Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats open an 11-game homestand tonight against the Cardinals.
So begins an 11-game homestand, the longest of the season, with the defending World Series champion Cardinals in town the next four days. St. Louis will be up against a familiar foe tonight in Edwin Jackson (a member of that World Series club).
Left-hander Jaime Garcia gets the nod for the Cards, facing a Nats lineup that broke out of its slump in a big way last night. Plenty of updates to come, so please check back...
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv, MLB Network (outside D.C. market)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM Internet 869
Weather: Mostly clear, 84 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to LF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson
CF Jon Jay
RF Carlos Beltran
LF Matt Holliday
1B Allen Craig
C Yadier Molina
3B David Freese
2B Skip Schumaker
SS Rafael Furcal
LHP Jaime Garcia
HP Mark Wegner
1B Mike Muchlinski
2B Brian Knight
3B Mike Winters (cc)
7:07 p.m. -- And we're underway on a warm, 88-degree night in the nation's capital. Appears to be a late-arriving crowd.
7:15 p.m. -- A very impressive top of the first for Edwin Jackson. He struck out Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig, displaying some filthy stuff including a 96 mph fastball. Would've had a 1-2-3 inning except he deflected Matt Holliday's comebacker and Danny Espinosa couldn't get to it quite in time to make the play.
7:26 p.m. -- Well, I guess Bryce Harper is feeling pretty hitterish right now, huh? He just crushed a 2-0 meatball from Jaime Garcia to the back of the right-field bullpen for his 15th homer of the season and his third in 24 hours. That was as impressive as any the rookie has hit lately, both because of the picture-perfect swing he put on the pitch and because it came off a tough left-hander. That's only the fifth homer Garcia has ever given up to a left-handed hitter. Nats take a 2-0 lead after one.
7:39 p.m. -- Jackson's first five outs recorded tonight: All strikeouts. Man, he is in a zone, showing off a devastating breaking ball to go along with his fastball. Then Rafael Furcal had the nerve to ground out to second base to end the top of the second, the first out recorded on a ball in play against Jackson tonight. The nerve.
7:53 p.m. -- Three innings down, seven strikeouts for Jackson. You'd think his former teammates would know his repertoire a little better, wouldn't you? Whatever the case, the Nats will gladly take it. They lead 2-0 in the middle of the third.
8:11 p.m. -- Harper takes another Garcia pitch deep to center and ... comes about three feet short of his fourth home run in two nights. No worries, the Nats still scored a run on Adam LaRoche's sac fly to right. So it's now 3-0 after three impressive innings.
8:21 p.m. -- If you know baseball, you've probably heard of the "neighborhood play," where a second baseman turning a double play is given the benefit of the doubt even if his foot is only in the neighborhood of the base. Well, Danny Espinosa wasn't even close to the neighborhood in the top of the fourth ... unless that neighborhood is the size of Montana. So props to umpire Brian Knight for making the right call there, even though the Nats weren't happy about it.
8:37 p.m. -- Make it eight strikeouts for Jackson through five innings. That gives the Nationals pitching staff 1,068 K's for the season, matching their all-time high set in 2010. And there are still 32 1/2 games left to play. They still lead 3-0 in the middle of the fifth.
8:49 p.m. -- How much difference has Werth made on the Nats lineup since his return from a broken wrist? A huge difference. Werth's updated slash line through the fifth inning of tonight's game: .344/.416/.489. Those numbers all just took a big jump up when Werth launched his first homer since coming off the DL, a towering shot over the visitors bullpen to give the Nats a 4-0 lead. There's been some concern Werth couldn't hit for power anymore. Well, he just showed it there in a big way. And that .489 slugging percentage isn't too shabby, either.
9:12 p.m. -- Make it 6-0 Nats as they plate a couple more runs in the bottom of the sixth. And who else but Werth (fielder's choice) and Harper (sharp single over the shortstop's head) to drive in those two runs. It's been a banner couple of days for the top two guys in the lineup.
9:21 p.m. -- A nice, over-the-shoulder catch by Harper to end the seventh (and possibly Jackson's night). His line to this point: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 105 pitches. Big-time stuff against a big-time lineup. Still 6-0 at the stretch.
9:38 p.m. -- Jesus Flores ropes a two-run single to left, making it 8-0, and this one has officially become a rout. So much so that Davey let Jackson hit for himself. He'll retake the mound for the top of the eighth.
9:46 p.m. -- So much for the shutout. The Cards finally score a run (their first in 28 innings) thanks to Ryan Zimmerman's airmail of a throw to first base. No problem, because Jackson still finished out the inning to complete an eight-inning, 123-pitch masterpiece. Now 8-1 as we go to the bottom of the eighth.
10:06 p.m. -- It's over. Nats win 8-1 as Michael Gonzalez finishes off Jackson's gem. That was a big-time thumping of a big-time opponent, and a nice way to open this 11-game homestand.