Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats try to make it seven in a row at Citizens Bank Park.
So they'll be going for their 10th win in their last 11 games against the Phillies, their seventh straight at Citizens Bank Park and their first three-game sweep of the season. They've actually had eight previous opportunities this season to finish off a sweep of a two-, three- or four-game series and have failed to do it each time. This will be opportunity No. 9.
The good news is the Nationals will have Ryan Zimmerman back in the lineup and at third base after he was held out by Davey Johnson last night with a recurrence of soreness in his right shoulder. In a bit of a surprise, Johnson isn't stacking his lineup with right-handed hitters against Hamels, though he tried a similar thing last time, citing the effectiveness of Hamels' changeup against righties.
A friendly reminder that tonight's game will be on ESPN2 ... but you can only watch that broadcast if you live outside the MASN viewing area. Live updates and analysis to come, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, ESPN2 (outside D.C. area) MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Scattered storms, 74 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to LF
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
CF Rick Ankiel
LF Xavier Nady
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
RF Hunter Pence
C Carlos Ruiz
CF Shane Victorino
1B Ty Wigginton
SS Freddy Galvis
2B Mike Fontenot
LHP Cole Hamels
HP Lance Barksdale, 1B Fieldin Culbreth, 2B Adrian Johnson, 3B Gary Cederstrom
7:10 p.m. -- We are underway with Danny Espinosa fouling off Cole Hamels' first pitch. Bryce Harper (who survived a near-major collision with the Philly Phanatic during warmups) stands on deck.
7:21 p.m. -- Well, that was incredibly uneventful. Espinosa drew a leadoff walk, bringing Harper to the plate to a chorus of boos. Hamels, though, wanted no piece of the kid this time. He threw three pitches, all on the outer half of the plate, eventually getting Harper to hit a deep flyball to left. Espinosa stole second, setting up a nice opportunity for the heart of the Nats' lineup. But Ryan Zimmerman struck out and Adam LaRoche grounded out, squandering this early chance to get on the board.
7:29 p.m. -- Harper certainly made his presence known in the bottom of the first, though Juan Pierre's inexplicable baserunning helped. After Pierre walked on four pitches, Placido Polanco lined out to right. Pierre, though, ran all the way to second base, not realizing the ball was hit directly at Harper. So the kid had all the time in the world to set himself and then fire a perfect strike to LaRoche to complete the 9-3 double play.
7:50 p.m. -- And the Phillies take an early 1-0 lead as the bottom of the lineup get to Jackson. Freddy Galvis and Mike Fontenot each delivered two-out singles, Fontenot's sinking liner to right-center just eluding a diving Harper.
8:00 p.m. -- Not entirely sure why Jesus Flores was running from first with two outs and Harper at the plate in the top of the third. Even if that was supposed to be a hit-and-run, what was the best-case scenario? A Harper single to advance Flores to third, still with two outs? Kind of a curious call there.
8:10 p.m. -- Jackson does not appear to have "it" tonight. We're three innings in, and he's already given up five hits, walked two and recorded several outs on hard-hit balls. Davey might need to turn to his bullpen early before it gets too out of hand. At the moment, the Phillies lead 2-0 through three.
8:20 p.m. -- Harper did everything he could to get the Nats going in the top of the fourth, but it was to no avail. He battled his way through an eight-pitch at-bat to draw the leadoff walk. Then he tagged up and took second on Zimmerman's flyball to deep center. Then he tagged up and took third on LaRoche's flyball to left-center. (I'm no expert, but I believe that would be classified by some as "old school.") Unfortunately, Desmond popped up with Harper standing on third to end the inning. So it remains 2-0 as Hamels has yet to allow a hit through four.
8:25 p.m. -- That was a much-needed, five-pitch bottom of the fourth from Jackson. Keeps his total pitch count at 60 as we head to the fifth with the Nats still looking for their first hit against Hamels.
8:31 p.m. -- Oh dear, Hamels has completed five innings and the Nats have no hits yet. Not too many close calls yet, either. Maybe Desmond's sharp grounder to short in the second. That's about it. Phillies still lead 2-0.
8:48 p.m. -- Well, the no-hitter is over. And actually, the Nats collected three hits in the top of the sixth (an Espinosa double, and singles by Harper and Zimmerman). Yet they didn't score. Why? Because Espinosa was gunned down at the plate by Pence on Harper's one-out single. Not a very good call by Bo Porter to wave Danny around there, especially with Zimmerman due up next. Now, the replay did make it look closer than it did live. But Espinosa also went in hard and came up limping a bit. We'll have to keep an eye on that. In the end, the Nats still trail 2-0 as we head to the bottom of the sixth.
8:57 p.m. -- Props to Edwin Jackson for turning what could've been a really shaky start into a really solid outing. He came back strong over the last three innings and has now made it through the sixth allowing only those two early runs. He's also gotten his pitch count back to manageable figures, sitting at 79. Now, about that Nats lineup against Hamels...
9:02 p.m. -- ... and it's not going to happen in the seventh. 1-2-3 inning for Hamels. It remains 2-0. Interesting side note: Henry Rodriguez warming in the bullpen with his team down two runs in the seventh. I guess that's what Davey meant by "less-demanding role."
9:09 p.m. -- Now the Phillies suicide squeeze their way to a 3-0 lead. Perfect execution by Pierre to bring home Fontenot. So the Nats really find themselves in a hole now, down three runs and down to their final six outs.
9:20 p.m. -- A leadoff triple -- yes, a triple -- by Jesus Flores goes to waste. Steve Lombardozzi pops out, with Galvis making a great play. Espinosa grounds out. And so does Harper, who in his final encounter of the night with Hamels strands the runner in scoring position. Here's H-Rod to pitch the bottom of the eighth, down three runs.
9:32 p.m. -- Same old, same old from Henry. He walked the leadoff batter (throwing two pitches to the backstop) and then gave up a homer to Shane Victorino. So it's 4-0 as we head to the ninth. Here's a remarkable fact, though: In the ninth inning of the sixth game between these two teams this year, Jonathan Papelbon is finally making his first appearance.
9:45 p.m. -- It's over. LaRoche did crush a solo homer off Papelbon, but it was too little, too late. For the ninth time this season, the Nats fail to finish off a series sweep. They'll settle for a mere series victory over the Phillies, who win this one 4-1. Off-day tomorrow, then on to Atlanta for a big, weekend series.