Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann faces Roy Halladay tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
Actually, Halladay hasn't pitched quite up to his usual standards this season; he enters this game with a pedestrian 3.22 ERA (though that number plummets to 2.29 if you throw out the right-hander's eight-run fiasco at Atlanta earlier this month).
Point is, the Nationals have their work cut out for them tonight. Davey Johnson will stick with the same lineup that last night produced two runs against Kyle Kendrick: Steve Lombardozzi leading off in left field, Ian Desmond hitting fifth, Danny Espinosa hitting sixth. Zimmermann, meanwhile, will hope to do his thing against a Phillies lineup that remains without Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins (the latter of which was placed on MLB's paternity leave list today).
Updates to come, so please check back often...
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 189
Weather: Chance of storms, 74 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to LF
LF Steve Lombardozzi
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman3B Chad Tracy
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
CF Shane Victorino
RF Hunter Pence
C Carlos Ruiz
1B Hector Luna
SS Freddy Galvis
2B Mike Fontenot
RHP Roy Halladay
HP Gary Cederstrom (cc), 1B Lance Barksdale, 2B Fieldin Culbreth, 3B Adrian Johnson
6:24 p.m. -- Lineup change for the Nats, and it's not one that's going to get people excited. Ryan Zimmerman has been scratched in what was explained by a team spokesman as a "manager's decision." Chad Tracy will now start at third base and hit third. Full story here.
6:45 p.m. -- Meanwhile, here's the latest on the Nats' bullpen, with Davey Johnson saying Henry Rodriguez will be moved to a "less demanding role" and that he'll mix-and-match several guys in the ninth inning moving forward.
7:06 p.m. -- And we're underway with a ball from Roy Halladay to Steve Lombardozzi. Turned into a nice night, 73 comfortable degrees with some blue sky above at first pitch.
7:11 p.m. -- Well, Bryce Harper can cross Roy Halladay's name of his list. In his first-ever at-bat against the Phillies ace, Harper grounded a base hit through the right side hole. Not bad. Unfortunately, the rest of the Nats lineup did nothing in the top of the first, with Steve Lombardozzi flying out to right, Chad Tracy fouling out to first and Adam LaRoche grounding out to second.
7:18 p.m. -- Nice job by Jordan Zimmermann in a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, with an assist from Lombardozzi. The very inexperienced left fielder came charging in and to his right to snag Shane Victorino's sinking liner. Nicely done. Zimmermann needed only 12 pitches to get through the inning. Scoreless as we go to the second.
7:25 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa did his part in the top of the second, beating out an infield single, then going first-to-third on Halladay's wayward pickoff attempt. But Rick Ankiel and Jesus Flores each struck out, so that left the runner stranded on third base. Missed opportunity there.
7:38 p.m. -- If the Nationals are going to win this game, they're going to have to score at least two runs. That's because Zimmermann gave up one in the bottom of the second when Hunter Pence singled up the middle, took second on a comebacker and then scored on Hector Luna's ground-rule double to deep center fielder. A rocket from Luna off a high fastball from Zimmermann. Obviously it's early, but the last thing the Nats wanted was to have to come from behind against Halladay.
7:55 p.m. -- Like I said, the Nats should have no trouble scoring at least two runs tonight. They just doubled that output in the top of the third inning in stunning fashion. Singles by Zimmermann and Lombardozzi set the table. Then Harper crushed a pitch to deep right-center for a two-run triple. That makes the kid 2-for-2 in his career against Halladay. But wait, there's more. Harper scored on LaRoche's sac fly to make it 3-1. Moments later, Desmond belted a 2-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers for his now team-leading eighth homer, making it 4-1. And after a borderline inside pitch to Espinosa was called a ball, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz argued and was ejected by Gary Cederstrom. Brian Schneider is now batting fifth for Philadelphia. What a turn of events as the Nats storm out to a 4-1 lead in the middle of the third.
8:04 p.m. -- Just when it looked Zimmermann might be in trouble in the bottom of the third -- with runners on second and third and one out -- he came up big by striking out Pence on a 2-2 slider out of the zone. And then he got to take advantage of the Phillies' new No. 5 hitter, getting Schneider to fly out to center to end the inning. (The sad thing is, Schneider actually hit fifth FIVE times for the Nats in 2005!)
8:12 p.m. -- How bizarre has this game become? Rick Ankiel homered to lead off the fourth. It's 5-1 Nats.
8:26 p.m. -- The good news: Zimmermann has given up one run in four innings and holds a 5-1 lead. The bad news: He's already thrown 75 pitches. Not what the Nats needed tonight with an overworked and reconfigured bullpen. Chien-Ming Wang was throwing out there in the fourth but he's since taken a seat. He was supposed to get some work in today (his regular between-starts throwing day) but Davey wants to avoid using him in a game until Friday if possible. We'll see.
8:42 p.m. -- Zimmermann now at 98 pitches through five innings. Will Davey let him go another? There's no action in the bullpen at this moment, so it looks like he will come back out. For reference's sake, Zimmermann has never thrown more than 109 pitches in a professional game. Stay tuned...
8:47 p.m. -- Zimmermann got to hit for himself in the sixth and (naturally) roped another single. That makes him 2-for-3 off Halladay tonight. Not bad. Not bad at all. Still 5-1 as we go to the bottom of the sixth.
8:53 p.m. -- Well, that's exactly what Zimmermann needed: a 9-pitch bottom of the sixth. So he's at 107 and probably done for the night. Halladay definitely is done, having given up five runs and nine hits in six innings. In his career, he had given up five earned runs only once before against the Nationals franchise: in 2003, when he pitched for the Blue Jays and they were the Expos.
9:01 p.m. -- Tom Gorzelanny in for the bottom of the seventh. Zimmerman's final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 107 pitches, 71 strikes. Still 5-1.
9:16 p.m. -- They're trying to start the wave here. In Philadelphia. Can't say I've seen that in a looong time. Gorzelanny back out for the bottom of the eighth, the Nats still leading 5-1.
9:25 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Erik Kratz belts his first career home run, a solo shot off Gorzelanny in the eighth. All of a sudden, it's a 5-2 game and now a save situation. Tyler Clippard started warming in the pen. We'll see what happens in the ninth.
9:36 p.m. -- It is indeed Clippard for the bottom of the ninth, protecting a 3-run lead. He has one career save.
9:44 p.m. -- That'll do it. Clippard gets the save and the Nats get a 5-2 win. They've now won nine of their last 10 against the Phillies, including six in a row at Citizens Bank Park. And tomorrow night, they'll go for the sweep against Cole Hamels.