Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg tries to end the Nationals' four-game losing streak tonight.
But of far more importance to the Nationals is the need for a win. They've lost four straight, and the last thing they want to do is extend the streak to five. Fortunately, Stephen Strasburg is on the mound tonight. The Nats have given their ace the ball three times this season while they're stuck in a losing streak of at least three games. Strasburg has won all three games: May 10 at the Pirates, May 20 against the Orioles, June 2 against the Braves.
Strasburg was supposed to be opposed tonight by Jeremy Hellickson, but the budding Rays right-hander was placed on the DL with a shoulder injury. So instead it'll be righty Chris Archer making his big-league debut.
Plenty of 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: Mostly clear, 93 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to CF
LF Steve Lombardozzi
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jesus Flores
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LF Desmond Jennings
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
RF Hideki Matsui
2B Ben Zobrist
SS Elliot Johnson
C Jose Molina
3B Sean Rodriguez
RHP Chris Archer
HP Jeff Nelson, 1B Cory Blaser, 2B Chris Guccione, 3B Tim Tschida (cc)
7:14 p.m. -- OK, sorry for the delay. Was busy writing about the war of words that escalated today between Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon. Good stuff, I encourage everyone to read it in full. Meanwhile, we are underway on a smoking hot, 93-degree night in the District. Stephen Strasburg navigated his way through the top of the first, striking out Desmond Jennings on a curveball and Carlos Pena on a changeup, then issuing a two-out walk to B.J. Upton before getting Hideki Matsui to ground out and end the inning.
7:30 p.m. -- Welcome to the majors, Chris Archer. I'm not sure the Rays rookie right-hander has any idea what he's going through right now, starting with a 3-run bottom of the first. Steve Lombardozzi led off with a double, then scored on Bryce Harper's base hit to center (with Harper taking second on the throw). Ryan Zimmerman hit a grounder to short, and Harper looked to be DOA at third but Elliot Johnson's throw got away, made contact with third-base coach Bo Porter and then slowly rolled all the way into the Tampa Bay dugout. That clown play allowed Harper to score and Zimmerman to advance to second. Add Ian Desmond's two-out RBI single to left, and the Nats have jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one.
7:40 p.m. -- Jose Molina homers off Stephen Strasburg? Yep. That's what happens when you fall behind 2-0 and then leave a 97 mph fastball over the plate. Ball landed way back in the left-field bleachers, trimming the Nats' lead to 3-1 in the second.
8:04 p.m. -- Strasburg was one pitch from getting out of the third inning with only around 45 pitches. But a two-out walk to Pena prolonged matters. And back-to-back singles by Upton and Matsui brought home a run. So now Strasburg's pitch count is up to 60 and the Nats' lead is down to 3-2.
8:21 p.m. -- Much better fourth inning from Strasburg, who retired the side on nine pitches. The Nats' lineup, meanwhile, has been silenced by Archer since the three-run first.
8:34 p.m. -- Upton gave one a ride in the top of the fifth, sending a Strasburg fastball to the warning track in deep left-center. But Harper tracked it down for the third out, so the Nats' 3-2 lead remains intact. Have to think they're going to need to score another run or two to win this game, though.
8:41 p.m. -- Another 1-2-3 inning for Archer, who has now retired eight in a row and hasn't surrendered a hit since Desmond's single in the bottom of the first. Not exactly the kind of offensive pressure the Nats wanted to put on the rookie right-hander. It remains 3-2 Nats as we go to the sixth.
8:50 p.m. -- If the Nats do somehow hang on to win this one by a final score of 3-2, they can thank Lombardozzi for making it possible. With a fantastic, diving catch of Molina's sinking liner in the top of the sixth, Lombo prevented the potential tying run from scoring. A great play from the infielder-turned-outfielder, preserving the slim lead as we head to the bottom of the sixth.
8:55 p.m. -- Eleven in a row retired by Archer. That is all.
9:03 p.m. -- Strasburg has marveled before about Justin Verlander's ability to dial things up a notch as he gets deeper into a game. Well, we just saw the young Nats ace do exactly that. With his 111th pitch of the night, Strasburg blew a 98 mph fastball past Jennings for his 10th strikeout. Impressive stuff from Strasburg, whose final line will read: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 K. The Nats still lead 3-2, but on the bright side the Rays have taken Archer out and turned to their bullpen.
9:10 p.m. -- Oh, look who's warming in the Rays' bullpen? Why yes, that is indeed Joel Peralta!
9:19 p.m. -- Sean Burnett gets a big double play to end the top of the eighth. Several innings ago I doubted that three runs would win this game. Well, the Nats are three outs away from doing just that. It remains 3-2 as we go to the bottom of the eighth.
9:25 p.m. -- And heeeeeeere's Joel!
9:30 p.m. -- Well, that was a major letdown. No glove checking. No cap checking. No pine tar. Just two quick outs from Peralta. So we go to the ninth, and here comes Tyler Clippard trying to close out a 3-2 victory for the Nats.
9:40 p.m. -- That'll do it. Clippard finishes it off and the Nats somehow manage to hang on for a 3-2 win, snapping their four-game losing streak. Strasburg improves to 9-1 with a 2.46 ERA. That's pretty good.