Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats try to take two of three at PNC Park this afternoon.
So a strong performance from last year's 21-game winner today would certainly go a long way toward putting the Nationals in position to emerge victorious at PNC Park. Gonzalez will be facing an, um, interesting Pirates lineup that features Russell Martin at third base and Brandon Inge in right field. Stop and think about that for a moment. Yeah, I don't understand Clint Hurdle's logic, either.
Still waiting on Davey Johnson's lineup, which is probably contingent on Denard Span's status. Span, who missed yesterday's game with a bruised left foot after fouling a pitch off it Friday night, said afterward it was feeling better and was hopeful he could play today. We'll see. [UPDATE AT 12:00 P.M. — Span is indeed starting, as is Wilson Ramos, catching back-to-back games for the first time this season.]
Updates to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Mostly sunny, 68 degrees, Wind 15 mph in from CF
CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Tyler Moore
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
LHP Gio Gonzalez
LF Starling Marte
2B Jordy Mercer
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Gaby Sanchez
3B Russell Martin
C Michael McKenry
RF Brandon Inge
SS John McDonald
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
HP Bob Davidson
1B Jim Reynolds
2B James Hoye
3B John Hirschbeck (cc)
12:00 P.M. — Denard Span is indeed starting. So is Wilson Ramos, catching back-to-back games for the first time this season.
1:38 p.m. — And we're underway on yet another gorgeous afternoon in Pittsburgh. Wandy Rodriguez's first pitch to Denard Span is a fastball for strike one.
1:44 p.m. — Uh-oh, Bryce Harper ejected by John Hirschbeck after a check-swing call to end the top of the first. Harper stood at the plate jawing at Hirschbeck for a while, and must have said something that triggered the heave-ho. It's the second time Harper has been ejected in his career, the first time this year.
2:00 p.m. — Zoinks, what a crazy start to this game. The dust hadn't even settled from the Harper ejection before Starling Marte clobbered Gio Gonzalez's very first pitch of the day to left field for a leadoff home run. Jordy Mercer then crushed Gonzalez's third pitch for a double. Ryan Zimmerman then was charged with a throwing error on a very routine play off Andrew McCutchen's grounder. When Gaby Sanchez walked, Gio suddenly found himself in a bases-loaded, no-out jam ... which he somehow pitched his way out of. He struck out Russell Martin and Michael McKenry, then got Brandon Inge to ground out. Like I said, crazy start to this game, but after all that, the Nats trail only 1-0.
2:14 p.m. — Well, the Nats got the run back. Though they easily could've taken the lead. After Zimmerman drew a walk and LaRoche roped a double to right-center — he definitely looks like he's busting out of his slump — Tyler Moore found himself in a familiar spot: With runners in scoring position. Moore, though, struck out again in that spot. Fortunately, Danny Espinosa saved the day by lofting a sac fly to deep center, scoring Zimmerman. With a chance to add on, though, Wilson Ramos struck out. So it's 1-1 in the second inning of a game that has already featured more twists and turns than you could ever imagine.
2:35 p.m. — When Davey Johnson filled out his lineup card today, do you suppose he was trying to set up a situation where his .040-hitting No. 3 batter would come up in a big RBI spot? Who knows what Harper would've done with two outs and Span on third, but Bernadina struck out. He's now 1-for-26 on the season, if you've lost track. Still 1-1 heading to the bottom of the third.
2:43 p.m. — Gio has managed to settle down since that wild first inning. He's retired nine of the last 11 batters he's faced, striking out five of them. It remains 1-1 heading to the fourth.
2:57 p.m. — Nothing like a chance to face a lefty to get Danny Espinosa going. He absolutely destroyed a 2-2 curveball from Wandy Rodriguez just now, launching it down the left-field line for a two-run homer. That scored Zimmerman, who singled to right and has now reached base in six straight plate appearances. The Nats take a 3-1 lead in the fourth.
3:08 p.m. — Gio continues to settle into a groove. He's now retired 12 of the last 14 batters he's faced. Zimmerman recorded the last out of the fourth, going sidearm on a routine grounder. The throw was right on target. Still 3-1 going to the fifth.
3:22 p.m. — Gio's turnaround has been remarkable. Now 15 of 17 retired, including seven straight. He's in complete control of this game now. Still 3-1 heading to the sixth.
3:41 p.m. — The Pirates finally got to Gio again in the sixth, getting a leadoff single from Gaby Sanchez (off Gonzalez's glove) and then an RBI double from Russell Martin. Gio buckled down after that, though, and stranded Martin at third base to preserve a 3-2 lead. So we go to the seventh, as Jose Contreras enters to pitch for the Pirates. Yes, THAT Jose Contreras. He looks quite comfortable in that 1971 throwback jersey. I believe he pitched for that club, correct?
3:51 p.m. — Terrible execution by the Nats in the top of the seventh. Steve Lombardozzi, pinch-hitting for Gio Gonzalez, popped up a sac bunt attempt. Span and Desmond then each struck out against Contreras, Desmond fishing after a pitch well below the strike zone. Still 3-2 Nats as we go to the bottom of the seventh, with Drew Storen entering from the bullpen.
4:02 p.m. — A 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh for Storen in his first appearance since Monday. The inning did include one heart-stopping moment, as Zimmerman fielded a routine grounder and then nearly threw another one away. But LaRoche made the backhanded catch while keeping his foot on the bag, so no harm, no foul. Still 3-2 Nats as we go to the eighth.
4:13 p.m. — For the second straight afternoon, Tyler Moore ends a bad day on a very high note. A strikeout victim in his first three at-bats, he crushes a 3-run homer off Bryan Morris in the top of the eighth for some huge insurance runs. That homer came seconds after the Pirates intentionally walked LaRoche (the correct move, considering how LaRoche's bat has returned and how much Moore has struggled) but they paid for it in the end. The Nats open up a 6-2 lead in the eighth.
4:32 p.m. — A 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth for Tyler Clippard, not even giving the Pirates a sniff of a comeback.
4:38 p.m. — Bottom of the ninth upcoming, and Rafael Soriano will pitch despite the four-run lead. But tomorrow's an off-day, so no harm using him today.
4:48 p.m. — That'll do it. Nats win 6-2 to grab a series victory and end this road trip with a 4-3 record. Off tomorrow, then the Tigers are in town Tuesday night.