Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals go for the three-game sweep this afternoon.
It may sound like a ludicrous notion, but the combination of Jordan Zimmermann on the mound and a highly suspect Marlins lineup taking their hacks against him is about as favorable of a matchup as you're likely to find. (Miami, by the way, could become the first team ever to be shut out in its first three games.)
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc gets the start for the Marlins, but if you were thinking Davey Johnson might use that as an opportunity to get somebody like Tyler Moore a start, you were wrong. Davey's going with the same lineup as he used in Games 1 and 2, with Wilson Ramos back behind the plate. As we said all spring, it's going to be a challenge to keep everyone on the bench fresh, with few regulars who need (or want) to take time off.
Updates to come, so please check back...
MIAMI MARLINS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Cloudy, 51 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
RF Giancarlo Stanton
1B Greg Dobbs
CF Justin Ruggiano
C Rob Brantly
2B Donovan Solano
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
LHP Wade LeBlanc
HP Paul Schrieber
1B Chad Fairchild
2B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
3B Eric Cooper
4:05 p.m. -- And we're underway on a gray, 47-degree afternoon in the District. Jordan Zimmermann fires strike one to Juan Pierre.
4:11 p.m. -- Let's see ... pitch to Giancarlo Stanton or pitch around him and take your chances with "cleanup" hitter Greg Dobbs? Kind of a no-brainer there. Zimmermann did issue a free pass to Stanton with two outs, then calmly got Dobbs to ground out to second to end a scoreless first on 18 pitches (12 strikes).
4:24 p.m. -- The good news: Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman all roped base hits off Wade LeBlanc in the bottom of the first, with Zimmerman's double to center scoring both teammates. The bad news: Harper, while sliding across the plate, got a face full of catcher Rob Brantly's elbow. He was down on the ground for a moment but quickly popped up and trotted back to the dugout, although with a grimace. Looks like he's OK, but that couldn't have felt good. The fact the Nats now lead 2-0, though, will help ease the pain.
4:30 p.m. -- Well, the shutout streak is officially over. Justin Ruggiano blasted Zimmermann's first pitch of the second inning over the right-field scoreboard for the Marlins' first run of the season. So much for that. It's 2-1 Nats.
4:49 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know? The Nats decided to walk Stanton in the top of the third, then retired Dobbs and Ruggiano to close out the inning. What's the over-under on times Stanton walks this season? 150? 200? 500? Really, why would you ever pitch to him, given the lack of protection behind him in this lineup. Still 2-1 Nats as we go to the bottom of the third.
5:03 p.m. -- This just in: Bryce Harper is pretty good. He singled again in the third, bringing home Span (who beat out a nifty bunt single down the first-base line and then advanced to second on a wild throw by LeBlanc). That makes Harper 6-for-10 this season. Not bad. Not bad at all. On the other hand, he made a terrible decision to try to steal third base with one out and Zimmerman at the plate. Can't be doing that. No rookie mistakes allowed anymore. Nats lead 3-1 after three.
5:14 p.m. -- Zimmermann is actually getting hit around a bit here in the early going. He's allowed five hits through four, including two singles in the top of the fourth to the Marlins' No. 7 and 8 hitters. He's avoided allowing any more runs thanks to some timely big pitches (and a nice play on LeBlanc's sac bunt attempt) but he's at 67 pitches, not a particularly efficient number. Still 3-1 Nats.
5:37 p.m. -- Things have quieted down considerably here the last couple innings, neither team able to put any more dent into the opposing starter. Zimmermann is through five innings on 79 pitches, having allowed five hits and two walks. He's only recorded one strikeout. LeBlanc, meanwhile, has settled down and tossed a couple scoreless innings, having retired 7 of the last 8 batters faced. So it remains 3-1 Nats as we move to the sixth.
5:53 p.m. -- That'll do it for Zimmermann. His final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 89 pitches, 60 strikes. Not his best stuff, but he made big pitches when he needed them. So it's still 3-1 as we go to the seventh, and heeeere's Henry Rodriguez for his season debut. Hang on, folks.
6:00 p.m. -- Wow, a 1-2-3 debut inning for H-Rod. He threw 12 pitches, 7 strikes, and struck out Stanton looking at a nasty slider to end the seventh. Interestingly, his velocity was down, in the low-to-mid 90s. Maybe easing off the gas pedal helped a bit. Still 3-1 at the stretch.
6:15 p.m. -- There's some valuable insurance for the Nats. Three runs of them, as a matter of fact, after Werth clobbered a 1-1 pitch from lefty Mike Dunn over the left-field bullpen in the bottom of the seventh to put the Nats up 6-1. Seriously, that was a bomb from a guy who supposedly is still getting the strength back in his surgically repaired wrist. Looked fine on that three-run homer. Tyler Clippard on for the eighth, with his team now comfortably ahead.
6:33 p.m. -- Onto the ninth, and here's Craig Stammen for his first appearance of the season. That leaves Zach Duke as the lone member of the bullpen who has yet to pitch this season.
6:39 p.m. -- That's it. The Nats win 6-1 and sweep the Marlins by a combined score of 11-1 to open the season 3-0. Onto Cincinnati for a big weekend series with the Reds.