Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Gio Gonzalez faces Matt Moore in tonight's series finale at Nationals Park.
So the odds would appear to be in the Nats' favor for tonight's series finale against the Rays. Except that Gonzalez has lost two of his last three outings. And Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore has won his last three starts. Hmm...
As he's now prone to do when facing a left-hander, Davey Johnson is benching both Steve Lombardozzi and Adam LaRoche. It'll be Xavier Nady in left field and Tyler Moore at first base tonight.
One Rays note: Joel Peralta is expected to have his suspension handed down by MLB this afternoon, so there's a good chance the pine-tar-using reliever won't be available and his team will be down a man for this game.
Updates to come...
TAMPA BAY RAYS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 178
Weather: Mostly clear, 94 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to CF
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
1B Tyler Moore
LF Xavier Nady
C Jesus Flores
LHP Gio Gonzalez
LF Desmond Jennings
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
2B Ben Zobrist
RF Hideki Matsui
SS Sean Rodriguez
C Jose Lobaton
3B Drew Sutton
LHP Matt Moore
HP Cory Blaser, 1B Chris Guccione, 2B Tim Tschida (cc), 3B Jeff Nelson
5:00 p.m. -- Here's your Joel Peralta update: He has officially been suspended eight games by Major League Baseball for having pine tar in his glove. Peralta, though, has appealed the suspension, so he remains on the Rays' active roster and is eligible to pitch tonight.
5:05 p.m. -- Couple of injury updates to pass along: Mark DeRosa is beginning a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac tonight. He'll start at third base. Jayson Werth, meanwhile, is in full uniform and is on the field for batting practice today. He's not really participating, just making a few light throws. But I believe this is the first time we've seen him out there since breaking his wrist on May 6.
7:06 p.m. -- We are underway on another sizzling night in the District. With the thermometer reading 97 degrees, Gio Gonzalez fires a fastball to Desmond Jennings for ball one.
7:14 p.m. -- Gio was actually a bit off with his command in that first inning. He issued a one-out walk to Carlos Pena, then let him advance to second on a wild pitch. He didn't suffer any actual damage, closing out the inning with a pop-up and then a groundout to short, but he wound up throwing more balls (nine) than strikes (eight) in that inning.
7:19 p.m. -- Davey Johnson this afternoon was describing the hitting approach he preaches. "I call it 'patiently aggressive,'" the manager said, then adding: "We leave out the patiently part." They certainly did in the bottom of the first. Matt Moore needed all of eight pitches to retire the side, only three pitches to retire the first two batters. Danny Espinosa popped out on an 1-0 pitch, while Bryce Harper flied out on the first pitch. Ryan Zimmerman managed to work the count a bit but still struck out ... and was greeted with a few boos as the first inning came to a close.
7:37 p.m. -- Gio really hasn't been himself here early on. He's falling behind just about every batter, he walked two of the first five hitters he faced, and he gave up a bases-loaded single to Jennings to put the Rays up 1-0. After falling behind 2-0 to Pena, Steve McCatty emerged for a very early mound conference with the lefty. Gonzalez battled back and got a big strikeout of Pena on a 95 mph fastball to keep the damage to a minimum. But he's already at 50 pitches through two innings, and the Nats trail early.
7:54 p.m. -- Good news: The Nats recorded their first hit off Rays pitching in 10 innings! Naturally, it was Xavier Nady who delivered the big hit. Third baseman Drew Sutton then booted Jesus Flores' grounder to prolong the inning, but I think you've got to question Bo Porter for not waving Tyler Moore around third on that play. He might not have been able to score, but with two outs and Gio coming up to bat, it seemed like that would be worth the risk. It especially looked bad when Gio struck out on three pitches to end the bottom of the second, the Nats still trailing 1-0.
8:18 p.m. -- Well, that was an interesting rally from the Nationals. And by "interesting," I mean "unconventional." Espinosa and Harper drew a pair of walks to lead off the third, bringing Zimmerman to the plate in a big spot. What did Zim do? He swung and missed a first-pitch fastball low and outside, then swung and missed a fastball right down the middle. After fouling off a couple, he took a changeup over the plate for a killer strikeout, leading to a few more boos from the crowd. He's now hitting .224 for the season. Not good. Fortunately, Morse delivered a sac fly to bring one run home (after Espinosa and Harper pulled off a double steal). And then Desmond delivered an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-1 ... then swiped second base as Pena held the ball waiting to give it back to the pitcher. Bizarre moment, but great hustle from Desmond.
8:33 p.m. -- It truly is staggering just how much better contact Espinosa makes from the right side of the plate vs. the left side. He just crushed a double down the left-field line in the bottom of the fourth, yet another impressive hit from the right side. Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, has settled down impressively over the last two innings, needing only 19 pitches to record six outs. He'll take the mound for the fifth at a very manageable 69 pitches for the night, with the Nats still leading 2-1.
8:40 p.m. -- Boy, are the Nats flashing the leather tonight or what? They've made several highlight-reel plays in the field, a couple by Zimmerman and then a brilliant one by Desmond just now on Jennings' grounder up the middle in the top of the fifth. That sparkling defense has helped Gio retire 10 of the last 11 batters he's faced.
8:47 p.m. -- Zim is now 0-for-3 with three strikeouts (two looking) tonight. He hasn't come close to making solid contact.
9:05 p.m. -- And the Rays get the tying run back in the top of the sixth. Ben Zobrist led off with a double, then scored on Sean Rodriguez's single to center. Gio got himself into even more of a jam when he had two on with two out, but he came up big to strike out pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson to end the inning. So it's now 2-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth and look who's coming in to pitch for the Rays? Yes, it's Joel Peralta! Might as well get his work in now before the suspension takes effect.
9:22 p.m. -- So, I guess Danny Espinosa can hit left-handed after all. Espi comes through with a huge, two-out, two-run double into the right-field corner, scoring both Jesus Flores (who started the rally with a double to deep left) and Adam LaRoche (who pinch-hit for Gio Gonzalez and was intentionally walked). So all of a sudden, the Nats have taken a 4-2 lead as Craig Stammen enters for the seventh.
9:50 p.m. -- The top of the seventh inning only took, oh, 28 minutes to complete. It included three relievers and three walks, but ultimately ended with Ryan Mattheus striking out Will Rhymes on a 3-2 fastball, then pumping his fist with delight as the inning came to a close. The lead remains 4-2 as this game slogs along at a snail's pace. Fortunately, it's only 97 degrees tonight.
10:05 p.m. -- The Nats add a run in the bottom of the seventh on Roger Bernadina's RBI double ... though Rick Ankiel was thrown at the plate and threw his arms out at Jesus Flores, who was on-deck but never motioned for Ankiel to slide. It's 5-2 entering the eighth.
10:18 p.m. -- We go to the ninth, and here is Tyler Clippard in search of his 11th save in as many tries since taking over closing duties.
10:28 p.m. -- It's all over. Nats win 5-2 and take another series from another tough AL East opponent. They're now 17-12 in this brutal stretch of 32 consecutive games against teams from both East divisions.
11:05 p.m. -- One last thing to share in the game thread ... I had the opportunity to meet a very special girl today, Isabella Fiorio, a 7-year-old who attended tonight's game via Toyota's Ks for Kids Program. Isabella is currently receiving treatment at The Children's Inn at the National Institutes of Health for a rare genetic disease. She's a big Nats fan (not to mention a Nats Insider fan) and was thrilled to be at her very first game tonight with her mom, Courtney. They had a blast, eating cotton candy and peanuts, visiting the press box for a few minutes (and of course watching a Nats win). It was great getting to meet Isabella and Courtney tonight, and thanks to Meredith Daly of The Children's Inn for helping arrange it...