Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg makes his first career start at Chase Field tonight.
Fortunately, the roof is closed here at Chase Field for the opener of the Nationals' three-game series against the Diamondbacks. This will be Stephen Strasburg's first-ever start here, though I do recall a similarly scorching-hot afternoon two years ago when the then-rookie pitched a simulated game with the roof open here while on the DL with shoulder inflammation.
For those who care to keep track of such things, Strasburg's innings count stands at 127 1/3 entering this game. Which means he's probably got six, maybe seven, more starts until the Nats pull the plug on his season.
Strasburg should have Bryce Harper behind him tonight after the slumping rookie was held out of last night's finale in Houston. One other note of interest: Michael Morse no longer has an 18-game hitting streak on the line. MLB today reversed a scoring decision from the Nationals' Aug. 2 game against the Phillies, changing a Morse single to an error on shortstop Jimmy Rollins. So he's currently riding a seven-game streak, not quite as impressive.
I made the trek west to the desert for this series, so look for plenty of updates and analysis live from the ballpark...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Where: Chase Field
Gametime: 9:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
2B Steve Lombardozzi
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Stephen Strasburg
SS Stephen Drew
2B Aaron Hill
LF Jason Kubel
1B Paul Goldschmidt
RF Justin Upton
C Miguel Montero
3B Chris Johnson
CF Gerardo Parra
RHP Trevor Cahill
HP Dale Scott (cc)
1B Dan Iassogna
2B D.J. Reyburn
3B C.B. Bucknor
9:40 p.m. -- And we're underway. It's 111 degrees outside, but a very comfortable 82 here inside Chase Field.
9:43 p.m. -- And we're already headed for the bottom of the first after Trevor Cahill mows down the top of the Nationals' lineup. Steve Lombardozzi grounded out to first, Bryce Harper was caught looking at a perfect sinker on the inside corner and Ryan Zimmerman swung and missed a breaking ball down for Cahill's second strikeout of the inning.
9:50 p.m. -- And Stephen Strasburg sets the Diamondbacks down in order himself, retiring the side on 15 pitches, 13 of them fastballs that ranged between 96-98 mph, plus two changeups. He struck out Jason Kubel on a 96 mph heater down in the dirt to end the frame with this game scoreless.
10:03 p.m. -- Another good-looking swing for Jayson Werth, who roped a double to the gap in left-center in the top of the second. That's his 10th hit in 26 at-bats since returning from the DL, and he's starting to hit the ball for power as well.
10:15 p.m. -- That was kind of a strange way for the bottom of the second to end. With two outs and a man on first, Chris Johnson bounced a ball to the right of first base. Adam LaRoche caught the ball and turned to make what would've been an easy throw to second base for the final out of the inning. Just one problem: Danny Espinosa was nowhere to be found, didn't even break toward second base. LaRoche had make a 180-degree turn and throw to Strasburg, who was late to cover first base. They just barely got Johnson out, and Strasburg appeared to give Espinosa a glance as the inning came to an end. Scoreless through two.
11:11 p.m. -- So, I just spent the third and fourth innings in the stands with family, where I saw the Nats take a 1-0 lead on a Steve Lombardozzi triple and a Bryce Harper sac fly, then plate ump Dale Scott take a foul tip on the chin and have to be helped off the field, then Strasburg (who hadn't allowed a hit to that point) wait through a nine-minute delay while C.B. Bucknor strapped on the gear to take Scott's place behind the plate, then immediately walk Miguel Montero and give up an RBI single to Chris Johnson. Whether the delay affected Strasburg or not, who knows. But honestly, it was probably a blessing in disguise that he gave up the hit, because as much as he's laboring tonight (four walks, 78 pitches through four) there was no way Davey Johnson could have let him complete a no-hit bid. As it is, Strasburg probably won't go more than six innings now. It's 1-1 as we head to the fifth.
11:19 p.m. -- Ryan Zimmerman wants to know if they sell cortisone shots up in Friday's Front Row Grill here at the ballpark. Well, he didn't quite reach that bar high above the left-field fence, but he still tagged a pitch from Cahill a loooong way for his 16th homer of the season. Nats take a 3-1 lead in the fifth.
11:21 p.m. -- Wait a minute, they just had an announcement here on the scoreboard about a doubleheader being played against the Marlins later this month, the first-ever twinbill inside this ballpark. How exactly did a doubleheader become necessary here? They can't have a rainout in an indoor ballpark. Maybe it was a haboob-out?
11:26 p.m. -- Well, Strasburg certainly bounced back from that long fourth inning with ease. He just struck out the side, giving him six for the night (along with the four walks). He's at 93 pitches -- plus several extra warm-up tosses -- so you wouldn't think he's got much left.
11:35 p.m. -- Is there a right-handed hitter in the game with more opposite-field power than Michael Morse? Seriously, the guy just destroyed a pitch way over the 413-foot sign in right-center to put the Nats up 4-1 in the top of the sixth. That's Morse's 11th homer of the season, and nine of them have been hit to center or right fields. Remarkable. Strasburg, by the way, hit for himself to end the inning, so he's back out for the sixth at 93 pitches.
11:55 p.m. -- Make it 5-1 Nats in the seventh as Lombardozzi collects his third hit of the night and winds up scoring on a wild throw by shortstop Stephen Drew trying to complete a 3-6-1 double play. Strasburg, meanwhile, is done. His final line: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 104 pitches, 58 strikes. Sean Burnett in to pitch the bottom of the seventh.
12:01 a.m. -- Nice job by Burnett to retire the side in the seventh. Nats pitchers have now set down 10 in a row since Johnson's RBI single in the fourth (the D'backs lone hit of the night). 5-1 as we go to the eighth.
12:21 a.m. -- A 1-2-3 eighth for Ryan Mattheus, so the Nats have now retired 13 in a row. Onto the ninth.
12:39 a.m. -- Now the Nats are really pouring it on. They scored four more runs in the top of the ninth to make this a 9-1 rout. Lombardozzi was credited with his fourth hit of the night (he also scored his fourth run). Harper added his second sac fly. LaRoche sent an RBI double down the right-field line. Werth then delivered his second double of the game, this one a two-run hit down the left-field line. The crowd of 29,362 has grown quite restless, but most don't want to leave early because there's a postgame fireworks show.
12:53 a.m. -- It's over. The Nats win 9-1 and improve to 70-43. Seriously, stop and think about that for a moment: 70-43. Unreal.