Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan rejoins the Nationals rotation tonight at Citi Field.
So instead John Lannan rejoins the rotation for tonight's series finale against the Mets, pitching just a hop, skip and a jump away from his childhood home on Long Island, eager to prove he can handle the pressure of pitching in a pennant race.
Lannan won't, however, have two regulars behind him in the field: Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa. Morse is out at leas a couple of days with a lingering left hand injury. (He was due to be examined today, so hopefully we'll get an update soon.) Espinosa, meanwhile, left the club to be with family following his grandmother's death. He's scheduled to rejoin the Nationals Friday in Atlanta, so he'll miss only one game.
Updates to come, please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Clear, 75 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
C Kurt Suzuki
2B Steve Lombardozzi
LHP John Lannan
SS Ruben Tejada
2B Ronny Cedeno
3B David Wright
RF Scott Hairston
1B Lucas Duda
C Kelly Shoppach
LF Jason Bay
CF Andres Torres
RHP Matt Harvey
HP Joe West (cc)
1B Mike Muchlinski
2B Sam Holbrook
3B Rob Drake
7:12 p.m. -- And we're underway with a ball from Matt Harvey to Jayson Werth. Really small crowd here. Wonder if it would've been any different if Strasburg was pitching as scheduled.
7:18 p.m. -- Harvey comes in with plenty of hype, and he was certainly as good as advertised in the top of the first, striking out the side with relative ease. Oh, did we mention the Mets are planning to shut him down after one more start when he reaches roughly 170 innings for the year? What an outrage!
7:27 p.m. -- John Lannan certainly kept the ball around the plate in his first inning. He threw 12 of 17 pitches for strikes, and though he surrendered a two-out single to David Wright (followed by a stolen base) he responded by striking out Scott Hairston looking at a 92 mph fastball to end the inning. Scoreless after one.
7:48 p.m. -- Wow, some spectacular defense from Ryan Zimmerman and Roger Bernadina in the bottom of the second, helping Lannan escape a jam without allowing a run. Lannan was facing a first-and-third, one-out situation when Andres Torres roped a liner to shallow left. Bernadina came charging in and made the lunging catch, then firing to the plate to prevent Lucas Duda from attempting to tag. Zimmerman then went to his left to rob Harvey of an RBI single and end the inning. Still scoreless after two.
8:06 p.m. -- Lannan is the ultimate pitch-to-contact guy, and he's been doing plenty of that tonight, inducing plenty of groundballs. In fact, seven of the 12 batters he's faced tonight have hit grounders to the left side. They haven't all been fielded cleanly -- Zim let one ball go right through the wickets -- but it's exactly what Lannan tries to do when he takes the mound. And so far, he's been quite successful: three scoreless innings. He even flashed a good pickoff move to catch Ronny Cedeno in a rundown.
8:17 p.m. -- Zim buys a round of cortisone shots for everyone in attendance! Absolutely destroyed a 1-0 fastball from Harvey to lead off the fourth, sending the ball flying way past the fence in deep left-center. That's his 22nd homer of the year, it extends his hitting streak to 16 games and gives him an RBI in nine straight games (a new Expos/Nats franchise record). Oh, and it gives the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the middle of the fourth.
8:26 p.m. -- That's four scoreless innings in the books for Lannan, who has needed only 48 pitches to do it. He even struck out Kelly Shoppach to end the inning, his first of the night. Nats still lead 1-0 as we head to the fifth.
8:42 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Harvey now has 10 strikeouts in only five innings of work. This kind is living up to the billing, big-time.
9:06 p.m. -- A golden opportunity for the Nats to add some insurance runs in the top of the sixth after they loaded the bases with nobody out and knocked Harvey out of the game. Davey Johnson certainly wanted to make the most of the opportunity, sending up Tyler Moore to pinch-hit for Roger Bernadina, wanting the right-on-left matchup against reliever Robert Carson. Except Moore popped up. As did Suzuki. As did Lombardozzi. Wow, stranding the bases loaded with nobody out against a pitcher wearing No. 73? You have to believe that's going to come back to haunt the Nationals before night's end.
9:26 p.m. -- Wow, high drama in the bottom of the sixth. Lannan put two on with two out, so Davey emerged from the dugout with kind of a quick hook. He summoned Christian Garcia for yet another big spot. And Garcia proceeded to plunk Kelly Shoppach with a first-pitch curveball. All of a sudden, the bases were loaded for Ike Davis, who tagged a ball to deep center field. Harper got a bit of a bad break on it but made up ground and made the catch as everyone in the Nats dugout breathed a sigh of relief. They still hold a 1-0 lead after six after another fine start by Lannan, who tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings. His ERA in three big-league starts this year: 2.41.
9:40 p.m. -- Another golden opportunity squandered in the top of the seventh. With two on and nobody out, Harper dropped a sac bunt. That was a curious move, and one I suspect Bryce did on his own. The problem: It gave the Mets the chance to pitch around Zimmerman, loading the bases for LaRoche with a left-hander coming in out of the pen. And that lefty got LaRoche to ground into a 4-6-3 double play on his first pitch. So it remains 1-0 at the seventh-inning stretch.
9:50 p.m. -- There's the insurance run. Ian Desmond with his 23rd homer of the year, a blast to left off old pal Jon Rauch. The Nats double their lead to 2-0 in the top of the eighth.
10:02 p.m. -- Some more stellar defense from the Nats' infield in the bottom of the eighth. Desmond a Lombardozzi turned a nifty 6-4-3 double play, then Zimmerman made a fantastic scoop of Hairston's hot shot down the line. All of that helped Ryan Mattheus toss a scoreless inning and put the Nats three outs from a series sweep. Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the Brewers have opened up an 8-2 lead on the Braves. We could see another significant increase in the division lead and decrease in the magic number before night's end.
10:12 p.m. -- Wow, Sean Burnett in for the bottom of the ninth. It's his first appearance in 10 days. But Tyler Clippard pitched the last two nights, and the Mets have a couple of left-handed hitters due up. So it's Burnett in a save situation.
10:24 p.m. -- And the Nats get the job done, though not without causing a few hearts to skip a beat. Burnett put two on with two out, so Davey summoned Drew Storen to try to record the game's final out. Which Storen did. The Nats win 2-0, and with the Braves getting clobbered in Milwaukee, they could lead the NL East by 8 1/2 games within the hour.