Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Cubs open a three-game series tonight at Nationals Park.
And after a tough stretch that saw them face five consecutive teams with winning records, the Nats now get a three-game set against the Cubs, who are — how shall we put this? — downright awful. Jeff Samardzija, tonight's starter, is solid. And Anthony Rizzo looks like a big piece of their future. But the rest of that roster leaves plenty to be desired.
Ross Detwiler will try to take advantage of that fact in tonight's series opener. No lineup yet from Davey Johnson, but Jayson Werth is expected to be out one last time with his tight hamstring. [UPDATE AT 4:45 P.M. — Not only is Werth out of the lineup again, but Davey says he's likely headed to the DL, still suffering spasms in his hamstring. And on top of all that, Bryce Harper is also out of the lineup tonight after having a procedure to have an ingrown toenail removed. So the Nats are down two men tonight.]
Updates to come...
CHICAGO CUBS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WNEW (99.1 FM), XM 183
Weather: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Tyler Moore
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Ross Detwiler
SS Starlin Castro
3B Cody Ransom
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Scott Hairston
C Welington Castillo
CF Ryan Sweeney
2B Darwin Barney
RHP Jeff Samardzija
HP Angel Hernandez (cc)
1B Doug Eddings
2B John Tumpane
3B Paul Nauert
5:45 p.m. — Here's the full story on Jayson Werth (headed to the DL with a very slight hamstring strain) and Bryce Harper (out tonight after a procedure to remove an ingrown toenail).
7:06 p.m. — We are underway with ... what else, a fastball for strike one from Ross Detwiler to Starlin Castro. 80 degrees at gametime.
7:14 p.m. — And Detwiler finds himself in an early 1-0 hole, even though he didn't exactly pitch poorly in the top of the first. Castro, though, led things off with a soft double down the right-field line, and his teammates then did their job to move him around the bases. Cody Ransom and Anthony Rizzo each tapped grounders that advanced Castro, with Rizzo's bouncer to second bringing him home. Really nice play by Danny Espinosa on that grounder, by the way. So it's 1-0 Cubs as the Nats come up to bat.
7:20 p.m. — A 1-2-3 bottom of the first for Jeff Samardzija, with a pair of called third strikes (the last of which didn't seem to sit so well with Ryan Zimmerman, who had a couple of words for Angel Hernandez). Darwin Barney, meanwhile, made a spectacular play on Roger Bernadina's drag bunt attempt, flipping to first base straight from his glove for the out. I'll tell you what: Between Espinosa and Barney, there's going to be some serious defense played at second base this weekend.
7:38 p.m. — Kurt Suzuki with an opposite-field, 2-run double off the wall in right-center? That's not generally in his repertoire, but Kurt smoked that pitch from Samardzija, nearly hit it out altogether. So just like that, the Nats take a 2-1 lead after two, thanks in no small part to Samardzija's error trying to scoop up Espinosa's comebacker.
7:47 p.m. — Starlin Castro, meanwhile, seems to enjoy driving doubles to the opposite field. He's already done it twice, most recently to drive in Samardzija (who led off the top of the third with his own double). So that tied this game 2-2, though it could've been 3-2 Cubs if not for a nice throw by Roger Bernadina and a great tag by Kurt Suzuki to nail Castro trying to score on Rizzo's single to right. Detwiler getting hit around a bit early on.
8:05 p.m. — Here's a bizarre (and troubling) fact: Detwiler has already surrendered four doubles tonight, three of them to lead off innings. That's a tough way to pitch. He's avoided serious damage to this point, but that's a trend that's going to have to stop soon. Still 2-2 going to the bottom of the fourth.
8:14 p.m. — Two big developments in the bottom of the fourth: LaRoche roped a single up the middle, officially raising his batting average over the Mendoza line for the first time this season. Moments later, Desmond crushed a two-run homer to left, his fifth of the year. The Nats take a 4-2 lead after four.
8:35 p.m. — And the Nats keep taking it to Samardzija in the bottom of the fifth. Zimmerman drew a two-out walk. LaRoche notched yet another hit (he's now 11 for his last 19 and has reached 17(?!) times in his last six-plus games). Desmond drilled another RBI double (he's now a triple shy of the cycle). And Espinosa cleaned up the bases with a rocket of a double to deep right-center. It's 7-2 Nationals after five, and the heart of the lineup is really doing some damage tonight.
8:42 p.m. — It'll probably go unnoticed among all the offensive fireworks, but the Nationals are playing some stellar defense so far tonight. Espinosa had a great play early, Bernadina and Suzuki combined on that play at the plate, Span had a fantastic catch (and jump) on a deep drive to center. And Zimmerman has made a couple of really solid throws on routine plays at third base. He's putting a lot more mustard on those throws, and they've also been on-target.
9:02 p.m. — Kind of a surprisingly quick hook for Detwiler with two outs in the seventh, one on and the Nats up by five runs. Several of you pointed out he might have grimaced after covering first base on his last batter. I couldn't see that from all the way up here in the press box, but I'll certainly ask about it postgame. Meanwhile, Craig Stammen got out of the seventh, so it remains 7-2 at the stretch.
9:10 p.m. — Hmm, bad call by second base ump John Tumpane, who called Zimmerman out on Alfonso Soriano's throw from left field. Zim argued pretty animatedly (at least as animatedly as he ever gets) and Davey came out to argue, too. Replays showed he was indeed safe. By the way, 37,191 paid attendance here tonight, with the Caps hosting Game 5 a couple of miles away. Not bad, not bad at all.
9:18 p.m. — Nice job by Stammen in his first appearance in a while. Recorded four outs. Still 7-2 as we go to the bottom of the eighth.
9:22 p.m. — Onto the ninth, with Stammen still on the mound. Interesting.
9:30 p.m. — It's over. Stammen closes out a 7-3 victory, the Nats' fifth straight.