Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Citizens Bank Park welcomes (or something like that) the Nats to town tonight.
Bryce Harper surely will be the subject of plenty of vitriol, though I'm not sure he's done anything yet to warrant it. We'll see if the kid can once again channel his emotions into something positive on the field.
Harper is batting in what has become his now-regular No. 2 spot in the lineup. He'll be hitting behind Steve Lombardozzi, who gets the chance to leadoff again and play ... left field. How's that for a surprise? Danny Espinosa (who homered and doubled yesterday) will be at second base, batting sixth.
Gio Gonzalez takes the mound against Kyle Kendrick. The forecast is spotty, so check back for weather and game updates throughout...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Rain, 69 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
LF Steve Lombardozzi
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
LHP Gio Gonzalez
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
CF Shane Victorino
RF Hunter Pence
C Carlos Ruiz
1B John Mayberry Jr.
SS Freddy Galvis
2B Mike Fontenot
RHP Kyle Kendrick
HP Adrian Johnson, 1B Gary Cederstrom, 2B Lance Barksdale, 3B Fieldin Culbreth
7:06 p.m. -- We are underway with a ball from Kyle Kendrick to Steve Lombardozzi. Sixty-five degrees and dry (for now) in Philly. If you haven't read them already, here's my latest on Stephen Strasburg (who will start as scheduled Saturday in Atlanta) and Chase Hughes' update on Ryan Mattheus (who is dealing with a left foot injury) and Brad Lidge (who is just about ready to head to Viera).
7:12 p.m. -- Bryce Harper was greeted with plenty of boos (but apparently no batteries) when he stepped in for his first plate appearance. Then he sent a five-hopper up the middle for a base hit. He's now hitting .313 over his last eight-plus games. Unfortunately, Ryan Zimmerman grounded into an inning-ending double play. So we go to the bottom of the first.
7:18 p.m. -- You think Gio Gonzalez wants that strikeout leaderboard title back from Strasburg? He K'd both Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco to start the bottom of the first. That gives him 62 for the season, just two behind Strasburg for the NL lead. He also got Shane Victorino to fly out to center, so we are scoreless through one.
7:26 p.m. -- So, how many of you out there, if asked way back on March 1, would have said the Nationals' co-team leaders in home runs at the quarter-pole of the season would be Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond, with seven apiece? Liars! Desmond just added to his total by hitting a laser just over the center-field fence in the top of the second. And just like that, the Nats take a 1-0 lead.
7:36 p.m. -- Well that didn't take long, did it? Your new NL leader in strikeouts is once again Gio Gonzalez, who walked Hunter Pence to lead off the second but then got Carlos Ruiz, John Mayberry and Freddy Galvis in succession. He's already struck out five of the Phillies' first seven batters tonight, all of them swinging. And he now has 65 for the season, one better than Strasburg, three behind Justin Verlander for the major-league lead.
7:45 p.m. -- A chance for the Nats to add to their lead in the bottom of the second, with Jesus Flores on third base with two outs and Harper at the plate. And when Kendrick's pitch got away from Ruiz, Harper started waving Flores home. He actually appeared to beat the throw to the plate, but his lead foot came up off the ground as Kendrick made the tag. Tough break. Still scoreless through 2 1/2.
7:57 p.m. -- The first time through the Phillies' lineup, Gio struck out seven. Yes, seven. The second time through, however, is looking like a different story. Pierre beat out a chopper over the mound. Polanco singled to left. And Victorino then drew a walk to load the bases with two outs for Pence. Tough spot for Gio, but the left-hander came through and got the Phillies No. 4 hitter to ground into a fielder's choice. So it remains 1-0 Nats through three, but Gio's pitch total is already up to 61 because of all the strikeouts.
8:13 p.m. -- Make it 2-0 Nats as Desmond delivers again with an RBI single to left to score Harper (who singled again and stole second). Desmond is now 5-for-11 with two doubles, a homer and four RBI since moving down to the 5-hole in the lineup. Methinks this may become a long-term thing.
8:23 p.m. -- Fantastic 5-4-3 double play from Zimmerman and Espinosa to end the fourth. You'll be seeing that one replayed a few more times tonight. Still 2-0 after four.
8:38 p.m. -- Things calming down here a bit as Kendrick sets down eight in a row. Though the Nats have essentially controlled this game from the start, it's only a 2-0 lead. And with Gonzalez sitting on 92 pitches through five, Davey Johnson is going to need to get a good number of outs from his bullpen tonight.
8:49 p.m. -- Wow, what a display of defense in the bottom of the sixth to help bail Gio out of a jam. The Phillies had runners on second and third with nobody out and Pence at the plate, but Ankiel came charging in to make a diving catch of Pence's line drive. And since Polanco froze off third base, he wasn't able to tag up. Moments later, LaRoche made a nifty, short-hop stab of Ruiz's smash, then made a perfect throw to the plate to nail Polanco. Throw in a flyout to right, and Gio has made it through six scoreless innings. His pitch count is 108, so that's probably it for him tonight. Nats still lead 2-0.
9:03 p.m. -- It's pouring now as we reach the seventh-inning stretch and Craig Stammen enters for Gonzalez. Gio's final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K, 1 HBP, 108 pitches, 65 strikes. His ERA now stands at 1.98.
9:07 p.m. -- And a 1-2-3 seventh from Stammen, who seriously is becoming one of the best relievers in baseball. Who saw that coming? Still 2-0 as we go to the eighth.
9:25 p.m. -- Stammen comes up big again. Given a chance to go two innings in a tight game, he got into a jam with two on, one out and the heart of the lineup up. But he got Pence to popup and Ruiz to groundout. Impressive stuff to preserve the 2-0 lead as we go to the ninth.
9:31 p.m. -- Here comes Henry Rodriguez. Break out the Maalox and bourbon, folks!
9:42 p.m. -- Well, who didn't see that coming? Rodriguez walked Mayberry on four pitches, uncorked two wild pitches and gave up a single to Mike Fontenot. After his second wild pitch, Davey decided he'd seen enough. Sean Burnett has entered with the tying run on second, one out, Ty Wigginton at the plate and a 1-0 count.
9:51 p.m. -- Burnett comes up big and saves the day. The Phillies got one run in, but that was it. The Nats hang on for dear life and win 2-1.