Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are both in the lineup tonight at Dodger Stadium.
Iconic Dodger Stadium on a Saturday night, just a short drive from Harper's hometown of Las Vegas. Stephen Strasburg, a Southern California boy himself, on the mound. And a couple of first-place clubs going head-to-head in a truly meaningful ballgame. Not bad, not bad at all.
Harper, as promised, will bat seventh and play left field. At 19 years, 195 days, he's the youngest major leaguer since Mariners ace Felix Hernandez made his debut in 2005 at 19 years, 123 days. I don't imagine King Felix's unveiling was as big a deal at the time.
As you can see from the photo credit above, I'm coming at you live from Chavez Ravine. Plenty of updates to come before, during and after this historic game, so please check back often...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Where: Dodger Stadium
Gametime: 9:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB Network (outside D.C. area), MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to RF
SS Ian Desmond
3B Steve Lombardozzi
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Bryce Harper
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Stephen Strasburg
SS Dee Gordon
LF Tony Gwynn Jr.
CF Matt Kemp
RF Andre Ethier
2B Jerry Hairston
1B James Loney
3B Juan Uribe
C A.J. Ellis
RHP Chad Billingsley
HP Mark Carlson, 1B Ed Hickox, 2B Ed Rapuano (cc), 3B Angel Hernandez
8:17 p.m. -- A few pregame scenes to share ... There is quite a large media horde here tonight for Harperpalooza. I'd estimate there were 40 reporters and photographers who surrounding Harper in the dugout for his pregame interview session. The kid said all the right things -- "It's always an exciting time to be able to come out here and play the game I love," "I'm just going to try to come out here and play the same game I've been playing every day" -- but did insist he's not nervous and that he slept well last night after arriving at 1 a.m. from Syracuse. ... Harper will have plenty of supporters in the stands tonight, with at least 29 friends and family members planning to attend. That group includes his father, mother and sister, but not his brother Bryan (a Nats farmhand who is currently playing at extended spring training in Viera). ... Harper, to the surprise of no one, put on one of his traditional jaw-dropping shows during batting practice, launching several balls well over the fence. The kid does know how to wow people in the cage.
8:25 p.m. -- Several members of Nats ownership are here tonight, including Mark Lerner, Ted Lerner, Annette Lerner and Alan Gottlieb, though all were planning to make this trip before they knew Harper would be called up. One key front office member who's not here, though, is Mike Rizzo. Why isn't the GM here to see his two No. 1 draft picks on the field together for the first time? He unfortunately had a prior engagement that he couldn't get out of ... the White House Correspondents Dinner. Seriously, he's a guest there. I imagine while everyone else in the room is laughing at all of the President's jokes, Rizzo will be busy checking his phone for updates from L.A.
8:28 p.m. -- One non-Harper update to share: Chad Tracy, who took a fastball off his wrist last night and appeared to be in serious pain at the time, might actually be available to pinch-hit tonight, according to Davey Johnson. X-rays came back negative, so it looks like Tracy really dodged a bullet there.
8:50 p.m. -- One more non-Harper news item: Chien-Ming Wang made his first rehab start tonight for Class A Potomac. His line: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 49 pitches (31 strikes).
9:11 p.m. -- And we're underway on a perfect night for baseball. Chad Billingsley starts off Ian Desmond -- who got to play catch with Maury Willis a few minutes ago, a thrill I'm sure for Ian -- with a fastball ... and Desmond pops it up for the first out of the night.
9:16 p.m. -- Jayson Werth delivered a two-out single to right-center, but that was it for the Nats in the top of the first. Stephen Strasburg takes the mound, and Bryce Harper (rocking the old-school stirrups) takes his position in left field to what sounds like some boos from the bleacher bums.
9:24 p.m. -- Not a bad bottom of the first for Strasburg. He threw three fastballs that registered 100 mph on the stadium gun (though the official MLB Pitch F/X reading for all was a mere 98). More impressively, he got Matt Kemp to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Great turn by Danny Espinosa to make it all possible. We go to the second, and Bryce Harper is due up third.
9:32 p.m. -- With two outs and nobody on in the top of the second, and with his parents (and Scott Boras) watching from the front row, Bryce Harper stepped to the plate for the first at-bat of his career, drawing some resounding boos from the crowd. He showed a good eye, taking a couple of fastballs from Chad Billingsley for balls, but then bounced a comebacker to the mound on a 2-1 changeup. So there you have it. Harper is officially 0-for-1 as a big leaguer. What a bust. Scoreless here as we go to the bottom of the second.
9:42 p.m. -- Well that was a rarity indeed: Strasburg plunked Juan Uribe, only the second batter he's ever hit among the 753 he's faced in his big-league career. No worries, because Strasburg came back with a nasty curveball to A.J. Ellis to end the second inning. Still scoreless. Strasburg has thrown 30 pitches (18 strikes).
9:50 p.m. -- Wow, what a play from old pal Jerry Hairston, making a diving catch of Desmond's soft liner to shallow right. Turned it into an inning-ending double play. That guy does it all, a real pro. Still 0-0 as we go to the bottom of the third.
9:59 p.m. -- Whoa, near disaster in the bottom of the third as Gwynn sends a pop-up into no-man's land, leading to a near three-way collision between Harper, Ankiel and Desmond. Luckily nobody made contact with anybody else, though the ball did fall in for a cheap single. Strasburg, though, came up big against Kemp once again, striking out the hottest hitter on the planet with a fastball on the outside corner. This game is living up to the billing so far, scoreless after three.
10:18 p.m. -- Sorry for the delay in updates there. I was catching up with an old friend: Chad Cordero. Yes, the Chief is here tonight, and he looks great. Has lost a ton of weight, and he would like to attempt a comeback next season. He'll also be in D.C. this summer and is scheduled to be at Nationals Park on July 20. Nothing official yet, but sounds like he'll throw out the ceremonial first pitch that night.
10:23 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Harper came up for his second at-bat, with at least two beach balls bouncing around the stands here at iconic Dodger Stadium. No wave, thank god. Harper smoked Billingsley's first-pitch changeup, but was way out in front of it and sent the ball into the first-base stands. He wound up lofting a little looper to shallow left field, caught by Gwynn. So the kid is 0-for-2. This game remains scoreless as Strasburg takes the mound for the bottom of the fifth.
10:32 p.m. -- Whether there was a 19-year-old in left field or not, this has been a whale of a ballgame so far. Strasburg and Billingsley are just dealing. Strasburg has six strikeouts through five, and he's made a couple of great plays on line-drive comebackers. This is probably the first time in a long time he's appeared in a game and not been the featured attraction. But right now, he deserves to be. 0-0 as we go to the sixth.
10:39 p.m. -- True fact: Strasburg has more hits tonight than Harper. Not only that, the pitcher roped his first career double, a line drive to right-center to lead off the sixth. Unfortunately, Strasburg's teammates couldn't drive him in. Desmond and Lombardozzi each grounded to first, then Werth grounded to third. This Nats lineup is lacking a bit in firepower. If only they had a top prospect at Class AAA waiting to be summoned to save the day. Oh well.
10:47 p.m. -- Two more strikeouts for Strasburg in the sixth, including another one of Kemp. He got the MVP hopeful swinging helplessly at a 99 mph high fastball. I'll tell you what, this is rivaling any of Strasburg's previous 21 starts in the big leagues. He's been in complete control tonight, and completely dominating the Dodgers through six scoreless innings.
10:50 p.m. -- Adam LaRoche to the rescue! Line-drive homer down the right-field line to lead off the seventh. His fourth of the season puts the Nats up 1-0. Seriously, where would these guys be without LaRoche so far this season?
10:56 p.m. -- There it is! Bryce Harper's first career hit is a double to the base of the center-field fence. He smoked that one, at the end of a really nice at-bat against Billingsley. Took a couple of close two-strike pitches to work the count full, then crushed that 3-2 pitch to center. Nicely done, kid.
11:15 p.m. -- Well, that was quite an interesting bottom of the seventh, wasn't it? Strasburg found himself in a jam with runners on first and second and one out when A.J. Ellis sent a base hit to left. And then Harper showed off his arm. I mean, he really showed it off. Perfect strike to the plate on the fly ... and Ramos dropped it. Or Hairston knocked it out of his glove. That's what Davey Johnson was arguing, to no avail. Whatever the case, what should've been Harper's first-ever Web Gem (and a really important one at that) instead allowed the Dodgers to tie this game, 1-1. Wow.
11:24 p.m. -- A dominant start by Strasburg ends in a no-decision. Tyler Clippard is on to pitch the eighth in a 1-1 game. Strasburg's final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 2 HBP.
11:39 p.m. -- Has this been a ballgame, or what? Man, what tension and what big-time performances by big-time players. That includes Clippard, who came up big to strike out Ethier with Kemp standing in scoring position. We go to the ninth of a fantastic, 1-1 ballgame.
11:58 p.m. -- Who wrote this script? Bryce Harper at the plate in the ninth inning of a tie game, the go-ahead runner on third. And a dubious decision by Don Mattingly to pull his only left-handed reliever one batter earlier so Espinosa would be turned around. Big mistake, because now Harper got a chance to bat against the right-handed Javy Guerra. And he delivered with a sac fly to left, scoring Rick Ankiel and giving Harper his first career RBI. Then Ramos drove in another run with a base hit to right, and just like that it's 3-1 Nats as Henry Rodriguez enters in the save situation.
12:11 a.m. -- Not so fast, everyone. Rodriguez is melting down in the ninth. A single, another single and a ground-rule double makes it 3-2 and puts the tying run on third, the winning run on second. Also, an idiot fan rushed the field. What a ballgame.
12:18 a.m. -- Oh, dear. One strike away from pitching out of the jam, Rodriguez uncorks a wild pitch that ties the game 3-3. Wow.
12:20 a.m. -- And now Rodriguez strikes out Gordon ... but on a wild pitch. The winning run is on third, and Tom Gorzelanny will enter to face Gwynn with the game hanging in the balance.
12:27 a.m. -- Everybody's heart still beating? Good, cause we're going to the 10th after Gwynn destroyed a 3-2 pitch from Gorzelanny ... but hit it right at LaRoche. What a baseball game, folks.
12:34 a.m. -- Nothing happening in the top of the 10th, as Jamey Wright retires the side. Gorzelanny coming back out for the bottom of the inning. Matt Kemp will lead off. Yikes.
12:37 a.m. -- And that's what you were afraid would happen. Kemp drills one into the center-field bleachers. Dodgers win, 4-3 in 10. An absolute crushing loss for the Nats.