Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It's a much warmer day at Wrigley Field, where the wind is now blowing out.
That should mean a little more offense in Game 2 than there was in Game 1. That also puts some added pressure on Gio Gonzalez to keep the ball down in the zone and in the park. The Nats' new No. 2 starter makes his debut, looking to build off a strong spring training performance.
Right-hander Matt Garza is on the mound for the Cubs, and he'll see the exact same lineup Ryan Dempster saw on Opening Day. No changes for Davey Johnson, so that means Adam LaRoche (who, quite frankly, looked terrible striking out in his first three at-bats before drawing a key walk in the eighth inning) is once again hitting cleanup behind Ryan Zimmerman.
Plenty of updates to come all afternoon, so please check back often...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CHICAGO CUBS
Where: Wrigley Field
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Sunny, 60 degrees, Wind 12 mph out to LF
NATIONALS (1-0)1:07 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Matt Garza to Ian Desmond. The Nats are wearing their "Ohio State" uniforms (red jerseys, gray pants). Sorry, I'm just not a fan of this look.
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
LF Mark DeRosa
CF Roger Bernadina
C Wilson Ramos
P Gio Gonzalez
RF Reed Johnson
3B Joe Mather
SS Starlin Castro
LF Alfonso Soriano
1B Jeff Baker
C Geovany Soto
CF Marlon Byrd
2B Darwin Barney
P Matt Garza
HP Kerwin Danley, 1B Doug Eddings, 2B Paul Nauert, 3B Dana DeMuth
1:13 p.m. -- Great play by shortstop Starlin Castro to make a diving stop of Danny Espinosa's hard grounder to the hole and then fire a strike to first base. But Espinosa just barely beat it out for an infield single. It didn't matter in the end, though, because Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a routine 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the first. Here comes Gio Gonzalez...
1:27 p.m. -- Well, I suppose that could've been a lot worse than it was. When you issue two walks, allow two stolen bases and uncork a wild pitch, you should feel pretty fortunate to give up only one run. Pretty ragged inning there for Gio. He did show off that brilliant curveball to strike out Reed Johnson, but then he was all over the place. Walked Joe Mather and Jeff Baker. Allowed a single to Starlin Castro. Then a wild pitch allowed Mather to score. Then he lost all track of Castro and let him steal second and third uncontested. It's 1-0 Cubs after one.
1:42 p.m. -- Much better stuff from Gonzalez in the second inning. He did allow a one-out single to Darwin Barney, but he struck out both Garza (trying to bunt) and Johnson (on another wicked curveball). Still 1-0 after two.
1:48 p.m. -- Gio is pretty good at making fun of his offensive skills. Or lack thereof. I'll tell you what, though: He just scorched a shot to deep center field that had extra bases written all over it until Marlon Byrd made a nice catch just in front of the warning track. Gio looked absolutely devastated.
2:13 p.m. -- Maybe LaRoche was ready to return after all. He just destroyed a 95 mph fastball from Garza and clanked it off the right-field foul pole, at least 30 feet up. The two-run bomb was LaRoche's first home run since April 24, 2011 and only his fourth ever in a Nationals uniform. It puts his team up 2-1 as we now go to the bottom of the fourth.
2:32 p.m. -- Well, that wasn't the kind of debut performance Gio Gonzalez wanted. He allowed five men to reach base in the bottom of the fourth, including a two-out, two-run triple by Reed Johnson, then an RBI single by Joe Mather. One more single by Starlin Castro, and Davey Johnson emerged from the dugout with the hook. Gio's final line: 3 2/3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 74 pitches, 46 strikes. The Nats trail 4-2 and they're going to have to ask a lot from their bullpen today.
2:45 p.m. -- A great opportunity for the Nats in the top of the fifth, but they can't finish it off. With runners on second and third and two outs, Ian Desmond scorched a line drive to deep left. Alfonso Soriano, though, made a lunging catch in front of the warning track to deny a sure, two-run double. So it remains 4-2 Cubs at the halfway point of this game.
2:59 p.m. -- You don't often see Ryan Zimmerman bark at an umpire. So you know he must have had a good case when he started yapping at Kerwin Danley after the latter rung him up on what appeared to be an outside fastball in the top of the sixth. Garza then got Werth on a check swing to end the inning. Werth's season totals, if you're wondering: 0-for-6, 3 Ks (and an RBI walk, of course). It's still 4-2 Cubs in the bottom of the sixth.
3:11 p.m. -- Nice job by Craig Stammen to keep this game within reach for the Nationals. The right-hander tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Gonzalez and pitched his way out of a tight jam in the bottom of the sixth, striking out Joe Mather and getting Starlin Castro to ground out with two men in scoring position. So it remains 4-2 as we go to the seventh. The good news for the Nats: Garza is out of the game. First up out of the Chicago bullpen: Rafael Dolis.
3:20 p.m. -- Interesting, Steve Lombardozzi enters the game on a double switch and is playing ... left field. Guess that grand experiment hasn't been abandoned after all. Ryan Mattheus now pitching for the Nats, who are down two runs and down to their final six outs.
3:53 p.m. -- Well, we've seen this before, haven't we? Kerry Wood enters for the eighth inning trying to protect a lead. And the Nats take their frustration out on the Cubs bullpen. It started with Danny Espinosa, who fought his way through a fabulous at-bat, fouling off six pitches (including four with two strikes) before launching an opposite-field homer into the left-field bleachers. Then began the merry-go-round. Zimmerman singled. LaRoche singled. Carlos Marmol entered and walked Werth. Chad Tracy (the Opening Day hero) did it again with a two-run single to put the Nats ahead. Bernadina doubled in a run. Marmol walked Ramos and was yanked to a chorus of boos. Lombardozzi added another RBI single off Shawn Camp. Yes, it's now 7-4 Nats. Incredible.
4:10 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard navigates his way through the bottom of the eighth, so the Nats are now three outs away from another come-from-behind win. And, interestingly enough, Henry Rodriguez is warming in the bullpen to pitch the ninth with his team up 7-4. Looks like Davey Johnson is going with that "B" bullpen today after all. Though keep in mind, he could always have Brad Lidge available to bail out H-Rod if he gets into trouble.
4:18 p.m. -- Here comes Henry. Fasten your seatbelts, folks...
4:29 p.m. -- It's all over. Nats win 7-4. Ryan Mattheus gets the win. Henry Rodriguez gets the save. Chad Tracy gets the 2012 NL MVP award. The Nationals are 2-0.