Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Sparkling PNC Park hosts Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals tonight.
Davey Johnson's lineup includes both Ryan Zimmerman (activated off the DL) and Adam LaRoche (back after missing four games with a sore oblique). It also features Bryce Harper in the 2-hole for the first time. (Hey, maybe Davey reads this blog!)
Edwin Jackson, meanwhile, gets the start against A.J. Burnett. Given the great pitching (and lack of run production) both of these teams have gotten so far this season, I would highly expect some low-scoring, tense ballgames. Either that, or a 14-13 slugfest.
Updates to come, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Scattered storms, 69 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
SS Ian Desmond
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
LF Roger Bernadina
RHP Edwin Jackson
LF Jose Tabata
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
1B Casey McGehee
RF Garrett Jones
SS Clint Barmes
C Rod Barajas
P A.J. Burnett
HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Gerry Davis (cc), 2B Phil Cuzzi, 3B Greg Gibson
6:25 p.m. -- While you wait for the game to start, be sure to read my just-posted article on Mike Rizzo getting fined by MLB for his comments on Cole Hamels. There's also reaction from Davey Johnson and Bryce Harper in that article.
7:00 p.m. -- And here's the news of the Nats signing reliever Mike Gonzalez to a minor-league contract.
7:07 p.m. -- And we're underway before a gathering of intimate friends and family only. It's incredibly sad to see such a fantastic ballpark near-empty. But after 19 consecutive losing seasons, it's hard to fault the locals for not turning out.
7:12 p.m. -- Well, that was an uneventful top of the first. After Ian Desmond worked the count full (?!) he struck out on a borderline pitch at the knees. Bryce Harper then grounded out weakly to short. And Ryan Zimmerman (in his first at-bat in two weeks) grounded out weakly to second.
7:25 p.m. -- Roger Bernadina is getting (yet) another chance to start in left field due in large part to his defensive prowess. Well, he didn't exactly show that off in trying to track down Neil Walker's drive to the left-field wall. It was by no means an easy play, but Bernadina did get twisted around and couldn't make the catch. Turned into a double. And when Andrew McCutchen drew a walk, Edwin Jackson found himself in a two-out, one-out jam. But props to Jackson, who struck out cleanup hitter Pedro Alvarez looking at a 94 mph fastball and got Casey McGehee to fly out to right to end the first inning.
7:31 p.m. -- Nothin' doin' in the top of the second, either. Adam LaRoche (in his first at-bat in five days) and Danny Espinosa both struck out. Rick Ankiel grounded out to first. So Burnett has faced six Nationals and retired six Nationals.
7:45 p.m. -- When Wilson Ramos is going well at the plate, he's hitting the ball with authority up the middle. That's what he just did in crushing Burnett's first pitch of the third inning into the right-center field bleachers. Ramos' second homer of the season puts the Nats up 1-0.
8:05 p.m. -- Bryce Harper now has 28 at-bats in the big leagues. And he's got six doubles already. According to "High Heat Stats," he's only the third player in history with six doubles in his first nine games, joining Adam Lind and ... George Washington. (No, not THAT George Washington.) Singles by LaRoche and Ankiel followed, and that brought Harper home with the run that put the Nats up 2-0 in the fourth.
8:12 p.m. -- And Jackson immediately gives both runs back, both on towering home runs, both on 94 mph fastballs. Andrew McCutchen launches one off the batter's eye for (surprisingly) his first homer of the season. Garrett Jones then dropped one into the right-field bleachers for his fourth of the year. And just like that, it's a 2-2 game in the fourth.
8:33 p.m. -- The good news: Danny Espinosa made contact in his third at-bat of the night. The bad news: He grounded weakly to second base to end the top of the sixth. It remains 2-2.
8:41 p.m. -- Aside from those two monster home runs, Jackson really has pitched quite well. Through six innings, he's allowed only three hits and a walk, and his pitch count (77 total, 52 strikes) has been very efficient.
8:55 p.m. -- Speaking of Jackson ... he's now retired 10 in a row since the Jones homer in the fourth. Has done a really nice job keeping this game tied. Now, can the Nats lineup push across another run against Burnett, who is back out for the top of the eighth?
9:02 p.m. -- Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman are the only members of the Nats lineup tonight who have not struck out against A.J. Burnett. The right-hander has 10 K's through eight innings, the 20th double-digit strikeout start of his career. Jackson, meanwhile, is done for the night. It'll be Tyler Clippard in to pitch the bottom of the eighth of a 2-2 game.
9:15 p.m. -- Uh-oh. The Pirates take the lead with a strange rally. Clippard walked pinch-hitter Nate McLouth with one out. McLouth then took off for second base, and Desmond had to move to his left to try to cover the bag. Except Tabata's hard grounder was smashed right at him and wound up going right through his legs for a costly error. Walker then lofted a fly ball to medium-deep right field. Not even Harper can throw out McLouth from 340 feet away, sadly. So it's 3-2 and the Nats will have to rally against old pal Joel Hanrahan in the ninth.
9:23 p.m. -- Adam LaRoche, ladies and gentlemen! Two-run bomb to center off Hanrahan, and the Nats take a 4-3 lead in the ninth. That also was the 1,000th home run in Nationals history. Couldn't have come at a better time.
9:31 p.m. -- So now it's up to Henry Rodriguez to close this one out. McGehee, a pinch-hitter and Barmes due up in the bottom of the ninth.
9:43 p.m. -- Oh, dear. Rodriguez blows it in spectacular fashion. Two wild pitches. Then a two-run homer served up to Rod Rod Barajas. Nats lose a crushing game, 5-4.