Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The forecast doesn't look promising tonight at Nationals Park.
The forecast, plain and simple, does not look good. There's a 100 percent of rain until 7 p.m., then a 40 percent chance from 7-8 p.m., a 15 percent chance from 8-9 p.m., then a 90 percent chance the rest of the night. Is that enough of a window to get this game in? I don't know.
Then again, we all remember how bad the forecast looked a couple weeks ago for Strasburg's return from Tommy John surgery. And they wound up playing the full game. So who knows?
I'll do my best to update everyone along the way, so please check back throughout the afternoon and evening...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Rain, 70 degrees, Wind 4 mph in from RF
STARTING LINEUPS5:20 p.m. -- Your weather update: It's actually looking a whole lot better right now for baseball to be played tonight, perhaps even on schedule. There's only a 10 percent chance of rain from 7-10 p.m., before it spikes back up to 60 percent or higher the rest of the night. The tarp is still over the infield, and neither team took BP outdoors today. But for now everyone's preparing as though they will play. And as for the decision whether to start Stephen Strasburg or not, Davey Johnson indicated he won't be handling the right-hander any different than anyone else tonight. "I've turned the page," Johnson said. "As far as I'm concerned, he's healthy."
SS Ian Desmond
CF Rick Ankiel
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
2B Danny Espinosa
1B Laynce Nix
C Wilson Ramos
P Stephen Strasburg
CF Michael Bourn
LF Martin Prado
3B Chipper Jones
2B Dan Uggla
C Brian McCann
1B Freddie Freeman
SS Jack Wilson
RF Jason Heyward
P Tim Hudson
6:17 p.m. -- The latest: The Nationals now say they expect the start of tonight's game to be delayed. However, they do expect the game to be played at some point this evening.
6:50 p.m. -- Hey, the sun has come out and there's a partial rainbow over the scoreboard. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
7:19 p.m. -- And we are underway with a 94 mph strike from Stephen Strasburg to Michael Bourn. Officially a 14-minute delay to start this game.
7:37 p.m. -- Well, that wasn't a very encouraging top of the first. Strasburg allowed three runs (two earned) on four singles and nearly served up a three-run homer to Jason Heyward that landed a few feet short of the Red Porch. He needed 38 pitches to finish the inning, but he wasn't helped by either Jeff Nelson's tight strike zone or Ryan Zimmerman's defense. Zim let a smoked Jack Wilson grounder go right through his wickets for a run-scoring error that prolonged the inning. It's 3-0 Braves already. Yikes.
7:45 p.m. -- Not much happening for the Nats in the bottom of the first. Ian Desmond reached on a true Baltimore Chop: right off the plate and high into the air. But he never advanced, in part because Zimmerman struck out looking at some borderline pitches from Hudson. Interesting that Hudson is getting the close calls already from Nelson and Strasburg isn't.
7:52 p.m. -- Much better stuff from Strasburg in the top of the second. He retired the side on only 11 pitches, though his command is still kind of all over the place. He's thrown only one of four curveballs for strikes so far. Forty-nine pitches (29 strikes) through two. Still 3-0.
8:02 p.m. -- The Nats get a run back in the bottom of the second thanks to a couple of hits from two rookies who are finishing strong: Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos. Espinosa doubled off the wall in right field to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Ramos then singled to right with two outs to drive his teammate in. It's 3-1 after two.
8:11 p.m. -- Strasburg is still all over the place with his stuff, but he's retired seven of the last eight Braves he's faced. His pitch count sits at 62 (37 strikes) through three innings. Figure he gets one more inning and that's it for tonight.
8:29 p.m. -- That should do it for Strasburg. He retired the side in the fourth, and with his pitch count at 75, he's probably done for the night. Wound up retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced. His final line: 4 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 2 er, 0 bb, 3 k. He still hasn't walked any of the last 114 big-league hitters he's faced, dating to Aug. 2010.
8:32 p.m. -- Meanwhile, the Presidents just ran their race, with Jayson Werth and several relievers trying to interfere with the proceedings. Then after the race ended, the presidents all held up signs that read: "We will miss you Bob." Carpenter? I honestly have no idea who that was meant for.
8:36 p.m. -- Strasburg is indeed done for tonight. Collin Balester has entered to pitch the top of the fifth. Chris Marrero has also come in to replace Laynce Nix at first base, a double-switch since the No. 9 spot is due up in the bottom of the inning.
8:40 p.m. -- Mystery solved. According to Teddy himself (or, at least, his Twitter handle) the Bob who will be missed is Bob Wolfe, who has been the Nats' executive vice president the last five years. Not Bob Carpenter, whose status for next season remains undecided.
8:49 p.m. -- And Balester is done after allowing three of four batters to reach safely (two via walk). Enter Atahualpa Severino to face Brian McCann with two on and one out. And Severino promptly gives up a two-run double to right-center. So it's now 6-1 Braves in the top of the fifth as this game slogs along.
9:28 p.m. -- OK, this is starting to get interesting again. The Nats finally started to pounce on Hudson in the bottom of the sixth. Morse started it off with a one-out double, after which the Braves trainer emerged from the dugout to check on Hudson. The right-hander stayed in the game but immediately gave up singles to Werth and Espinosa. Ivan Rodriguez came up to pinch-hit, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd, and advanced the runners with a grounder to third. Ramos then delivered his second RBI single of the night, cutting the lead to 6-3 and finally knocking Hudson out of the game.
9:33 p.m. -- And Cristhian Martinez gets Marrero to ground out to end the sixth.
9:40 p.m. -- Say this for Yunesky Maya: He's the only Nats pitcher tonight who has been able to retire Dan Uggla. Even struck him out to end the seventh. Still 6-3 Braves.
9:52 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 28,817. With two home games left on the schedule, the Nats are going to end up drawing slightly more than 1.9 million fans this season. That works out to roughly 24,000 fans per game. Honestly, that's more than I expected. On Opening Day, I predicted only 1.56 million.
10:05 p.m. -- There goes Werth's 20th homer of the season, into the left-field bleachers off Jonny Venters to open the bottom of the eighth. It's now 6-4 as the Nats try to chip away at this lead. They're running out of outs, though.
10:15 p.m. -- Oh my lord, that was the worst attempt at a rundown I've ever seen. I don't even think I can accurately describe this one. Suffice it to say, blame goes to everyone in the Nats infield who somehow allowed Bourn to score on a play in which he was completely hung up between second and third. It's 7-4 as we go to the bottom of the ninth.
10:29 p.m. -- It's over. Nats lose 7-4 and the Braves, for the moment, hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals for the NL wild card.