Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
This year's Battle of the Beltways begins tonight at Nationals Park.
Beginning tonight, the Nats will play 30 of their next 33 games against teams that currently own winning records: the Orioles (twice), Phillies, Braves (twice), Marlins, Mets, Blue Jays, Yankees and Rays. The only team that's not over .500 during this stretch: the Red Sox, who are two games under and showing signs of life. Wow, good luck with that.
First things first, of course. Tonight, it'll be Edwin Jackson on the mound against Baltimore's Jake Arrieta. Plenty of updates and analysis to come throughout the game, so please check back often...
BALTIMORE ORIOLES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WWXT (92.7 FM), WWXX (94.3 FM), WTEM (980 AM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Mostly clear, 72 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from RF
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Bryce Harper
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson
LF Xavier Avery
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
3B Wilson Betemit
1B Chris Davis
2B Robert Andino
RHP Jake Arrieta
HP Sam Holbrook, 1B Andy Fletcher, 2B Rob Drake, 3B Joe West (cc)
7:07 p.m. -- Edwin Jackson starts off Xavier (don't call me Xavier Nady) Avery with a strike, and we are underway. Late-arriving crowd, as is often the case here on Friday nights, but it looks like it should be a good-sized gathering.
7:18 p.m. -- Well, that wasn't the way Jackson (or the Nats) wanted to start this game. He walked Avery, then fell behind 3-0 to J.J. Hardy, then served up a double to Nick Markakis, then gave up a weird, infield single to Adam Jones that hit the rubber and shot about 50 feet into the air. That scored Avery and put the Orioles up 1-0, with the threat of even more damage. But Jackson got a really big, 6-3 double play out of Matt Wieters to end the inning and avoid anything worse. He really needed that.
7:28 p.m. -- A two-out single from Ryan Zimmerman isn't enough to get the Nats going in the bottom of the first. Jake Arrieta strikes out both Roger Bernadina and Adam LaRoche during a scoreless frame. So it remains 1-0 as we head to the second.
7:34 p.m. -- Much, much better stuff from Jackson in the top of the second as he strikes out the side, all of them swinging. He got Wilson Betemit on a 96 mph fastball, Chris Davis on an 87 mph slider and Robert Andino on a 95 mph fastball. Pretty, pretty good.
7:44 p.m. -- Bryce Harper didn't get credit for a hit in the bottom of the second, but his hustle allowed him to reach second base, because he forced Andino into rushing his play on the slow roller and eventually booting the ball into the photographer's well for a two-base error. Harper then took third on a flyball to center (though Jones nearly gunned him down) but he was stranded there as Rick Ankiel struck out and Jesus Flores lined out to right.
7:48 p.m. -- Well, now the official scorer has changed the call on that Harper play. He's now credited with a single, advancing to second on an E4.
7:55 p.m. -- Jackson is kind of dancing with the devil here early on, but he's getting away with it for the most part. After allowing a one-out double to Avery in the top of the third, the right-hander needed to buckle down to prevent the run from scoring. He did just that by striking out Hardy on an 89 mph slider -- not too many pitchers out there who have that pitch in their repertoire -- and then getting Markakis to ground out to end the inning. Edwin's got five strikeouts now, all of them swinging. The Nats still trail 1-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
8:05 p.m. -- Another opportunity for the Nats in the bottom of the third after Desmond singled and then stole second with two outs. But Zimmerman inexplicably watched a fastball sail right through the heart of the strike zone to end the inning. It's still 1-0.
8:14 p.m. -- Nice job by Jackson since that shaky first inning. He's now retired 10 of 11, only two of those 11 Orioles batters getting the ball out of the infield.
8:26 p.m. -- A Web Gem from Ryan Zimmerman helps Jackson get through the fifth unscathed. He's retired 13 of 14 now. But the Nats still trail 1-0 as we reach the midway point of the game.
8:44 p.m. -- Jackson pitches out of a jam in the sixth, striking out Jones to strand a runner on third. He's got 7 Ks now through six innings, but he still trails 1-0.
8:48 p.m. -- Ian Desmond to the rescue! Crushes a pitch from Arrieta into the left-field bleachers to lead off the bottom of the sixth and tie this game 1-1. That's Desmond's sixth homer of the season, in Game No. 39. That puts him on pace for 25 for the year. I'm not saying he's going to pull that off, but he's certainly capable of blasting 15-to-20 when it's all said and done.
9:02 p.m. -- Jackson has really turned this into a big-time start. With a 1-2-3 seventh, he's now allowed one run on four hits, striking out eight while needing only 88 pitches to do it. Impressive stuff. Still 1-1 at the seventh-inning stretch.
9:04 p.m. -- Tonight's official paid attendance: 36,680. That included a walk-up of 5,300. Solid.
9:09 p.m. -- That was some pretty terrible execution there from the Nats in the bottom of the seventh. After Harper led off with a single, Espinosa attempted a drag bunt with two strikes and hit it foul for a strikeout. Then Ankiel and Flores each made outs on foul-popups. Not good. We go to the eighth, still 1-1, and Jackson still in the game.
9:18 p.m. -- That'll do it for Jackson, who capped off a really strong night. His final line: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1BB, 8 K, 95 pitches, 63 strikes. The key: After walking the night's first batter and then falling behind 3-0 to the next batter, he didn't issue another walk.
9:23 p.m. -- We go to the ninth. Tyler Clippard on for the Nats.
9:33 p.m. -- Clippard does his job. We go to the bottom of the ninth. Due up: Zimmerman, LaRoche, Harper. This would appear to be the Nats' opportunity.
9:42 p.m. -- And that would be a squandered opportunity as Zimmerman, LaRoche and Harper all can't get the ball out of the infield. So we're going extras. Sean Burnett enters for the 10th.
9:55 p.m. -- Burnett walks Betemit to open the 10th but pitches around it to keep this game tied 1-1. It's Espinosa, Ankiel and Flores in the bottom of the 10th against Kevin Gregg.
10:02 p.m. -- Well that wasn't good. Espinosa gets plunked to start the inning, but then Ankiel pops out weakly to short and Flores grounds into a 4-6-3 double play. Let's play 11! I'll have to ask my colleagues on the Orioles beat at what point we should look for Chris Davis to start warming up.
10:07 p.m. -- Not a good 11th from Ryan Mattheus. He nearly gave up a homer to Hardy, who sent one to the warning track in center before Ankiel tracked it down. No chance for anyone to track down Markakis' subsequent blast, though, which landed in the second deck down the right-field line. The Orioles take a 2-1 lead.
10:21 p.m. -- And that will do it. The Nats tried to mount a two-out rally, putting two on, but still lose 2-1. And combined with the Braves' win tonight, they're now 1 1/2 games back in the NL East.