Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann opens the second half of the season at Marlins Park.
The Nationals open the second half of their season with a four-game series against a Miami club that dealt with all manner of calamity prior to the All-Star break, resulting in a 41-44 record. That said, the Marlins did sweep the Nats in their previous visit here over Memorial Day week. And as any longtime observer knows, no team in the NL East has been a bigger thorn in the Nationals' side over the years than the Marlins.
Jordan Zimmermann will look to reverse that trend tonight, handed the ball by Davey Johnson first out of the gate. Gio Gonzalez will start tomorrow, with Stephen Strasburg on Sunday, Edwin Jackson on Monday and then Ross Detwiler on Tuesday against the Mets in D.C. Drew Storen is not going to be activated off the disabled list quite yet; he made a two-inning rehab appearance for Class A Potomac last night, so it'll be at least another day or two until we see him.
Plenty of live updates and analysis here from this amusement park of a baseball stadium, plus be sure to check back around 5 p.m. for news of the Nats' contract negotiations with first-round pick Lucas Giolito...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MIAMI MARLINS
Where: Marlins Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
LF Steve Lombardozzi
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jesus Flores
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
SS Jose Reyes
2B Omar Infante
1B Carlos Lee
LF Logan Morrison
3B Hanley Ramirez
RF Justin Ruggiano
CF Emilio Bonifacio
C John Buck
RHP Josh Johnson
HP Jeff Kellogg (cc), 1B Eric Cooper, 2B Marty Foster, 3B D.J. Reyburn
7:10 p.m. -- The second half of the season is underway, and for some reason the Nationals are wearing red helmets with their road uniforms. That's new. They're still wearing navy blue caps.
7:18 p.m. -- Well, that was a Bryce Harper top of the first if ever there was one. He blooped a little base hit to left field, then forced Logan Morrison into booting the ball and thus advanced to second on the error. He didn't tag up on Ryan Zimmerman's flyout to right, but seconds later he noticed Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes talking to Josh Johnson near the mound and wound up swiping third base. Nobody in the park was paying attention ... including your humble beat writer. Unfortunately, Harper's hustle didn't result in anything because Michael Morse was called out looking at a 3-2 pitch on the outside corner.
7:25 p.m. -- A strong bottom of the first for Jordan Zimmermann. He wasn't helped by Morse, who was slow to charge in on Carlos Lee's bloop single to right. But no worries. Zimmermann still needed only 12 pitches to get through the inning. Scoreless after one.
7:35 p.m. -- Looks like Ian Desmond is picking up right where he left off at the All-Star break. He roped a base hit to right, scoring Adam LaRoche (who doubled off the right-field fence) and recording his 52nd RBI of the season. I talked to Desmond this afternoon about sitting out the All-Star Game, and he said the rest definitely did his oblique muscle good. Said he completely shut himself down for three days before joining the rest of the team here in Miami yesterday for a workout. Whatever he did worked in the top of the second, because the Nats now lead 1-0.
7:55 p.m. -- Barkeep, another round of cortisone shots for me and all my friends! Ryan Zimmerman puts a dent into the Home Run Thingamajig for a two-run blast, his ninth of the season. And since Harper was on base at the time, it gives the Nats a 3-0 lead. More importantly, Zim wins the giant stuffed teddy bear!
8:13 p.m. -- It's been a bit ragged at times, but Zimmermann has gotten the job done through three innings. He's allowed three soft singles and a walk, and that's all. He did have an errant pickoff throw in the bottom of the third for an error, but he bounced back to strike out Carlos Lee with two outs and a man in scoring position. Forty-five pitches (31 strikes) overall for JZ. We go to the fourth, the Nats leading 3-0.
8:30 p.m. -- There was nothing ragged about the bottom of the fourth for Zimmermann. He mowed right through the heart of the Marlins lineup, striking out Morrison, Ramirez and Ruggiano in succession. That's four straight strikeouts now for Jordan, whose slider is absolutely filthy tonight. Still 3-0 after four.
9:02 p.m. -- Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond can do no wrong right now. LaRoche is 3-for-3 and has scored twice. Desmond is 2-for-3 with a bunt single, a stolen base and then a great read on Jesus Flores' bloop single to left. He very nearly lapped LaRoche coming around third, which could have been a complete disaster. But all was fine in the end and both guys scored. It's 5-0 Nats in the sixth and Josh Johnson has been knocked out of the game.
9:15 p.m. -- With a sliding catch from Bryce Harper in shallow center field, Zimmermann has now completed six scoreless innings on 87 pitches (61 strikes). He's retired 14 of the last 16 batters he's faced and is showing no signs of letting up. Still 5-0 Nats as we head to the seventh.
9:20 p.m. -- Here's your stat of the night: There are only two starting pitchers in the majors this season who have gone at least six innings in all 18 of their starts. Jordan Zimmermann is one. Justin Verlander is the other.
9:27 p.m. -- And six innings is all Zimmermann will go tonight, because Davey Johnson just summoned Henry Rodriguez for the bottom of the seventh. Very curious move that will obviously need to be explained after the game.
9:42 p.m. -- Well that was ... uh, interesting. Rodriguez entered with a five-run lead and immediately threw three balls to Hanley Ramirez, only to come back and strike him out on a 98 mph fastball. He then walked two straight batters and allowed two stolen bases, bringing Steve McCatty out to the mound for what appeared to be a forceful conversation. John Buck then blooped an RBI single to right to end the shutout, and that's all Davey Johnson needed to see. Out came Henry -- why exactly he was pitching at all is beyond me -- and in came Michael Gonzalez to face pinch-hitter Austin Kearns. Yes, that Austin Kearns, who smoked the very first pitch right back at Gonzalez, who doubled up Buck at first base and snuffed out the rally dead in its tracks. So after all that, we go to the eighth inning of what is now a 5-1 game.
9:53 p.m. -- Bottom of the eighth forthcoming. It'll be Ryan Mattheus out of the bullpen.
10:01 p.m. -- Apparently Davey watched the All-Star Game, because he's doing his best impression of Tony La Russa right now. Mattheus gets two outs, and in comes Sean Burnett to face Logan Morrison. So for those keeping track, Davey is using four different relievers to record six outs with his team up four runs.
10:13 p.m. -- Onto the bottom of the ninth at least. Tyler Clippard will close this one out in a non-save situation.
10:29 p.m. -- That'll do it. Clippard finishes off a 5-1 victory as the Nats secure their first-ever win at Marlins Park. Win No. 50 of the season comes in Game No. 84.