Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan tries to pitch the Nationals to a rare win at Citizens Bank Park.
Yes, they posted a winning record at Citizens Bank Park last season, thanks entirely to a four-game September sweep after Philadelphia had already clinched the NL East. Over the last six seasons combined, though, the Nats are 16-33 here, 36-67 overall against the Phillies. They've lost four straight here entering tonight's game.
Which puts the pressure squarely on John Lannan's shoulders. The problem: Lannan is 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA in seven career starts in this ballpark, the lone victory coming last year. He'll need to overcome that demon if he's going to help his team get back on track tonight.
Lannan won't have one regular behind him in the field. Danny Espinosa is not in the Nationals lineup, replaced by Steve Lombardozzi. We'll have to find out whether this is related to his lingering shoulder injury or something else.
Updates to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv, ESPN (outside D.C. market)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Chance of storms, 74 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to RF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Steve Lombardozzi
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP John Lannan
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF John Mayberry
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
C Carlos Ruiz
RF Domonic Brown
LF Darin Ruf
3B Kevin Frandsen
RHP Kyle Kendrick
HP Joe West (cc)
1B Mike Muchlinski
2B Rob Drake
3B Andy Fletcher
7:09 p.m. -- We are underway. There was some rain earlier, and Nats batting practice was canceled, but it cleared out and we're able to get this one start on time.
7:14 p.m. -- Well, that didn't take long. Six pitches into the game, the Nats already hold a 2-0 lead. Jayson Werth led off with a walk. Bryce Harper then destroyed Kyle Kendrick's first pitch into the left-center field bleachers for his 20th homer of the season. Just an absolute bomb from the rookie. He's now four behind Tony Conigliaro for the all-time record by a teenager. He's also now scored 93 runs, moving a step closer to becoming only the second teenager ever to score 100 times in a season: Buddy Lewis of the 1936 Senators.
7:21 p.m. -- John Lannan couldn't have drawn up a first inning any better than that. He got three groundball outs, needing only 11 pitches to do it. Obviously there's a long way to go in this one, but that's as encouraging a first inning as the Nationals could have asked for. They lead 2-0.
7:37 p.m. -- So, uh, it appears the Nationals showed up to play today. They're already leading 5-0 after both Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki belted homers off Kendrick in the top of the second. If you've lost track, that was three of the Nats' first eight batters going yard tonight. Throw it Harper's stolen base later in the inning, and he's now the first teenager ever to hit 17 homers and steal 17 bases. Quite a night so far for the boys in the curly W caps. They lead 5-0 as we go to the bottom of the second.
7:56 p.m. -- If you took the under in Kendrick lasting 2 1/3 innings tonight ... you win! Charlie Manuel takes the ball from his starter after he walked LaRoche and gave up a single to Morse to open the third. So B.J. Rosenberg is the first member of Johnny Wholestaff to appear out of the Phillies bullpen tonight. It's still 5-0 in the middle of the third.
8:08 p.m. -- Suzuki, apparently forgetting his team was up five runs, made a cardinal sin in the bottom of the third and tried to throw out the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt attempt. His throw wound up sailing into left field, and that allowed the Phillies' first run of the night to score. Lannan then got himself in a big-time jam, loading the bases with one out and the heart of the Phillies lineup at the plate. But he fired off five straight breaking balls to Ryan Howard and struck him out, then fielded a comebacker off his leg to get Carlos Ruiz and snuff out the rally. It's now 5-1 Nats after three.
8:29 p.m. -- That was, well, that was pretty ugly. Two outs, bottom of the fourth, nobody on. Kevin Frandsen sent a flyball to deep center field and Harper misjudged it, letting the ball sail over his head. Frandsen tried to stretch it into a triple, and Harper's throw had him dead to rights at third, except Zimmerman couldn't hold onto the ball on the tag. Moments later, Rosenberg recorded his first career hit and RBI with a little dribbler up the middle that neither Desmond nor Lombardozzi could corral. Looks like Desmond should've called off his second baseman there. So after all that, the lead is now 5-2 heading to the fifth.
8:38 p.m. -- Meanwhile, the Braves lead the Marlins 2-0 in the fifth.
8:52 p.m. -- Remember how the Nats stormed out of the gates and ambushed Kendrick? Well, they haven't exactly kept up the pressure. The Phillies bullpen has yet to allow a hit in four innings of work. Where have we seen this before? Still 5-2 in the middle of the sixth.
9:03 p.m. -- Hmm, kind of an early appearance by Captain Hook. Davey Johnson came out to take the ball from Lannan with one out and one on in the sixth. In came Ryan Mattheus and Danny Espinosa as part of a double-switch. Guess Davey knew what he was doing because Mattheus immediately induced a 5-4-3 double play, with Espinosa making a nice turn at second, to end the inning. So Lannan's final line is: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 82 pitches, 47 strikes. He's in line to improve to 4-0 this year and earn his second career win at Citizens Bank Park if the Nats bullpen can protect a 5-2 lead.
9:13 p.m. -- So, the Nats have now faced the Phillies bullpen for a total of nine innings in this series. And they've produced a total of, hmm, let me see, oh yes ... ONE hit against them. Wasn't that supposed to be the weak link of that team? Still 5-2 at the stretch.
9:22 p.m. -- Jimmy Rollins tags a 3-1 pitch from Ryan Mattheus into the right-field bleachers. That makes it a 5-3 game as the seventh inning comes to an end. The Nats might want to think about an insurance run or two.
9:31 p.m. -- Well, at least they got a hit finally. Zim crushed a ball off the left-field wall, yet was held to a single. We go to the bottom of the eighth. Tyler Clippard is in. Utley, Howard and Ruiz are due up. Hold your breath, folks.
9:52 p.m. -- Everybody out there still breathing? Good. Clippard certainly left a few of you blue in the face. He gave up a lead off double, issued a wild pitch, a walk, a sac fly that was five feet short of leaving the park, a base hit that put the tying run on third base ... and then struck out Frandsen to end the eighth with the Nats still leading 5-4. The Braves just won, by the way, 3-0. So the Nats need to win to keep the lead at 4 games and reduce the magic number to 4.
10:14 p.m. -- Wow, some high drama in the top of the ninth. With two on and two out, Werth stepped to the plate to some rousing boos from the crowd. Why? Because earlier he picked up a foul ball and faked a throw into the stands, then tossed it into the dugout instead. So what happened next? Well, Justin DeFratus buzzed him with a high-and-tight fastball, riling up the crowd even more. Werth, though, got the last laugh, delivering a two-run single up the middle. He clapped his hands with authority as the Nats took a 7-4 lead. Bryce Harper's triple then made it 8-4 and gave Drew Storen some serious breathing room.
10:30 p.m. -- It's over. The Nats win 8-4 and exorcise a few demons in the process. They still lead the Braves by 4 games with 7 to play. The magic number is down to 4.