Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Gio Gonzalez seeks his league-leading 18th win tonight at Nationals Park.
Last night, that meant a start in left field for Tyler Moore (who proceeded to hit a moonshot into the left-field stands for his eighth homer). Tonight, that means a start in center field for Roger Bernadina, who will also lead off.
Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, takes the mound in search of his 18th win of the season. He's currently one of four big leaguers sitting on 17, along with R.A. Dickey (who is in line to win this afternoon), Johnny Cueto and David Price.
Updates to come, so please check back...
CHICAGO CUBS 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 183
Weather: Chance of storms, 83 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to RF
CF Roger Bernadina
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Joe Mather
RF Dave Sappelt
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
SS Starlin Castro
C Welington Castillo
3B Josh Vitters
2B Darwin Barney
RHP Chris Volstad
HP Larry Vanover
1B Jerry Layne (cc)
2B Bill Miller
3B Mike Estabrook
7:06 p.m. -- And we're underway. It's another muggy night (83 degrees, 72 percent humidity) and it's another small crowd on hand. Maybe even smaller than last night.
7:11 p.m. -- A nice and easy top of the first for Gio Gonzalez, who got a couple of grounders to third and then struck out Anthony Rizzo on a nasty curveball down and away to the left-handed hitter.
7:25 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know? The Nats scored in the bottom of the first. Again. Roger Bernadina started it off with an infield single, then stole second and advanced to third on Ryan Zimmerman's groundball. That set the stage for (who else?) Adam LaRoche to rope a base hit to center, scoring Bernadina. That's LaRoche's 88th RBI of the season, which now ranks sixth in the NL. The Nats lead 1-0 after one.
7:45 p.m. -- Three innings down for Gio Gonzalez, and the only baserunner so far reached on Ian Desmond's throwing error. That's it. He's got three strikeouts, has let only two balls leave the infield and has thrown 24 of 35 pitches for strikes. Good stuff from the lefty so far. Nats still lead 1-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
8:03 p.m. -- Well, you had to see that coming, right? I mean, it had been a few innings since the Nationals last homered. Might as well hit three of them in the bottom of the third. Bernadina got it started with a bomb to center. Harper then drilled the very next pitch into the Cubs bullpen for his 16th homer (tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for the third-most in MLB history by a teenager). After Zimmerman singled (what a bum!), LaRoche did it again, blasting a two-run shot to left for his fifth homer in five days, his 28th of the year and the Nats' third in a span of four batters. It's 5-0 after three, and the Nationals lineup has launched nine home runs over the last 11 innings. Sweet Fancy Moses!
8:10 p.m. -- Gio Gonzalez is slicing and dicing the Cubs lineup so far tonight. Four hitless innings. Just cruising.
8:25 p.m. -- Make it five innings for Gio, zero hits allowed. He was helped in the top of the fifth by plate umpire Larry Vanover, who gave him a fastball well inside to Welington Castillo for his fifth strikeout of the night. But generous strike zone or not, Gio is dealing. Still 5-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
8:37 p.m. -- How excited do you think Gio was when the Cubs just intentionally walked Suzuki for the second time tonight, this time bringing up the pitcher with the bases loaded? The crowd certainly was excited, chanting "Let's Go Gio!" throughout the at-bat. He took a healthy cut, too, and roped a line drive up the middle ... only to be robbed by Castro. This place would've exploded if that hit fell in. So it's still 5-0 heading to the sixth as Gio focuses on his pitching again. And by the way, Dale Sveum was given the heave-ho by Larry Vanover to start that inning. Can't blame the Cubs manager. I wouldn't want to have to watch this team, either.
8:41 p.m. -- So much for that. Darwin Barney drills Gonzalez's first pitch of the sixth inning past a diving Zimmerman for the Cubs' first hit of the night.
9:02 p.m. -- And now Bryce Harper stands alone in third place among all teenagers who have ever homered in the big leagues. The kid launched one into the second deck in the bottom of the sixth, his second of the night and 17th of the season. Only Tony Conigliaro (24) and Mel Ott (19) ever hit more in a season before they turned 20. It's 6-0 Nats as we move to the seventh, with Gio Gonzalez sitting on only 69 pitches.
9:16 p.m. -- He gave up a couple of hits in the seventh, but Gio still didn't give up a run. So if you combine this start with his last one, Gonzalez has now tossed 16 consecutive scoreless innings, striking out 17 over that span. Totally dominant. Still 6-0 at the stretch.
9:24 p.m. -- Sweet. Fancy. Moses. Desmond and Espinosa just went back-to-back to open the bottom of the seventh. That's six homers tonight, after they hit six last night. How many teams have ever done that? Well, since 1918, only the 1996 Dodgers, the 2003 Angels and the 2012 Nationals. That's it. Remarkable. It's 8-0.
9:43 p.m. -- And then Luis Valbuena walks Zimmerman with the bases loaded. Then stunningly strikes out both LaRoche and Morse. It's 9-0 through seven, and here's Craig Stammen in for Gio Gonzalez.
9:58 p.m. -- We go to the ninth. Stammen will try to record three outs before giving up nine runs.
10:07 p.m. -- Well, he got three outs while only surrendering one run. That'll suffice. Nats win 9-1. They're 7-1 since their five-game losing streak. They're a season-best 32 games over .500. The Braves also won, 1-0, so the lead remains 7 1/2 games.