Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chien-Ming Wang faces Mike Leake tonight at Nationals Park.
Chien-Ming gets the start, hoping to build off his fantastic outing at Wrigley Field last week, in which he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It's probably too much to expect the right-hander to pull that off again, but the Nationals would love to see another solid outing from him.
Tonight, the Nationals will be honoring members of the military (especially those Navy SEALs who died in the recent helicopter attack) by wearing special caps during batting practice and their stars and stripes jerseys during the game. Should make for a nice scene.
Updates to come....
REDS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, Wind 9 mph in from CF
STARTING LINEUPS5:20 p.m. -- Couple of pregame notes to share ... Ivan Rodriguez is here today and was working out in the underground batting tunnel earlier. No swings, just throwing. Davey Johnson, though, still doesn't want Pudge pushing himself too hard to return from an oblique strain that has already sidelined him more than a month. "He needs to hold himself back to heal," the manager said. "He doesn't have anything to prove. ... There's no reason for him to push it. But he's going to push it anyway."
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Laynce Nix
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
P Chien-Ming Wang
CF Drew Stubbs
SS Edgar Renteria
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
C Ramon Hernandez
LF Yonder Alonso
3B Todd Frazier
P Mike Leake
5:23 p.m. -- John Lannan, meanwhile, has been running without feeling any effects of the knee he tweaked Saturday night in Philadelphia. The real test, though, will come tomorrow when he throws his regular bullpen session, because Lannan needs to see how his left leg feels when he's pushing off the rubber. That said, he's not at all worried about missing his next start. "No," he said. "I hugely doubt it."
5:28 p.m. -- I conducted a brief, one-on-one interview with Mike Rizzo a little while ago, during which time I asked him about last night's draft signings and Stephen Strasburg's rehab. You can watch the full interview on Comcast SportsNet during the 6 p.m. SportsNet Central show, but one tease: He said either Anthony Rendon or Matt Purke could play in the Arizona Fall League this year.
6:17 p.m. -- Wow, are the stars out tonight at Nationals Park, or what? Maury Povich is here (I can't confirm nor deny whether he made Mike Rizzo give up his DNA to test whether he is in fact Stephen Strasburg's father). The Miller High Life delivery guy ("Chubbly-Bubbly!) is here. The guy who plays the "batolin" (the electri violin carved into a baseball bat) is here to play the national anthem. What a night!
6:55 p.m. -- Apparently, the "batolin" is now called the "Electric Slugger." Whatever the case, it still sounds cool. Best anthem ever.
7:08 p.m. -- And we're underway on a very pleasant, if a bit windy, Tuesday night. In front of a sparse crowd (I heard advance ticket sales were only 14,000) Chien-Ming Wang starts off Drew Stubbs with a strike.
7:19 p.m. -- Well, Wang's first-inning struggles have returned. He allowed two runs on three hits and a walk, though it might have been only one run had Jayson Werth been able to catch Ramon Hernandez's line drive over his head. Not the easiest play in the world, but the ball did go right off his glove. Werth did make a nice, sliding catch earlier on Brandon Phillips' blooper down the line. Cincinnati has taken an early 2-0 lead.
7:33 p.m. -- Man, does Michael Morse possess raw power or what? He just hit a ball off the end of his bat that normally would have resulted in a routine flyout to right field. Except the ball just kept carrying, well over Jay Bruce's head for an RBI double. Really impressive how Morse has been connecting to all fields this season. Also impressive is how Ian Desmond has begun producing at the plate. He laced a big two-out, two-run single to center, giving him a .302 batting average over his last 11-plus games. Just like that, the Nats take a 3-2 lead at the end of an eventful first inning.
7:53 p.m. -- The good news is that Wang has retired six in a row and basically eight in a row when you consider the only batter to reach since the first inning was Todd Frazier on Ryan Zimmerman's error. The bad news is that only one of the nine outs Wang has recorded (aside from a sac bunt) has come on a groundball. Everybody's hitting the ball in the air, evidence that Wang's sinker isn't sinking the way it's supposed to. We'll see if he can start to control that. It's still 3-2 Nats going to the bottom of the third.
7:58 p.m. -- And what do you know? Morse hits another opposite-field home run, his 21st of the year, raising his RBI total to 71. This extended display of power is starting to border on the absurd. Nats lead 4-2.
8:10 p.m. -- Speaking of Morse, his batting average is now a stout .325. In their brief history, the Nats have had only three qualifying hitters finish a season at .300 or better: Dmitri Young (.320 in 2007), Cristian Guzman (.316 in 2008) and Ryan Zimmerman (.307 in 2010).
8:15 p.m. -- And they tack on another run in the fourth, thanks to Ramos' double off the right-field wall and Joey Votto's error on Ankiel's chopper to first. It's 5-2 as we head to the fifth.
8:22 p.m. -- Make it 12 in a row retired now by Wang. And really it should be 14 in a row because of the Zim error. He did get a couple of groundballs in the fifth, but his sinker still isn't sharp the way it was in Chicago last week. Something's working, though.
8:25 p.m. -- Ladies and gentlemen: Ryan Zimmerman. Almost reached the concourse beyond the left-field foul pole. A titanic blast, the seventh of his abbreviated season, to put the Nats up 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth.
8:38 p.m. -- I'd guess that will be it for Wang, who was laboring a bit in the sixth and allowed one more run to make it 6-3. He's due up third in the bottom of the inning, with the following line to his credit: 6 ip, 5 h, 3 er, 1 bb, 0 k, 72 pitches, 48 strikes. Hardly a fantastic outing for him, but ultimately he got the job done.
8:41 p.m. -- And I apparently spoke too soon, because here's Wang to hit for himself with two outs in the sixth. Not sure if I like this move. You've got a completely fresh bullpen at your disposal, and Wang was all over the strike zone his last inning. Why not just be satisfied with a quality start?
8:51 p.m. -- What do you know? Wang gives up a pair of hits in the top of the seventh, including a bomb of an RBI double to Renteria (who pulled up lame and has been replaced by Paul Janish). Now Davey has to summon Tyler Clippard to face Joey Votto representing the tying run. Sorry, but this scenario was totally predictable and totally unavoidable.
8:58 p.m. -- Another brilliant job by Clippard pitching his way out of a jam. He got Votto to popout, then struck out Brandon Phillips on a 3-2 fastball. But that was yet another high-stress inning for the most-worked member of the Nats bullpen, and he'll still need to go another inning in this one. It's 6-4 as we reach the seventh-inning stretch.
9:15 p.m. -- Clippard does it again. He allowed a flyball to the warning track to Hernandez, then a two-out single to Alfonso. But he got Frazier to popout to end the eighth, having thrown 25 pitches to record five outs and preserve the Nats' 6-4 lead. We go to the bottom of the eighth, and former Nats first-round pick Bill Bray (2004) is on to pitch for the Reds. You'll recall Bray was one of the players involved in that epic Austin Kearns-Felipe Lopez trade. Really nice guy. Only ballplayer I've ever seen reading the International Business Times in the clubhouse.
9:23 p.m. -- We go to the ninth. And here's Drew Storen in search of his 32nd save.
9:31 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win, 6-4. Wang (2-2) gets his second consecutive win. Storen retires the side in the ninth to record his 32nd save. Morse and Zimmerman club home runs. 23,888 witnessed it. A good time was had by all.