Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals go for the three-game sweep this afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Johnson has one tweak to his lineup for this one: Xavier Nady is starting in left field, with Mark DeRosa returning to the bench. Interestingly enough, Wilson Ramos is behind the plate for his third straight game. I'll be curious to see how often Davey gives Ramos a breather and puts Jesus Flores back there.
Jordan Zimmermann makes his season debut on the mound, hoping to duplicate his stellar start in this very ballpark last summer ... well, except for the last two batters he faced. On that August afternoon, Zimmermann was cruising along until he served up back-to-back homers to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena with two outs in the seventh.
Plenty of updates to come on another gorgeous afternoon at the Friendly Confines...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CHICAGO CUBS
Where: Wrigley Field
Gametime: 2:20 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Partly cloudy, 61 degrees, Wind 17 mph LF to RF
NATIONALS (2-0)1:45 p.m. -- Lineup change for the Cubs. Blake DeWitt was scratched with back spasms, so Darwin Barney will now start at second base.
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
LF Xavier Nady
CF Roger Bernadina
C Wilson Ramos
P Jordan Zimmermann
RF David DeJesus
2B Blake DeWittDarwin Barney
SS Starlin Castro
LF Alfonso Soriano
3B Ian Stewart
1B Bryan LaHair
CF Marlon Byrd
C Steve Clevenger
P Jeff Samardzija
HP Doug Eddings, 1B Paul Nauert, 2B Dana DeMuth, 3B Kerwin Danley
2:20 p.m. -- And we're underway as Jeff Samardzija fires a fastball to Ian Desmond who fouls if off. Pretty strong wind blowing left to right today. Gotta keep the ball down against left-handed batters.
2:27 p.m. -- Well, Desmond did his part, lacing a double down the left-field line and putting himself in scoring position with nobody out. And then he never advanced farther than that. Danny Espinosa sent a shallow fly ball to center. Ryan Zimmerman sent a fly ball to medium right field, not deep enough for Desmond tag. And then Adam LaRoche struck out swinging at a slider. Big waste of a leadoff double there.
2:34 p.m. -- Can't ask for much more efficiency out of Jordan Zimmermann than he just showed in the bottom of the first. Took him only nine pitches to retire the side, thanks in part to a fastball that topped out at 96 mph. An assist also goes to Ryan Zimmerman, who showed off those reflexes to snag David DeJesus' leadoff liner to third. Scoreless after one.
2:40 p.m. -- Yes, it's early, but Jayson Werth isn't exactly tearing it up at the plate so far. After striking out at a slider way out of the zone to lead off the second, he's now 0-for-8 with five strikeouts (and two walks) on the young season.
2:45 p.m. -- I guess you can ask for more efficiency from Zimmermann, because he just retired the side in the top of the second on only five pitches. That gives him 14 total through innings, matching Stephen Strasburg's Opening Day feat.
2:57 p.m. -- Zimmermann did finally put someone on base in the third, allowing a line drive single to Steve Clevenger. But he's still at a scant 24 pitches through three scoreless. Now, if the Nats could just give him a little run support...
3:02 p.m. -- Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Samardzija has now retired 12 in a row since Desmond's leadoff double in the first. Looks like the Nats are once again waiting til the late innings to get things going. Still 0-0 as we go to the bottom of the fourth.
3:11 p.m. -- You know, for a very talented catcher, Wilson Ramos sometimes has some real trouble catching the ball. We just saw that in the bottom of the fourth as Ramos completely missed Zimmermann's outside fastball as Castro was attempting to steal second. By the time Ramos finally recovered the ball, Castro was standing on third base. And that allowed him to score moments later on Soriano's sac fly. So it's 1-0 Cubs after four as Zimmermann allows an unearned run.
3:17 p.m. -- One hit for the Nats now in five innings against Samardzija. At this point, it's just a matter of when -- not if -- Davey summons Chad Tracy from the dugout to ignite this offense.
3:21 p.m. -- Wow, Desmond climbs the ladder to rob Clevenger of a sure RBI single. With LaHair on third base and the infield drawn in, Ian had to go waaaay up to snag Clevenger's liner. That allowed Zimmermann to escape the fifth without allowing another run to cross the plate. So it's still 1-0 Cubs heading to the sixth.
3:35 p.m. -- Incredibly, the Nationals managed to score a run without Chad Tracy playing any role whatsoever. Singles by Ramos and Desmond put runners on the corners with one out for Espinosa, who battled his way through a tough at-bat to loft a fly ball deep enough to right to bring Ramos home. It's a 1-1 game now heading to the bottom of the sixth, with Zimmermann sitting on a scant 46 pitches.
3:42 p.m. -- That tie game didn't last long. Barney doubles off Zimmermann with one out in the bottom of the sixth, then despite a stupendous catch by Bernadina in deep left-center managed to advance to third. Soriano's base hit to left brought Barney home and put the Cubs back on top 2-1. Pretty familiar refrain for Zimmermann: Pitches great, gets no run support, can't quite hang on late. We'll see...
3:48 p.m. -- Just when it looked like Werth had finally collected his first hit of the season, Ian Stewart robs him of a double. Great diving stop at third base, and then a perfect throw to first to just get a headfirst-sliding Werth. It's seventh-inning stretch time, and the Nats are once again trailing late, 2-1.
4:00 p.m. -- You can't say Jordan Zimmermann didn't do his job. Seven innings, six hits, one earned run, zero walks, four strikeouts and only 80 pitches. But the Nats trail 2-1 as we go to the eighth. It's almost Tracy Time!
4:05 p.m. -- Well, Samardzija Time beats Tracy Time. Strikes out the pinch-hitter extraordinaire to end the eighth. Nats are down to their last three outs.
4:27 p.m. -- The late-inning script isn't being followed here at all. Not only did Tracy fail to come through off the bench. Now Ryan Mattheus lets the Cubs tack on two runs in the bottom of the eighth. It's 4-1 as Samardzija comes back out to try for the complete game.
4:38 p.m. -- Hold the phone, it's not over yet. LaRoche crushes a 2-run homer to right with two outs and two strikes in the ninth. It's not 4-3 Cubs as Carlos Marmol (yep, Marmol) comes in to face Jayson Werth (still looking for his first hit of the season).
4:43 p.m. -- It's over. Marmol walked Werth but got Nady to pop out to end the game. Nats lose 4-3. They won't go 162-0 this season.