Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper make their Fenway Park debuts tonight.
It's been a topsy-turvy year so far, not only in the NL East but also in the AL East, where the beer-swilling, fried chicken-munching Red Sox are bringing up the rear (in spite of their 29-28 record). Boston still boasts a fairly potent lineup, even if the names aren't as intimidating as they used to be. And tonight's starter, left-hander Felix Doubront, is 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA over his last six starts.
Because of that lefty on the mound -- plus the need for a DH in the AL park -- Davey Johnson is going with a right-handed heavy lineup. Danny Espinosa will lead off. Michael Morse will hit cleanup and DH. Tyler Moore and Xavier Nady will man the corner outfield spots.
Oh yeah, and Stephen Strasburg is starting for the Nationals. Plenty of updates and analysis to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at BOSTON RED SOX
Where: Fenway Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 177
Weather: Scattered storms, 70 degrees, Wind 10 mph out to CF
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
RF Xavier Nady
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
(RHP Stephen Strasburg)
RED SOX (29-28)
LF Daniel Nava
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
3B Kevin Youkilis
RF Ryan Sweeney
SS Mike Aviles
CF Scott Podsednik
(LHP Felix Doubront)
HP Doug Eddings, 1B Dana DeMuth (cc), 2B Al Porter, 3B Paul Nauert
7:11 p.m. -- And we're underway as Felix Doubront starts off Danny Espinosa with a fastball for ball one. We had a couple of brief downpours pregame, but it's clearing up. Only 66 degrees as gametime, though.
7:19 p.m. -- Espinosa introduced himself to the Green Monster with a blast to deep left-center. That's a home run in a lot of parks, but here it's actually only a double. And unfortunately the Nats didn't take advantage of that leadoff two-bagger. Bryce Harper fouled off several offerings from Doubront but struck out swinging at a tough curveball. Ryan Zimmerman grounded out on the first pitch he saw. And then Michael Morse struck out looking at a breaking ball. Opportunity squandered in the top of the first.
7:27 p.m. -- Speaking of introductions, Stephen Strasburg just introduced himself to the Red Sox and their fans by striking out Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia, the latter on a 99 mph fastball. Hello, Boston! Adrian Gonzalez did manage to make contact ... popping up weakly to third base to end a stellar, 15-pitch first inning for Strasburg. Still scoreless.
7:37 p.m. -- Two innings down, and already the Nats are 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Ian Desmond laced a one-out single up the middle and then advanced two bases on a wild pitch. But Xavier Nady struck out (before the wild pitch) and Tyler Moore also struck out (after the wild pitch) to strand Desmond at third.
7:49 p.m. -- Strasburg really had to work in the bottom of the second, and the Red Sox made him pay the price for it. After David Ortiz drew a leadoff walk, Strasburg got two quick outs on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's liner to left-center (with Harper covering a ton of ground to make the catch and then nearly taking LaRoche's glove hand off with a laser of a throw) and Kevin Youkilis' strikeout. But the bottom of the Boston order got Strasburg. Ryan Sweeney singled to left-center, and then Mike Aviles smoked a two-run double off the Monster. Just like that, the Red Sox lead 2-0 after two, and Strasburg's pitch count is already up to 42.
8:08 p.m. -- Well, that's the kind of clutch hitting the Nats have been looking for. After Espinosa drew a one-out walk and Harper sent a double to right-center, Zimmerman came to the plate with two men in scoring position, a big spot. And he delivered with a sharp single up the middle to plate the Nats' first run of the ninth. Three batters later, Desmond stepped up with the bases loaded and two out and sent a double to right-center. Just like that, the Nats have taken a 3-2 lead in the third.
8:18 p.m. -- Strasburg certainly seems to like pitching to the top of the Red Sox's lineup. He's struck out Nava and Pedroia twice apiece already, getting each of them on a fastball and a changeup. But the highlight of the bottom of the third -- and probably of this game -- was Xavier Nady robbing Adrian Gonzalez of a home run into the right-field bullpen. Nady reached over the wall to haul it back in ... and perhaps ruptured one of kidneys slamming into that wall doing it. Just a fantastic catch.
8:30 p.m. -- Looks like the Nats lineup came to play tonight. Tyler Moore doubles to lead off the fourth. Danny Espinosa doubles to drive him in (his second two-bagger of the night). And Bryce Harper, ladies and gentlemen, crushes his sixth career homer, a bomb to right-center just to the right of the 420-foot mark. Just destroyed that pitch. And the Nationals now lead 6-2 in the fourth. Stunning.
8:38 p.m. -- Strasburg's really settling into a groove now. He struck out the side in the fourth, making Ortiz, Saltalamacchia and Youkilis all look silly. That's eight K's in four innings. The only downside: Strasburg has already thrown 72 pitches. No way he'll reach the seventh tonight, maybe not even the sixth.
9:00 p.m. -- Can we just put to rest any of these questions about the state of Stephen Strasburg's arm now? Good lord, he's looked dominant since the second inning. Has now retired 10 straight, seven via strikeout. This is his fifth career 10-strikeout game. Nats still lead 6-2 heading to the sixth.
9:10 p.m. -- Another hit and another RBI for Harper, who now has three of each in this game. The only problem with his two-out, run-scoring single off Rich Hill in the sixth? He rounded first base too far and was caught in a rundown. Not a terrible infraction with two outs, but a case of a little much hustle on Harper's part. It's now 7-2.
9:33 p.m. -- Folks, I think we just saw the reins officially being taken off Stephen Strasburg. Sitting on 106 pitches in the sixth, he was allowed to stay in to face Saltalamacchia with the bases loaded. And struck him out. Now sitting in 113 pitches, he was allowed to stay in to face Youkilis. And struck him out on a borderline 3-2 fastball at the knees. Really close call, and Youkilis was ejected for arguing it. Regardless, Strasburg's career-high 119th pitch of the night produces his 13th strikeout. Quite a moment for the young right-hander, and for the Nats franchise, which still leads 7-2 before a hushed Fenway Park.
9:53 p.m. -- Ross Detwiler pitches out of a jam in the seventh. It remains 7-2 Nats. There was a guy waving a large Nationals banner in about the fifth row by the Red Sox dugout. The home crowd didn't really have any method of response for that.
9:59 p.m. -- Hold on, folks. This one isn't quite over yet. Gonzalez crushes a 2-1 pitch from Detwiler into the center-field bleachers in the bottom of the eighth to cut the lead to 7-3.
10:11 p.m. -- Earlier today, I wrote that we wouldn't be seeing Brad Lidge pitch the ninth inning anymore. Well, I lied, because he's in for the bottom of the ninth. Of course, the Nats lead by four runs, so it's not a save situation. So I save a little face, right?
10:18 p.m. -- Well, Lidge recorded one out, then walked Nick Punto and served up a run-scoring double to Nava. And just like that, Tyler Clippard is entering for what has suddenly become a save situation. It's 7-4 with Pedroia at the plate.
10:24 p.m. -- It's over. Clippard finishes it off for his sixth save as a star-studded Washington baseball club marches into Fenway Park and overwhelms the hometown Red Sox and their fans. Stop and think about that for a moment. Pretty surreal.