Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Rain could affect tonight's game against the Astros at Nationals Park.
If and when they do play, Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound for the Nationals, seeking to become the final member of the starting rotation to earn a win. Not that the right-hander hasn't deserved two W's already, having allowed one earned run in seven innings in both of his two starts to date. Unfortunately, Zimmermann has once again been the victim of terrible run support, as was too often the case last year.
Fellow right-hander Lucas Harrell, who has pitched well so far, gets the start for the Astros. It's obviously still early in the season, but the Nationals have a golden opportunity tonight to create some separation between themselves and the rest of the NL East. The Mets already lost to the Braves this afternoon, which means a win tonight would leave the Nats 2 1/2 games up on everyone else in the division.
Plenty of updates -- game and weather -- to come, so please check back...
HOUSTON ASTROS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WFED (1500 AM), WHFS (1580 AM), XM 188
Weather: Showers, 57 degrees, Wind 7 mph in from CF
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
LF Roger Bernadina
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
CF Jordan Schafer
SS Jed Lowrie
LF Travis Buck
1B Carlos Lee
RF Brian Bogusevic
3B Chris Johnson
C Jason Castro
2B Marwin Gonzalez
RHP Lucas Harrell
HP Tim Tschida (cc), 1B Chris Conroy, 2B Jeff Nelson, 3B Bill Welke
6:03 p.m. -- First, your weather update: The tarp has remained over the infield for most of the afternoon, though the rain has been sporadic and light. It appears we're sitting right on the border of this system, so it's going to be hit-or-miss all evening. If it only comes down lightly the way it has been, they should be OK to play.
6:10 p.m. -- And now, a couple of other quick updates: Chien-Ming Wang threw 35 pitches in a simulated game today in Viera, while Brad Lidge has been dealing with vertigo for several days. Yes, vertigo. More info on both of those guys in my latest post.
6:14 p.m. -- And last (but certainly not least), Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Ivan Rodriguez will announce his retirement Monday in Dallas. It's not a huge surprise, considering Pudge had been unable to get a big-league job, but it's sad nonetheless. What a remarkable career for the catcher, and what a pleasure it was to cover him the last two seasons. For a player of his lofty stature, Pudge was as approachable and down-to-earth as anyone I've ever covered. I'll always feel fortunate for having had the chance to get to know him a little bit.
7:06 p.m. -- We are officially underway on a chilly (though so far not rainy) 53 degree night in the nation's capital.
7:11 p.m. -- To paraphrase the one and only Charlie Slowes: "What was Jed Lowrie doing? Where was he going? What was he thinking?" The Astros shortstop completely fell asleep on the bases just now, trying to steal second and then just standing there as Ryan Zimmerman caught Travis Buck's routine foul-pop to third. Zim was able to lob the ball to Adam LaRoche to complete the inning-ending, 5-3 double play.
7:27 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann gets another double play to end the top of the second, this one of a more conventional fashion: 6-4-3. Zimmermann has looked pretty sharp so far, in spite of the single and the hit batter. Still scoreless as we go to the bottom of the second.
7:41 p.m. -- This just in: The Astros are not a good ballclub, especially in the fundamentals department. Lucas Harrell had to yell at catcher Jason Castro (Drew Storen's old roommate at Stanford) to throw down to first base after he dropped Wilson Ramos' third strike. In the process, Jayson Werth basically stole third base. It didn't come back to haunt Houston, because after Roger Bernadina was intentionally walked, Zimmermann grounded into a fielder's choice. But that's the kind of baseball (along with the Lowrie play earlier) that usually results in 100-loss seasons. Still scoreless through two.
7:52 p.m. -- Well, the lack of run support for Zimmermann continues. Three scoreless in the books.
8:01 p.m. -- The Nationals are going to have to score two runs for Zimmermann to get the win tonight. How likely is that, given his history? And it's not like he even got roughed up in the top of the fourth. The Astros scored their run without hitting the ball out of the infield. Jordan Schafer beat out an infield grounder, then stole second, then took third on a groundball to first, then scored on another groundball to first. It's 1-0 Houston.
8:25 p.m. -- Can't blame the Nats for a lack of well-struck balls in the fifth. Just ran into bad luck. With one out and a runner on first, Zimmermann pulled back the bat and tried to slug-bunt the ball past third baseman Chris Johnson (who was standing about 30 feet from the plate). Zimmermann hit the ball well, but credit to Johnson for his cat-like reflexes to make the play. Moments later, Ian Desmond crushed a ball to deep center field, only to watch as Schafer hauled it in as he slammed into the fence. Tough luck there, and because of it, the Nats still trail 1-0 after five.
8:39 p.m. -- Sigh, it continues. Despite a leadoff single from Espinosa in the sixth, the big boys in the heart of the Nationals' lineup can't advance him. Zimmerman flies out to center. LaRoche grounds into a 1-6-3 double play. Jordan Zimmermann (whose ERA, by the way, is now 1.35) takes the mound for the seventh, still trailing this game.
9:00 p.m. -- Oh my goodness gracious! The Nats scored a run! Rick Ankiel sends a double to deep left-center, then scores on Roger Bernadina's double down the left-field line. Zimmermann is off the hook. Of course, he still won't get the win because they stranded Bernadina on third. But the game is tied 1-1 heading to the eighth. Zimmermann's new season totals: 0-1 with a 1.29 ERA.
9:13 p.m. -- Can Rawlings just give Ryan Zimmerman this year's Gold Glove award right now? He's made a season's worth of highlight-reel plays in just two weeks, including back-to-back incredible catches to prevent the Astros from re-taking the lead in the top of the eighth.
9:14 p.m. -- Unfortunately, Zim's range isn't quite good enough to catch a ball hit 120 feet away from him. Schafer's hard base hit past a diving LaRoche at first base scores Castro and puts the Nationals back in a 2-1 hole, now heading to the bottom of the eighth.
9:41 p.m. -- They once again had to scratch and claw, but the Nationals managed to push two runs across in the bottom of the eighth. Props to Adam LaRoche for battling his way back from an 0-2 count against left-hander Wesley Wright and draw a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Then props to Jayson Werth for -- surprise! -- drawing a bases-loaded walk to tie the game. And major props to Wilson Ramos for proving he knows what situational hitting is: He lofted a flyball to center field, deep enough to score LaRoche with the go-ahead run. It's 3-2 Nats as Henry Rodriguez enters in search of the save.
9:47 p.m. -- It's all over. Nats win 3-2. Ryan Matheus gets the vultured win. Rodriguez gets his third save. And the Nationals, now 10-3, hold a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL East.