Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg faces Johnny Cueto in today's series finale.
"Two of the best teams in the National League, and we've got our aces going in the rubber match of the series," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "This is what it's all about. This is why you play. This is why people pay to see us play."
The latest Adam LaRoche update: He's out of the lineup again, but he said he woke up this morning feeling "a lot better." He was thinking about trying to convince Davey Johnson to let him play today, but at worst he fully expects to be in the lineup Tuesday against the White Sox.
Full story on LaRoche's status coming up, and plenty of updates and analysis on the game right here...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 9, MLB.tv (free today)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Partly cloudy, 66 degrees, Wind 14 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Chad Tracy
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF Shin-Soo Choo
LF Xavier Paul
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
SS Zack Cozart
C Ryan Hanigan
RHP Johnny Cueto
HP Jerry Meals
1B Marvin Hudson
2B Jordan Baker
3B Tim McClelland (cc)
1:11 p.m. -- And we're underway on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. 70 degrees as Johnny Cueto delivers a ball to Denard Span.
1:16 p.m. -- A couple of sharp singles from Denard Span and Bryce Harper off Cueto in the top of the first, but they were countered by a couple of groundballs to short from Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. The Werth grounder resulted in a 6-4-3 double play, so the Nats weren't able to really get anything going there. Scoreless top of the first, here's Stephen Strasburg for the bottom of the inning.
1:28 p.m. -- Well, that didn't go quite as Strasburg would've hoped. The Reds touched him up for three runs in the bottom of the first, even though only one base hit left the infield. He hurt his own cause by trying to snag Xavier Paul's chopper to his left. Had he let it go through, Danny Espinosa would've made an easy play. But by deflecting it, Espinosa had no chance. A walk to Joey Votto put two on, then Zimmerman made a great diving stop of Brandon Phillips' hard smash ... but couldn't get the ball out of his glove. So now the bases were loaded with one out, at which point Jay Bruce poked a Strasburg curveball into left-center field for a two-run double. Throw in an RBI groundout by Todd Frazier, and just like that the Reds lead 3-0 after one, and Strasburg has already thrown 23 pitches.
1:47 p.m. -- I guess Wilson Ramos isn't the only Nationals catcher capable of posing a power threat at the plate, huh? Kurt Suzuki absolutely destroyed a 1-1 pitch from Cueto into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer in the top of the second, tying this game right back up 3-3. So much for a pitchers' duel here: 11 of the game's first 18 batters reached base safely. Sheesh.
1:57 p.m. -- As a general rule of thumb, you probably don't want to give up a two-out single to Xavier Paul and then take your chances with Joey Votto up and two men on base. Strasburg, though, somehow did it in the bottom of the second. After putting himself in a huge jam, he took on one of the game's elite hitters and struck him out on an absolutely devastating, 88 mph changeup. Seriously, that might've been the single best pitch Strasburg has ever thrown in his life. It broke like a left-hander's slider. Unreal. 3-3 after two very entertaining innings here.
2:14 p.m. -- The Reds are really making Strasburg work here today. He's put nine men on base through three innings, and his pitch count is already up to 60 (40 strikes). He's avoided any more damage since the bottom of the first, but he's not anywhere near as efficient today as he was on Opening Day. Still 3-3 as we move to the fourth.
2:29 p.m. -- Now Suzuki doubles, so he's got six total bases in two at-bats today. And Span drew another walk. Sure, Michael Morse may have five homers in the season's first week, but Span already has seven walks, so...
2:37 p.m. -- Strasburg strikes out Votto again in the fourth, though this time on a 95 mph fastball. He's through four innings on 73 pitches (46 strikes). Meanwhile, Desmond appeared to hurt his left hand while trying to tag Paul out on a stolen base attempt. He stayed in, but that hand clearly is barking. Still 3-3 after four.
2:55 p.m. -- Strasburg has settled down nicely since the first couple of innings, but he's still at 92 pitches through five innings. He's due up fourth in the top of the sixth, and there does appear to be some stirring in the Nats' bullpen. Interesting decision here for Davey. Still a 3-3 game.
3:07 p.m. -- Well, Strasburg was allowed to hit for himself, with two outs and a man on second. (He struck out.) So Davey is letting him top 100 pitches today. Onto the bottom of the sixth, still 3-3 here in Cincy.
3:33 p.m. -- That did not go well at all. The Reds scored three times in the bottom of the sixth even though they only got the ball out of the infield three times. The big play came with runners on first and third, nobody out and Paul at the plate in what was still a 3-3 game at the time. Paul roped a hard grounder right at Espinosa, but rather than take an easy 4-6-3 double play, he tried to get Derrick Robinson at the plate. His throw was a bit offline, and the speedy Robinson scored the go-ahead run, leaving two on, still nobody out and Votto at the plate. Bad decision by Espinosa. In that situation, especially still in the sixth inning, it would've been much better to just give up the run and take the easy double play to clear the bases with two outs for Votto. That really backfired, because Phillips followed with an RBI single to left, ending Strasburg's day at 114 (second-most he's ever thrown). Ryan Mattheus entered and allowed another run to score on an infield single. So after all that, the Nats now trail 6-3 with three innings to go.
3:54 p.m. -- Nice job by Mattheus to pitch out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh, striking out Phillips with two on and two out. So it remains a 6-3 game, and the Nats are down to their last six outs. Jonathan Broxton on the mound now for the Reds, with Aroldis Chapman looming large in the bullpen.
4:01 p.m. -- A 1-2-3 eighth inning for Broxton. Nats first basemen are now a collective 1-for-22 with seven strikeouts this season. If the Nationals are going to win this one, they're going to have to score at least three times off Chapman in the ninth. That's a tall task.
4:08 p.m. -- Here we go: It's the bottom of the order against Chapman, who enters to a thunderous roar here.
4:18 p.m. -- Game over. The Nats lose 6-3 and lose the series, two games to one. There's no shame in dropping a road series to the Reds, but they won't be happy with the way they played today.