Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Cardinals are back in D.C. for the first time since October.
Of more importance: Play a good, clean ballgame, something they haven't been doing with consistency through the season's first three weeks. That starts with Dan Haren, still looking to record his first quality start in his fourth outing with his new club. Haren, who will be facing the organization that drafted him and allowed him to make his big-league debut, showed signs of progress through the first three innings of his last start, but then crumbled after Ryan Zimmerman committed an error. He'll need to put forth a more complete effort throughout this outing if he's going to beat a tough Cardinals lineup.
Anthony Rendon, meanwhile, hopes to be a bit more relaxed in his second big-league game after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and an error yesterday in New York. The rookie third baseman should get a nice ovation from the home crowd when he steps to the plate for the first time in his home uniform.
One other important note: Rafael Soriano is not with the club tonight following the birth of his son earlier today in New York. That means the Nationals' closer tonight — should the situation present itself — would be Drew Storen. Talk about exorcising demons.
Updates to come...
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 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 184
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 55 degrees, Wind 12 mph in from RF
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
3B Anthony Rendon
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Dan Haren
2B Matt Carpenter
RF1B Allen Craig
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt AdamsRF Carlos Beltran
C Yadier Molina
3B David Freese
CF Jon Jay
SS Pete Kozma
RHP Shelby Miller
HP Jim Wolf
1B Cory Blaser
2B Jim Joyce (cc)
3B Jeff Nelson
6:27 p.m. — Lineup change for the Cardinals: Matt Adams has been scratched with tightness in his right oblique. So Carlos Beltran will take over in right field, batting cleanup. Allen Craig will move from right field to first base.
7:05 p.m. — And we're underway on a chilly Monday night in the District. Dan Haren starts off Matt Carpenter with a fastball for strike one.
7:13 p.m. — A 1-2-3 top of the first for Haren, who dialed it up to 91 mph a couple of times. Davey actually said before the game he wants Haren to ease up a bit on his fastball velocity, thinking he might have more movement and success in the high 80s. But whatever he did in the first inning tonight worked, so the Nats will take it.
7:19 p.m. — And Shelby Miller retires the side himself in the bottom of the first, striking out both Denard Span and Jayson Werth before getting Bryce Harper to ground out to short. Miller has been highly touted for a long time; so far this season, he's living up to the hype. Scoreless after one.
7:25 p.m. — Here's a case where a defensive miscue actually helped the Nationals. With a man on first and nobody out, Yadier Molina scorched a liner at Ian Desmond, who leaped to try to make the catch. Desmond got a glove on it, but the ball fell to the ground right in front of him. No problem. Because Carlos Beltran had to hold up at first base in case the ball was caught, Desmond was able to start a 6-4-3 double play. Nice break there for the Nats and Haren, who has completed two scoreless.
7:32 p.m. — Bad hack from Desmond in the bottom of the second, going after a 93 mph fastball at his eyelids. Rendon also struck out in his first at-bat at Nationals Park, leaving him 0-for-5 with three K's to begin his career. The kid needs a base hit in the biggest way right now. Scoreless after two.
7:41 p.m. — Hey, what do you know? Pete Kozma bloops a single to right. Can't the Nats ever get this guy out? Apparently not, and it came back to haunt them yet again. Haren's big mistake in the top of the third was a two-out walk to Matt Carpenter. That prolonged the inning and brought Allen Craig to the plate with two out. Craig then crushed a drive to deep left-center. Span very nearly made a fantastic catch leaping at the wall, but he couldn't hang onto the ball, which fell to the ground. Two runs scored, so the Nats now face a 2-0 deficit as we move to the bottom of the third.
7:51 p.m. — Kurt Suzuki has 18 career stolen bases. Who knew? No. 18 just happened in the bottom of the third, with Suzuki going all the way to third base when Molina's throw skipped into center field. But he was stranded there when Span swung at the first pitch he saw from Miller and grounded out to second. Not a good piece of hitting there from the leadoff man in an RBI situation. Nats still trail 2-0 after three.
8:00 p.m. — Haren has pitched pretty well, allowing only those two runs through four innings. But, man, do the Cardinals batters know how to grind out at-bats or what? They're fouling off a ton, and because of that, Haren's pitch count is already up to 72 after four. We'll see if he's able to complete six innings for the first time this season. He's got some work to do.
8:17 p.m. — A couple of big, clutch hits from the Nationals in the bottom of the fourth ties this game up. Desmond delivered first, crushing an RBI double over Jay's head in center field to score Werth all the way from first base with two outs. Moments later, Rendon finally notched his first big-league hit. And it was a big one. He battled his way to a full count, then drilled his own RBI double to right-center, scoring Desmond. A nice ovation from the crowd in honor of Rendon's first hit and RBI. This game is tied, 2-2, heading to the fifth.
8:25 p.m. — Haren is through five on 87 pitches. So he'll reach the sixth inning for the first time this season. Still 2-2.
8:47 p.m. — Well, Haren reached the sixth inning for the first time, but he didn't come close to completing the sixth inning. In fact, he didn't record one out in the frame, plunking the first batter he faced and then allowing two singles and a walk. That brought one run home and put the Cards on top, 3-2, and left the bases loaded with nobody out. Into that mess came Craig Stammen, needing a miracle to get out of it. Which he basically got. LaRoche and Suzuki turned a beautiful (and very tricky) 3-2-3 double play to notch two quick outs. The Nats then intentionally walked Kozma to bring up the pitcher — oh sure, now they do that! — and Stammen proceeded to strike out Miller. So even though the Nats now trail by a run, it could've been a whole lot worse. 3-2 as we go to the bottom of the sixth.
8:59 p.m. — Stammen gets out of another jam in the seventh, this one self-induced. Props to Rendon for starting a nice 5-4-3 double play. Stammen then got Beltran to ground out on a 3-0 pitch, with a runner on third. So it remains 3-2 Cardinals at the stretch. Miller still on the mound for St. Louis.
9:14 p.m. — A chance for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh after they knocked Miller out with two outs and two on. In came Joe Kelly, a right-hander, to face the left-handed Chad Tracy. Advantage, Tracy. But Kelly managed to break Tracy's bat, and Jon Jay managed to come charging in to make a nifty, sliding catch of Tracy's blooper to shallow center. So that kills the rally. The Nats still trail 3-2 as Ryan Mattheus enters for the eighth.
9:36 p.m. — Another chance for the Nats squandered in the eighth. They had two on with one out and LaRoche at the plate. But he hit a high chopper to first on the first pitch he saw from Trevor Rosenthal. Desmond then swung from his heels on a 1-1 pitch from Rosenthal, not coming close to making contact. Then he took a 98 mph fastball right down the middle for strike three. A couple of poor at-bats there from the Nats' 4-5 hitters. So they still trail 3-2 heading to the ninth, and here's Drew Storen in to face Pete Kozma. Oh, how juicy is that?
9:41 p.m. — A 1-2-3 ninth for Storen. That had to feel good. He struck out Kozma looking at a slider, got Daniel Descalso to ground out and then got a nice play from Desmond and LaRoche on Carpenter's grounder. We go to the bottom of the ninth, with Edward Mujica in for the save.
9:48 p.m. — That'll do it. The Nats simply can't push across the tying run. They lose, 3-2.