Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Cardinals today.
Not exactly a major shakeup, but Johnson said that had more to do with today's matchup, with Jaime Garcia on the mound for St. Louis. He didn't want to bench Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon and deny them a chance to bat against a left-hander. LaRoche and Suzuki will likely be back in the lineup tomorrow against the Reds.
Stephen Strasburg gets the start, looking to snap his string of losses at three. The Nationals would love to get a quality, and long outing out of their ace, who has been plagued by high pitch counts more than he would prefer.
It's a beautiful afternoon for baseball. If you're stuck in the office, never fear. I've got plenty of updates right here...
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv, MLB Network (outside D.C. market)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Sunny, 71 degrees, Wind 14 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
1B Tyler Moore
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Anthony Rendon
C Jhonatan Solano
RHP Stephen Strasburg
3B Matt Carpenter
1B Allen Craig
LF Matt Holliday
RF Carlos Beltran
C Yadier Molina
2B Daniel Descalso
CF Shane Robinson
SS Pete Kozma
LHP Jaime Garcia
HP Jim Joyce (cc)
1B Jeff Nelson
2B Jim Wolf
3B Cory Blaser
1:08 p.m. — We are underway on a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon in the District. Stephen Strasburg starts off Matt Carpenter with a 93 mph fastball for ball one.
1:21 p.m. — That did not go well. The Cardinals roughed up Strasburg for three runs in the top of the first. It wasn't entirely his fault; he gave up a couple of duck-snorts and also was victimized by Anthony Rendon's second error in four games. But Strasburg also fell behind nearly every hitter, seemed to be overthrowing his fastball and labored considerably during a long top of the first. It's 3-0 St. Louis as Jaime Garcia takes the mound.
1:28 p.m. — And Garcia retires the side on 11 pitches, forcing Strasburg back to the mound very quickly. This one isn't exactly off to a rousing start from the Nats' perspective.
1:36 p.m. — The top of the second was better for Strasburg, though still not a work of art. He again fell behind hitters, then gave up a two-out double to Matt Carpenter. Thankfully, Carpenter's over-aggressiveness on the bases helped the Nats. He rounded second too far, and thanks to a heads-up play by Tyler Moore (who trailed him from first base), the Nats were able to tag him out on a 9-6-3 double play and end the top of the second.
1:47 p.m. — Ian Desmond is trying WAY too hard to make something happen offensively ... but he got away with it in the bottom of the second. Desmond beat out a bunt, then stole second even though he was picked off by a mile. Anthony Rendon, meanwhile, struck out to end the inning, stranding Desmond on third. Rendon is now 1-for-12 with five strikeouts to begin his big-league career. Still 3-0 Cards after two.
1:53 p.m. — A much-needed 1-2-3 third inning for Strasburg. He's at 52 pitches through three.
1:58 p.m. — Only one hit for the Nats through three, but in their defense, they've legitimately hit a bunch of balls hard so far today. They just seem to keep hitting them right at someone. Daniel Descalso robbed Jhonatan Solano of his first hit of the season. And Jaime Garcia showed cat-like reflexes to rob Denard Span of a single up the middle. Still 3-0 after three.
2:05 p.m. — Strasburg getting much better as this game progresses. He's retired six in a row and needed only 11 pitches to retire the side in the fourth. He's actually getting ahead of hitters, which makes a load of difference. Sixty-three total pitches through four.
2:21 p.m. — Nine in a row retired by Strasburg, who has righted his ship quite nicely. As for that Nats lineup ... oy. Still 3-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
2:29 p.m. — If you've lost track — and I don't blame you if you have — the Nats have now scored two total runs over their last 33 offensive innings. Now, I'm no baseball expert, but it seems it would be kind of tough to win ballgames like that.
2:36 p.m. — Considering how that first inning went for him, pretty amazing to think that Strasburg is through the sixth on 87 pitches. He's due to lead off, though, with the Nats down 3-0. Interesting call for Davey ... but he'll let Stephen hit for himself. I suppose you could argue he's still a bigger threat at the plate than the guys currently on the bench.
2:56 p.m. — Well, at least they're on the board at last. Strasburg led off the sixth with a base hit up the middle (naturally). Span followed with his own single to center. Then Werth and Harper advanced everyone a base with groundballs. That brought Strasburg home and kept the rally alive. Moore drew a walk, knocking Garcia out of the game. But Desmond struck out on a 3-2 breaking ball outside from reliever Joe Kelly, then nearly threw his bat all the way to the dugout in frustration. So it's 3-1 St. Louis as we move to the seventh.
3:05 p.m. — A 1-2-3 seventh for Strasburg, who certainly did his job today after the ragged first inning. His final line will read: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 110 pitches.
3:19 p.m. — A great chance for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on the corners and one out. Steve Lombardozzi came up to pinch-hit and worked the count to 3-0, then 3-2. And then ... disaster. Lombardozzi struck out. Worse, Solano was running on the pitch and was thrown out trying to steal second, a killer double play to end the inning. You know, Davey has been saying he worries his guys are trying too hard to do something to snap out of the slump. Having the catcher run on a 3-2 pitch with one out might just be a sign of the manager trying to do too much. Still 3-1 after seven.
3:37 p.m. — And the Cardinals tack on an insurance run in the eighth off Drew Storen, who was victimized by some soft singles but also didn't help himself with poor execution on a rundown play. Instead of running Jon Jay all the way back to third base, he allowed Jay to prolong the play and allowed two runners to take an extra base. That ultimately allowed a run to score on a high chopper to short. So it's now 4-1, with the Nats down to their final six outs.
3:48 p.m. — The good news: Werth homered in the eighth. The bad news: Nobody was on base at the time, so the deficit remained two runs. Even worse: After Harper walked, Davey sent up Adam LaRoche to pinch-hit for Moore. LaRoche struck out on three pitches, making him 0 for his last 11 with eight strikeouts, including five in a row. Even more worse: Desmond then struck out on three pitches, ending the inning. It remains 4-2 and the Nats are down to their last three outs.
3:57 p.m. — Onto the bottom of the ninth. Espinosa, Rendon and Solano against Edward Mujica, down two runs. Tough challenge.
4:03 p.m. — It's over. 4-2 loss. They've lose four in a row, nine of 12. And they're under .500 for the first time since the final day of the 2011 season.