Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann faces the White Sox on a surprisingly hot evening in D.C.
The Nationals will hope whatever longballs they hit come with some men on base, and the guy who's been on more than anybody else is Denard Span. After going 2-for-3 with a walk last night, the new leadoff man has raised his season OBP to a hefty .500. Yes, Michael Morse has six homers already for the Mariners, but Span has been exactly what the Nats wanted and needed him to be so far, so you aren't hearing anyone in the organization complain about that trade-off.
Jordan Zimmermann gets the start against Maryland's own Gavin Floyd. And old pal Adam Dunn is starting in left field tonight for the Sox, his first appearance here since signing with Chicago after the 2010 season. Should get a nice ovation from the crowd.
Updates to come, so please check back...
CHICAGO WHITE SOX at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), XM 184
Weather: Partly cloudy, 83 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
WHITE SOX (4-3)
CF Alejandro De Aza
2B Jeff Keppinger
RF Alex Rios
LF Adam Dunn
1B Paul Konerko
SS Alexei Ramirez
3B Conor Gillaspie
C Tyler Flowers
RHP Gavin Floyd
HP Chris Guccione
1B Tom Hallion (cc)
2B Ron Kulpa
3B Phil Cuzzi
7:00 p.m. -- Well, here's a new one: They just announced the start of tonight's game will be delayed until 7:20 p.m. because the umpires got caught in traffic and couldn't get here in time. So there you go...
7:21 p.m. -- Hey, the umps made it! So we are underway at last. Jordan Zimmermann fires strike one to Alejandro De Aza.
7:27 p.m. -- Not a great start to Zimmermann's night. Though he was pumping in 95 mph fastballs with regularity, he allowed a one-out single to Jeff Keppinger followed by a double into the left-field corner by Alex Rios. That brought Adam Dunn to the plate in a big spot, and the big guy was greeted with ... well, only mild applause from the crowd. Kind of disappointing, to be honest. Dunn swung at the first pitch and tapped a grounder to first, but enough to bring home the night's first run. So the Nats come up to bat trailing 1-0.
7:34 p.m. -- So much for all that talk (including from yours truly) about how patient Denard Span and Jayson Werth have been at the plate. They each struck out in the bottom of the first, Span on four pitches, Werth on three. Uh, yeah. Gavin Floyd cruises through the inning on 11 pitches. Onto to the second, the Nats down 1-0.
7:40 p.m. -- Better stuff from Zimmermann in the top of the second. He needed only 11 pitches to retire the side and nearly made a fantastic play on Conor Gillaspie's comebacker, instead deflecting the ball to Ian Desmond for a 1-6-3 groundout.
7:47 p.m. -- On the bright side, the Nats actually got a guy on base in the bottom of the second. Desmond roped a two-out double into the left-field corner. But that was all they could muster against Floyd, who has needed only 22 pitches (17 strikes) to complete two scoreless innings.
8:04 p.m. -- Still not much happening for the Nats against Floyd. Kurt Suzuki drew a leadoff walk in the third and slowly made his way around to third base on a sac bunt and a groundout. But he was stranded there when Werth struck out swinging to end the inning. Still 1-0 Sox after three.
8:14 p.m. -- Nice awareness on Zimmermann's part in the top of the fourth. Either that, or Rios is a complete moron. Could be either. Whatever the case, Rios inexplicably decided to try to steal second base before Zimmermann ever made any kind of move toward the plate. Jordan merely stepped off the mound and fired to Desmond for an easy out. He's through four innings now on 53 pitches.
8:27 p.m. -- I was watching Bryce Harper take BP this afternoon, and he was really peppering the bleachers. Second deck. Even one into the third deck. Well, he almost reached that top level on Floyd's first pitch of the bottom of the fourth. He settled for a solo shot well up into the second deck, his fourth homer of the season. That tied the game 1-1, but it didn't stay that way for long. Desmond (who has really started hitting the ball with authority the last couple days) roped his second double the night, then scored moments later on Espinosa's single to right. One other bit of insight: Eight games into this season, Trent Jewett is establishing himself as an aggressive third base coach. His philosophy seems to be to force the outfielder to make the throw. And it paid off right there, with Rios' throw way off-line, allowing Desmond to score. The Nats take a 2-1 lead as we move to the fifth.
8:45 p.m. -- Make it 3-1 as Werth, Harper and Zimmerman hit back-to-back-to-back singles in the bottom of the fifth. Nice baserunning by Werth and Harper, each going first-to-third with little trouble to put themselves in position to score.
8:52 p.m. -- And the White Sox get one run right back in the top of the sixth. De Aza doubles and ultimately scores on Rios' groundout. Back and forth we go, with the Nats' lead down to 3-2 in the middle of the sixth.
9:13 p.m. -- Just as they did last night, the Nationals did some serious damage on Chicago's pitching staff in the middle innings. Seemed to figure out Floyd once they saw him the third time. Put it all together, and they've increased the lead to 5-2. Another extra-base hit for Desmond, this one a triple, giving him seven total bases on the night.
9:25 p.m. -- Zimmermann, meanwhile, has been getting stronger as this game progresses. He's at 90 pitches through seven innings. He's only reached the eighth inning once in 82 career starts, and he certainly looks like he could do it tonight. But Drew Storen is warming in the Nats' pen, so perhaps not. Still 5-2 at the stretch.
9:32 p.m. -- Yep, Zimmermann is out after seven. Here's Storen in for the eighth, trying to protect a three-run lead.
9:41 p.m. -- A fairly tidy, 15-pitch inning for Storen. So the lead remains 5-2 as Rafael Soriano begins to limber up in the bullpen.
9:48 p.m. -- Here we go: Soriano enters with a three-run lead. Same situation as last night.
9:56 p.m. -- That'll do it. Much easier effort tonight from Soriano, who closes out a 5-2 victory for his fourth save of the year. The Nats improve to 6-2 and will go for the sweep tomorrow.