Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals seek a four-game sweep of the Reds and a six-game winning streak.
For example, did you know the Nationals' team on-base percentage this morning is .342, third-best in the majors behind the Red Sox and Cardinals? That ain't shabby, and obviously represents a huge increase over last year's .309 mark (MLB rank: 25th). The problem hasn't been getting guys on base; it's been getting them in. The Nats are scoring only 3.78 runs per game so far (21st in the majors).
So we'll see whether today's lineup can continue to reach base at such a high clip and perhaps actually score at a higher rate, giving starter Ross Detwiler a little bit of cushion as he takes the mound in search of the Nationals' sixth straight victory.
Updates and analysis to come all afternoon...
CINCINNATI REDS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 189
Weather: Mostly sunny, 82 degrees, Wind 11 mph out to RF
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
LF Mark DeRosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
LHP Ross Detwiler
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Zack Cozart
1B Joey Votto
3B Scott Rolen
RF Jay Bruce
LF Ryan Ludwick
CF Chris Heisey
C Ryan Hanigan
RHP Mike Leake
HP Laz Diaz, 1B Mike Everitt, 2B Paul Schrieber, 3B Tim Welke (cc)
1:08 p.m. -- A little pregame reminder: It's Jackie Robinson day across MLB, so every player on every team is wearing uniform No. 42 in tribute. Makes it a bit difficult to distinguish one from the other, but obviously that's a small inconvenience in an otherwise wonderful tribute MLB adopted a couple of years ago.
1:37 p.m. -- And we're underway with a ball high from Ross Detwiler to Brandon Phillips. 77 spectacular degrees at gametime.
1:55 p.m. -- Wow, you don't want to ever say the umpires are entirely responsible for a big inning, but it's hard to argue they didn't just allow the Reds to take a 4-0 lead in the top of the first. It began with Mike Everitt's blown call at first base, where Adam LaRoche had to leap to snag Ian Desmond's high throw but clearly got his foot back down on the bag before Scott Rolen reached. That should've ended the inning with no runs across and Detwiler's pitch count at 20. Instead, it prolonged things and allowed Laz Diaz to miss an obvious third-strike call on Jay Bruce that also would've ended the inning without a run crossing the plate. No dice. One more missed third-strike call by Diaz set the stage for Ryan Ludwick to crush a 2-2 pitch into the Red Porch for a grand slam. I mean, yes, Detwiler still was the one who threw the grand-slam pitch. But if any of those three missed calls are made correctly, he never even gets to that point. 4-0 Reds already.
2:05 p.m. -- Things have settled down here, with Detwiler bouncing back to retire the side in the top of the second. The Nats also went down in order in the bottom of the first against Mike Leake, though Ryan Zimmerman did crush a line drive to deep center.
2:19 p.m. -- Credit to Detwiler for giving himself a chance to pitch deeper into this game by making quick work of the second and third innings. He needed only 19 pitches to face his last six batters. Still 4-0 as we go to the bottom of the third.
2:34 p.m. -- Kind of a sloppy top of the fourth. Detwiler gave up three straight singles, and Rick Ankiel couldn't make the online throw to get Ludwick at the plate. Then Wilson Ramos couldn't catch Leake's popped-up sac bunt attempt. Ryan Zimmerman wound up making a great throw to get Leake at first, but they would've had Chris Heisey dead to rites at third ... if only someone was covering. It's 5-0 and not looking so good for the hometown nine.
2:52 p.m. -- Well, the Nats managed to get three runs back in the bottom of the fourth, so that will help their chances. LaRoche once again comes through in a big spot, dropping a two-run single down the right-field line for his 11th and 12th RBI of the season. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Werth had a golden opportunity to drive in at least one (if not two) runs, but he popped out weakly to first base. Thankfully, DeRosa came through with a productive, RBI groundout. So it's 5-3 as we go to the fifth.
2:59 p.m. -- Pretty impressive job by Detwiler. He needed 38 pitches to get through that torturous first inning, but he's made it through the next four innings on a total of 43 pitches. Since he's due up in the bottom of the fifth, Davey Johnson will send up Roger Bernadina to pinch-hit. So Detwiler's final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 81 pitches, 53 strikes.
3:10 p.m. -- And the Nats have cut the lead to 5-4. After Bernadina drew a one-out walk, Desmond laced a double over the center fielder's head, bringing Roger home. Since Desmond took third on the throw home, the tying run was now 90 feet away, but some poor situational hitting from Espinosa (he grounded out weakly on the first pitch he saw) left it up to Zimmerman, who also grounded out. So the Nats still trail by a run as Craig Stammen enters to pitch the sixth.
3:16 p.m. -- Two more strikeouts for Stammen, who now has nine K's in 6 2/3 innings of relief this season.
3:34 p.m. -- He got himself into trouble, loading the bases with two outs, but came up huge by striking out Rolen to end the top of the seventh and keep this a 5-4 game.
3:51 p.m. -- Desmond does it again. Two-out, RBI single up the middle scores Ankiel (bad quad and all) in the bottom of the seventh. The Nats have come all the way back from five runs down to tie this game, 5-5. Battle of the bullpens now, and you know which team has the advantage in that matchup.
3:58 p.m. -- How good was the play Ryan Zimmerman just made on Ryan Ludwick's smash down the third-base line? So good that Ludwick, convinced he had doubled, started veering to the right in order to round first base. Imagine his surprise when he realized Zim caught the ball and fired to first for the 5-3 groundout. Stunning. We go to the bottom of the eighth, still 5-5.
4:08 p.m. -- I can only imagine what it's like to stand in the box against Aroldis Chapman. I'm pretty sure it's an intimidating experience. The Cuban lefty blew away Zimmerman and LaRoche in the bottom of the eighth. Werth did manage to poke a single to left, but DeRosa flied out to right to end the inning. Onto the ninth in a tie ballgame.
4:24 p.m. -- Brad Lidge gets the job done again. Despite a one-out double to Brandon Phillips that was within a few inches of clearing the center-field fence, Lidge battled back to strike out Zack Cozart, then after intentionally walking Joey Votto struck out Scott Rolen. We go to the bottom of the ninth in a 5-5 game. Ankiel, Ramos and a pinch-hitter due up.
4:30 p.m. -- And for the third time in four days, the Nationals and Reds will play extra innings. No chance for the bottom of the Nats' lineup against Chapman in the bottom of the ninth. Henry Rodriguez now in to pitch the 10th.
4:40 p.m. -- Davey sees Dusty's Chapman 98 mph fastball and raises him an H-Rod 100 mph heater. Rodriguez did issue a two-out walk, but he made it through the inning unscathed. Onto the bottom of the 10th.
4:51 p.m. -- A rare display of negative emotion from Zimmerman, who slammed his bat and helmet to the ground after striking out to end the 10th. Zim clearly wasn't happy with Laz Diaz's strike call on the previous pitch. We go to the 11th.
5:06 p.m. -- And the wheels have come off. The inning began with Tyler Clippard slipping and falling on the mound while trying to deliver a pitch, and things only got worse from there. Three runs later, the Reds have taken an 8-5 lead and will attempt to close this out in the bottom of the 11th.
5:18 p.m. -- That'll do it. Sean Marshall shuts the door on any attempted comeback and gives the Reds an 8-5, 11-inning victory. The Nationals' losing streak comes to an end at five. On the bright side, the Mets' loss in Philly means the Nats remain in sole possession of first place for another day.