Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Reds are in town for a four-game series starting tonight.
They'll do so with a new-look lineup, as promised last night by Davey Johnson. Steve Lombardozzi takes over at third base, batting second. Jayson Werth, meanwhile, gets bumped down to the cleanup spot. While it's not an ideal position for him long-term, it does make some sense right now. With Ryan Zimmerman on the DL and Adam LaRoche strug-a-ling big-time, the Nats need to offer some kind of protection for Bryce Harper.
The reconfigured lineup may or may not help. Either way, the Nationals also need a better performance out of Gio Gonzalez, who has quietly been all over the place so far this season, certainly not up to his 21-win level of a year ago. The key for Gio: Get early strikes and quick outs, something he's struggled in particular to do in 2013.
I'll have the early-game updates and analysis for you here, but then I'll handing the reins over
CINCINNATI REDS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), XM 186
Weather: Clear, 62 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
3B Steve Lombardozzi
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Shin-Soo Choo
SS Zack Cozart
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
LF Chris Heisey
C Devin Mesoraco
RHP Bronson Arroyo
HP Paul Nauert
1B Andy Fletcher
2B Rob Drake
3B Sam Holbrook (cc)
7:07 p.m. — We are underway. Gio Gonzalez starts off Shin-Soo Choo with a fastball for ball one.
7:14 p.m. — A nice, 1-2-3 top of the first for Gio, including a strikeout of Joey Votto on a 94 mph fastball. Gonzalez did have to a work a little too much to retire the side, throwing 18 total pitches to only three batters. Still, you can't argue with the results.
7:23 p.m. — Well, Bryce Harper drew another two-out walk, so that set the stage for new cleanup man Jayson Werth. Werth made solid contact, lining a ball to left-center. But he got under it just enough for Choo to be able to race over and make the play. Scoreless after one.
7:32 p.m. — Six up, six down for Gio, but the Reds continue to make him work. He's already thrown 33 pitches to only six batters, thanks to a bunch of foul balls (especially from Todd Frazier in the top of the second).
7:46 p.m. — Hey, the Nats have taken a lead! They even scored two runs in the bottom of the second! All this despite another strikeout by Adam LaRoche, now 0 for his last 12 with eight K's, six of them in a row. In better news, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Kurt Suzuki and Denard Span all recorded base hits, with Espinosa driving an RBI double off the wall in right-center. Span also beat out a grounder to the hole at short, bringing home another run. So it's 2-0 Nats after two, and suddenly everyone is feeling better on South Capitol Street.
7:53 p.m. — Nine up, nine down for Gio, who has four strikeouts (I believe all on fastballs). Good stuff so far from the lefty.
8:05 p.m. — Sweet. Fancy. Moses. The Nats' lineup is en fuego. Harper launches a leadoff homer deep to center to start the bottom of the third. It's his eighth homer, most in Nats history for the month of April (and he's still got five-plus games to go). Then Espinosa crushes a 2-run shot down the right-field line. Guess it's safe to say he's enjoying his 26th birthday. He's now 2-for-2 with a homer, a double and three RBI. Nats lead 6-0 after three. Yes, 6-0. And with that, I'm going to hand the keys over to Chase Hughes, so I can head up to Bethesda for tonight's "Baseball Show" on CSN. It's scheduled to air live at 11 p.m., but be aware the start could be delayed a few minutes if tonight's Caps game runs longer than 2 1/2 hours.
8:19 p.m. -- Chase here as Mark is off to do The Baseball Show. Gio Gonzalez gave up his first hit of the night after retiring the first 11 batters he faced. He also lost the shutout as Joey Votto poked a solo home run opposite field just inches over Harper and the left field fence. Gonzalez sits at 67 pitches (49 strikes) after four innings of work.
8:32 p.m. -- The Nats got one man on in the bottom of the fourth inning as Harper hit a two-out double down the left field line. Harper has reached base in all three at-bats tonight and is hitting .368 on the year. Gio needed just eight pitches to retire the order in the top of the fifth and now has 75 (56 strikes) through five. That inning could have set him up to go deep in this game.
8:36 p.m. -- Cincinnati is riding this one out with Arroyo who cruised through the bottom of the fifth. He has 78 pitches through five and no one is warming in the Cincy bullpen despite the 6-1 score. On to the sixth we go.
8:43 p.m. -- Another scoreless frame from Gio who started the inning with his first walk of the night. Gonzalez has thrown 87 (62 strikes) pitches after just 12 in that inning.
8:58 p.m. -- Gio Gonzalez is having a terrific night so far with only one hit allowed through seven. He struck out Jay Bruce swinging on an inside fastball to end the frame and is now at 99 pitches (71) as we head to the bottom of the eighth. Now pitching for Cincinnati is right-hander J.J. Hoover.
9:08 p.m. -- The Nats get nothing going in the seventh as Harper flew out, Werth popped out, and LaRoche grounded out to first. We head to the eighth where Gio will remain in to pitch. He will be over the 100-pitch mark so this is likely the last time we'll see him tonight. Still 6-1 Nats.
9:15 p.m. -- Another strong inning from Gio who gave up a walk to Mesoraco, but got out of the inning with the game still scoreless. He is likely done from here after 112 pitches and just one hit allowed through eight innings.
9:26 p.m. -- Nats get two more runs on the board as Denard Span hit a two-out triple to score Kurt Suzuki and Roger Bernadina. Now 8-1 Nats with Rafael Soriano in to pitch.
9:30 p.m. -- Nats win 8-1, go back up to .500 with a record of 11-11.