Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals try to win one last time this season at Citizens Bank Park.
From a team standpoint, the Nationals are still in a down-to-the-wire battle with the Reds for the best record in the NL. Cincinnati just stormed back in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Brewers, so the Nats will need to win tonight to maintain a 1-game lead in that department.
From a personal standpoint, Gio Gonzalez takes the mound in search of his league-leading 21st win, trying to keep some distance between himself and the Mets' R.A. Dickey (who is in line to win his 20th this afternoon against the Pirates).
Danny Espinosa, meanwhile, returns to the Nationals lineup after his surprise benching last night. He'll be part of the regular eight in action against Phillies rookie right-hander Tyler Cloyd.
Plenty of updates to come, and we'll also have Bo Porter's thoughts on becoming the Astros' new manager, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 71 degrees, Wind 3 mph in from RF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Gio Gonzalez
SS Jimmy Rollins
3B Kevin Frandsen
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
CF John Mayberry Jr.
LF Darin Ruf
RF Domonic Brown
C Erik Kratz
RHP Tyler Cloyd
HP Mike Muchlinski
1B Rob Drake
2B Andy Fletcher
3B Joe West (cc)
7:07 p.m. -- We are underway. It's Fan Appreciation Night here for the Phillies final home game. Tons of empty seats.
7:13 p.m. -- And for the second straight night, Bryce Harper goes deep in the top of the first. This time he connects off Tyler Cloyd and sends the ball flying to deep right-center for his 21st home run of the season. He's now three shy of Tony Conigliaro's teenage record, and he's now got 94 runs scored. The Nats take a 1-0 lead.
7:35 p.m. -- Yikes, that was kind of a disaster of a bottom of the first for Gio Gonzalez. He got two quick groundball outs but then fell apart. Chase Utley singled. Ryan Howard walked. John Mayberry walked. Darin Ruf crushed a 2-0 fastball to right-center to clear the bases. Domonic Brown walked. By the time it finally ended, Gio had given up three runs on three hits and three walks, thrown 37 pitches (only 17 strikes) and put the Nats in a 3-1 hole.
7:45 p.m. -- And Michael Morse responds with a moonshot to left to lead off the top of the second. Guess his hand is doing OK, because he hit that ball 5 miles high for his 15th homer of the season. Nats now down 3-2 in what is already a wild game.
7:55 p.m. -- Another shaky inning for Gio. He didn't give up any more runs, but he did give up a pair of singles and got crossed up with Kurt Suzuki, leading to the always-awkward passed ball on a called strike. He's already thrown 55 pitches in only two innings.
8:09 p.m. -- Gio is starting to settle down now. He got through the top of the third on 11 pitches, though he did allow a one-out single to Ruf. He's at 66 total pitches, 35 of them strikes. The Nats still trail 3-2 as we head to the fourth.
8:19 p.m. -- Good news: The Nats have tied this game up 3-3 thanks to Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff double in the top of the fourth, Adam LaRoche's deep flyball to center and Morse's RBI grounder to short. Better news: The Braves trail the Marlins 2-0 in the 4th.
8:38 p.m. -- Just like that, the Nationals have the lead again. Harper delivers another clutch hit, a two-out, RBI single to left in the top of the fifth to put his team ahead 4-3. They might have added more, but Ryan Zimmerman was called out on an inside fastball to end the inning, then had some strong words for plate ump Mike Muchlinski. That's about as much emotion as you'll ever see from Zim directed toward an umpire. Meanwhile down in Atlanta, the Braves have stormed back and now lead the Marlins 4-2 in the fourth.
9:00 p.m. -- Sweet Fancy Moses! Michael Morse sent a two-run homer so deep to right-center, it landed in Tom Gorzelanny's hat. Yes, his hat. Which Gorzelanny was holding while standing in the visitors bullpen, which is situated BEHIND the home bullpen here. That's an absolute bomb to a place few have ever hit one in this park. And how about Gorzelanny's catch? Remarkable. The Nats lead 6-3 in the sixth.
9:13 p.m. -- What an impressive job by Gio Gonzalez tonight. After that awful first inning in which he surrendered three runs on 37 pitches, he tossed five scoreless innings on 69 pitches. He's done for the night, and while his final line doesn't look great, that was an impressive bounce-back performance in mid-start to put himself in line for his 21st win. Still 6-3 in the seventh.
9:31 p.m. -- Make it 7-3 as the Nats score a run on a strikeout. Yep, a strikeout (with a wild pitch attached). It's been that kind of night. Sean Burnett on for the bottom of the seventh. Morse's homer, by the way, was measured at 451 feet, his 2nd-longest of the year.
9:43 p.m. -- Meanwhile, the Braves now lead 6-3 in the eighth. They're seeking their 10th win in their last 12 games. In other words, the Nats won't be backing into a division title. They're going to have to win it themselves.
9:51 p.m. -- Top of the eighth. Nats holding a four-run lead. And here's Tyler Clippard.
10:01 p.m. -- How about that, a 1-2-3 inning from Clippard, who struck out two and got a popup for the third out. That was much needed, to say the least. The Braves, meanwhile, just won 6-2. They've won 10 of 12 and they're keeping the pressure on the Nats, who are three outs from lowering the magic number to 3. What that means, though, is that the earliest they can clinch now is Saturday night in St. Louis.
10:15 p.m. -- OK, here's Drew Storen, pitching with a 4-run lead in the ninth. The Nats need three outs.
10:20 p.m. -- That's it. The Nats win 7-4 for their 95th victory of the season. That matches the 1979 Expos for the franchise record. They lead the Braves by 4 games with 6 to play. The magic number is 3.