Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Dan Haren makes his first home start at Nationals Park tonight.
Tonight, Haren gets a second chance to make a first impression, this time in his home debut (not to mention a much friendlier ballpark). Not that a start on April 10 is going to have much bearing on the future, but the last thing Haren wants right now is to raise even more questions about his status and whether the Nats made a mistake at all handing him $13 million over the winter.
The Nationals' lineup, which has been red-hot since returning home earlier this week, should provide some support for Haren. That group will go up against Dylan Axelrod, a 27-year-old right-hander making his 12th career start.
I'll have early-game updates here, but then I have to head to Bethesda for tonight's live episode of "The Baseball Show" at 11 p.m., so Chase Hughes will be taking over mid-game...
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 183
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 75 degrees, Wind 14 mph RF 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 Dan Haren
WHITE SOX (4-4)
CF Alejandro De Aza
2B Jeff Keppinger
RF Alex Rios
LF Adam Dunn
1B Paul Konerko
SS Alexei Ramirez
3B Connor Gillaspie
C Tyler Flowers
RHP Dylan Axelrod
HP Tom Hallion (cc)
1B Ron Kulpa
2B Phil Cuzzi
3B Chris Guccione
7:05 p.m. -- We are underway. Two bits of good news: 1) The umpires showed up on time tonight, and 2) John Wall threw a semi-respectable ceremonial first pitch, making amends for his fiasco from two years ago. Dan Haren's first actual pitch was much better, a 90 mph fastball for strike one to Alejandro De Aza. Meanwhile, the wind has really kicked up here. Doesn't look like the rain will hit until very late tonight, but you can definitely feel the system approaching.
7:13 p.m. -- A scoreless top of the first for Haren, though it did include Alex Rios' double off the left field wall, which might well have been a home run if not for the wind. Hey, it's still progress for Haren, so he'll gladly take it.
7:36 p.m. -- And the Nats jump on the board with an early run. Jayson Werth singled, stole second and took third on an error, then scored on Adam LaRoche's RBI single to left. The run, though, might have been less significant than the number of pitches the Nats made Dylan Axelrord throw: 40. That's 40 pitches to only six batters. Pretty remarkable plate discipline there for the Nats, who kept fouling off pitch after pitch after pitch. That'll pay dividends later in this game. 1-0 after one.
7:44 p.m. -- Haren's given up a couple of hard-hit balls already in this one, including Conor Gillaspie's double off the right-field wall in the top of the second. That probably would've been a homer if not for the wind tonight. So Haren did catch a break, though he wound up allowing one run to score on an RBI groundout. So it's 1-1 as we go to the bottom of the second.
7:51 p.m. -- Axelrod didn't have to work nearly as hard in the bottom of the second. He retired the side on 14 pitches. If you're wondering just how hard the wind is blowing tonight, just re-watch Wilson Ramos' flyout to center. Off the bat, it looked like the ball might carry to the warning track; De Aza started backtracking. Then he had to come racing back in once he realized the ball wouldn't even reach his original position. Crazy.
8:03 p.m. -- Haren is giving up hits tonight, but he's also striking out guys in bunches. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, getting Alexei Ramirez to whiff. Obviously, he's got good movement on his pitches. He just needs to avoid leaving anything over the plate, because when he does, it gets hammered. Still 1-1 in the middle of the third. And with that, I must bid adieu as I head up to Bethesda for tonight's live edition of "The Baseball Show." Chase Hughes will take over here and postgame. And be sure to tune into the show tonight at 11 p.m.
8:18 p.m. -- Chase here as Mark is off to do TV. The Nats took the lead off a Bryce Harper RBI single, scoring Denard Span who reached on a single and stole second. Span scored from third after being sent there on a Werth sac fly. They then added another run after Axelrod loaded the bases by walking Zimm and LaRoche. Desmond sent a long fly ball to right field to let Harper tag up and score. 3-1 Nats, Axelrod has thrown 74 pitches (44 strikes) through three.
8:36 p.m. -- We are now tied at 3-3 here at Nats Park after two RBI singles for the White Sox. Gillaspie started it off with a single into left field. He was joined on base by Axelrod who bunted a single past a diving LaRoche. De Aza singled home Gillaspie and Keppinger then hit home Axelrod. Looks like Zach Duke is getting warm with Haren at 84 pitches (54 strikes).
8:59 p.m. -- The Nats got back on top with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Haren got them started with a double to right-center and then scored on a wild pitch. Werth got on with a single and Harper with an intentional walk, and both were sent home on a RBI double by Zimmerman. Haren is back out to pitch the fifth.
9:07 p.m. -- Haren was kept in the game after the Nats gave him a nice cushion and he pitched a scoreless inning despite allowing a double to Ramirez. After the inning he sits at 101 pitches (65 strikes). Mattheus up in the bullpen.
9:12 p.m. -- Nothing out of the infield for the Nats in the bottom of the fifth off reliever Hector Santiago. Mattheus now in to pitch the sixth and Steve Lombardozzi in to play second. Still 6-3 Nats.
9:30 p.m. -- The White Sox cut into the deficit a little with an RBI double by Adam Dunn. Dunn scored De Aza who singled and then stole second. Dunn's hit was off the wall in left field and very close to being a home run. 6-4 Nats.
9:39 p.m. -- The Nats got two on in the sixth with Span and Harper drawing walks. Santiago got out of the inning on a groundout by Zimmerman. 6-4 Nats as we head to the seventh. Mattheus back out for another frame.
9:46 p.m. -- Mattheus gets through the top of the seventh with no one allowed on base. He got Ramirez to pop out and then struck out Gillaspie and Flowers. Finally a quick half-inning! Seriously, we are closing in on hour three of tonight's game and it's the bottom of the seventh.
9:51 p.m. -- The Nats got one on with an Ian Desmond single up the middle with one out. A pinch-hitting Chad Tracy then grounded into a double play. Tyler Clippard now in to pitch the eighth.
10:10 p.m. -- Rafael Soriano is now in to pitch for the save. The Nats got another run across on an RBI single by Harper that sent Span home for his second run scored today. 7-4 Nats with three outs to go.
10:23 p.m. -- Soriano gets his fifth save of the year and the Nats move to 7-2.