Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chien-Ming Wang faces David Price in tonight's series opener at Nationals Park.
With the left-hander on the mound, the Nationals counter with a right-handed heavy lineup. That means Danny Espinosa is leading off, with Tyler Moore in left field and Steve Lombardozzi on the bench. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse are hitting in the prized No. 3 and No. 4 spots; each slumping hitter is currently taking a round of early batting practice with hitting coach Rick Eckstein, manager Davey Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo all watching from the behind the cage.
Chien-Ming Wang, meanwhile, gets the ball for his fourth start of the season, hoping this will be the start he completes six full innings for the first time. The Nationals could certainly use a quality outing out of the veteran right-hander.
Updates to come...
TAMPA BAY RAYS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
RHP Chien-Ming Wang
LF Desmond Jennings
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
RF Matt Joyce
2B Ben Zobrist
C Jose Lobaton
SS Elliot Johnson
3B Will Rhymes
LHP David Price
HP Tim Tschida (cc), 1B Jeff Nelson, 2B Cory Blaser, 3B Chris Guccione
6:35 p.m. -- Some pregame news and notes ... Davey Johnson thinks Ryan Zimmerman may be compensating for his previously injured shoulder when swinging the bat. The shoulder doesn't bother him anymore, but he may have fallen into some bad habits while thinking about the shoulder. "Those things a lot of times are in your subconscious," Johnson said. "I think he's OK. It's not bothering him to the point where ... but I think, just like my creaky shoulder, you can test it, maybe carrying your hands higher, trying to free it up. And you need to get that out of your mind and get into a comfortable position. Not test it, trust it. Basically that's all. I wanted him to feel more relaxed and express his ability. And I feel sure he will."
6:37 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Davey had plenty of encouraging words for Michael Morse as well: "He came in after the game Sunday and wanted me to drop him down in the lineup, says: 'I'm killing the team.' No, you're not killing the team. You're going to be fine. You'll be carrying us in a minute. I'm not worried. I don't want you worrying."
6:39 p.m. -- Plenty of injury updates on Jayson Werth, Chad Tracy and others in this full article. And here's the news on the June 1 rainout against the Braves, which will now be made up as a day-night doubleheader on July 21.
7:05 p.m. -- And we are underway on a sticky summer night in D.C. Chien-Ming Wang starts off Desmond Jennings with a ball.
7:20 p.m. -- That was a laborious top of the first, to say the least. Despite getting two strikes on all five batters he faced (including 0-2 counts on three of them), Wang still allowed three singles and gave up a run. Fortunately, he was bailed out by a 4-6-3 double play and a flyout to left. But Wang has got to figure out how to put away hitters once he gets two strikes on them. That's a problem. 1-0 Rays as we go to the bottom of the first.
7:33 p.m. -- It wasn't a work of art, but the Nats will take the run they scored in the bottom of the first to tie this game up. Danny Espinosa started things off with a solid single to left-center, raising his average against left-handers to a stout .388. That's the fourth-best mark in the NL. Bryce Harper, on the other hand, looked silly trying to make contact with David Price's 0-2, 97-mph fastball. Ryan Zimmerman rapped another grounder to the left side of the infield for the second out, though Espinosa (who previously stole second) advanced to third on the play. Michael Morse then hit a ball just inside the bag at third base and would have been out had Will Rhymes' throw not skipped past Carlos Pena. That was curiously scored as an error on Pena (despite the fact the throw was bounced) but the Nats and Morse will happily take it. 1-1 after one.
7:37 p.m. -- By the way, I forgot to mention earlier that Jeremy Hellickson (who was scheduled to start tomorrow for Tampa Bay) has been placed on the DL with a shoulder injury. So it'll be right-hander Chris Archer (4-8 with a 4.81 ERA at Class AAA Durham) making his big-league debut tomorrow night against Stephen Strasburg.
7:51 p.m. -- Ian Desmond lofts Price's 1-1 pitch in the bottom of the second to center field ... and it just keeps going and going until it clears the fence. Didn't think he hit the ball that hard off the bat, but there it is: Desmond's 11th homer of the season, a new career-high. It's 2-1 Nats after two.
8:08 p.m. -- You had a sense Wang might be in for a tough night, and that hunch has proven true. He just gave up four runs in the top of the third, an inning that included two walks (each batter coming around to score), a two-run triple off the wall in left-center by Elliot Johnson and a two-run homer way over the center-field fence by Carlos Pena. Ross Detwiler was up and throwing in the bullpen before the inning ended, and when Wang finally did get through the frame and returned to the dugout, he was greeted by a healthy dose of boos. The Nats now trail 5-2.
8:27 p.m. -- The fourth inning began with Wang retaking the mound but Detwiler already warming in the pen. It figured to be a short leash for Wang, and that's exactly what it was. He walked Price (the opposing pitcher) to begin the inning, and though he struck out Jennings, Davey Johnson emerged from the dugout to summon Detwiler. Wang exited to some more boos. Detwiler, meanwhile, struck out Pena on a 96 mph high fastball (slightly different than the 88 mph sinker Pena crushed off Wang for a homer the previous inning) and then struck out B.J. Upton on a 82 mph breaking ball. That, folks, was a bullpen guy pleading his case to return to the rotation. Still 5-2 as we go to the bottom of the fourth.
8:48 p.m. -- Detwiler has settled things down from the pitching side, but the Nats are doing nothing at the moment at the plate. Price has put three men on base since Desmond's homer in the second, but all three were retired on double plays. So he's basically faced the minimum since then. We go to the sixth, with the Nats still trailing 5-2.
8:58 p.m. -- Detwiler has faced eight batters ... and retired all eight. Can't make much more of a statement than that. Now, can his teammates get those three runs back?
9:10 p.m. -- Weeks from now, it's entirely possible we'll look back at the bottom of the sixth inning of this game as a turning point for Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. It's entirely possible we won't, but if you're going to snap out of a long slump, that's the way to do it. Zimmerman started it with a sharp single to left. Morse then delivered his first homer of the season, a lined rocket just over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center. The umps went down the tunnel to review the play, but the homer stood. So just like that, the lead is down to 5-4, and maybe -- just maybe -- these two stalwarts are about to get their swings locked in.
9:27 p.m. -- Detwiler is done after 3 2/3 near-perfect innings. His only blemish: a hit-by-pitch. Otherwise, no runs allowed, no hits allowed, no walks issued. That's a pretty strong statement, folks. Michael Gonzalez in for the eighth, the Nats still trailing 5-4.
9:50 p.m. -- Holy cow, it's the Brendan Donnelly/Jose Guillen incident all over again! Joel Peralta was ejected before ever throwing a pitch in the eighth because of a foreign substance found in his glove! I guarantee you someone from the Nats' dugout -- someone who was with the team in 2010 when Peralta pitched here -- knew he used something illegal and brought it to Davey Johnson's attention. Just like Jose Guillen did with Brendan Donnelly in 2005 in Anaheim. The only thing missing tonight was Davey and Joe Maddon going toe-to-toe, a la Frank Robinson and Mike Scioscia. Even weirder coincidence: The crew chief tonight is Tim Tschida. He was also on the crew for that 2005 game!
9:56 p.m. -- Meanwhile, the Nats did nothing in the bottom of the eighth, so they still trail 5-4 as we go to the ninth.
10:12 p.m. -- Well, that all turned out to do nothing to help the Nationals' cause. Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney closed this one out and sealed a 5-4 Rays victory. The Nats have lost four in a row ... though they did create some intrigue for the rest of this series.