Danny Espinosa couldn't deliver in the clutch, grounding out to second. That makes Espinosa 16-for-96 since the All-Star break, a major slump. Of course, you also have to put some blame on Detwiler for his inability to get a bunt down earlier in the inning, one that would have advanced Flores to second and allowed him to score on Ankiel's double.
9:39 p.m. -- The fifth inning has plagued Detwiler before, and it nearly got him again. Reed Johnson poked a 2-2 curveball up in the zone into the bleachers for a solo home run. Two more Cubs sent drives to the warning track in right field, with Werth catching both (including a long run to deep right-center to track down Soto's blast). Nats now trail 3-1 as we go to the sixth.
9:45 p.m. -- Make it 3-2 as Werth finds the left-field bleachers. That's his 14th homer of the season. More impressively, the fan who caught it fired the ball all the way back to second base. Couldn't see him up close, but is it possible that was Henry Rowengartner out there? (Let's see how many of you get the reference.)
9:48 p.m. -- And here comes Collin Balester to begin the sixth. So Detwiler is done, with the following line: 5 ip, 7 h, 3 er, 2 bb, 5 k, 84 pitches, 54 strikes.
9:54 p.m. -- And Balester quickly serves up a solo homer to Soriano, making it 4-2. He also allowed a double to Darwin Barney before settling down to strike out Jeff Samardzija and Starlin Castro. The Nats are hanging around in this one, but it's on the verge of getting away from them entirely.
9:59 p.m. -- Oh, and nice job by those of you who correctly guessed I was referencing the classic "Rookie of the Year." My favorite cameo in that movie was ex-big leaguer Tim Stoddard, who later became pitching coach at Northwestern University while I was in school and covered the baseball team. Who did Stoddard play in the movie? The opposing pitcher, who in the immortal words of young Henry Rowengartner, had a "big butt!"
10:09 p.m. -- Another squandered chance for the Nats in the seventh. Flores doubled with one out, and Davey Johnson sent Laynce Nix to the plate with a chance to drive in a run. But Mike Quade countered with left-hander Sean Marshall, who induced a weak groundball out of Nix and then struck out Ankiel on a 2-2 breaking ball in the dirt. Runner stranded in scoring position. Nats still trail 4-2 at the seventh-inning stretch.
10:20 p.m. -- Interesting: Quade is leaving lefty Marshall in for the eighth, with all right-handed hitters due up: Espinosa, Zimmerman, Morse, Werth and Gomes. If the Nats are going to rally, now's the time.
10:27 p.m. -- So much for that. Espinosa did lead things off with a perfectly placed bunt single. But Zimmerman grounded into a killer 6-4-3 double play. And Morse had his bat shattered on a pop-up to short. So it's still 4-2, and now the Nats are down to their final three outs.
10:52 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. The Nats go down quietly in the ninth and lose, 4-2. Ross Detwiler falls to 3-11 with a 5.03 ERA in 22 career big-league starts.