Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg faces Edwin Jackson today at Nationals Park.
Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nationals, having made progress in his last start at Pittsburgh but still looking for his first win since Opening Day. He'll go up against a familiar face: Edwin Jackson, still looking for his first win with Chicago.
We're still waiting for Davey Johnson to post his lineup, but Bryce Harper is expected to be back after missing last night's game following a procedure to remove an ingrown toenail. Jayson Werth, meanwhile, should be officially placed on the 15-day DL any moment now, with Eury Perez recalled from Class AAA Syracuse. [UPDATE AT 1:35 P.M. — Harper actually isn't starting today, his toe still not completely healed. So Davey is going with his same lineup as last night, with Wilson Ramos catching instead of Kurt Suzuki.]
Updates to come...
CHICAGO CUBS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 9, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 186
Weather: Late rain, 75 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Tyler Moore
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
3B Luis Valbuena
C Welington Castillo
2B Darwin Barney
RHP Edwin Jackson
HP Doug Eddings
1B John Tumpane
2B Paul Nauert
3B Angel Hernandez (cc)
4:07 p.m. — And we are underway, on-time. It actually looked dicey there for a little while, with a small but intense rain cell approaching from the west. The grounds crew had the tarp out and ready to roll if needed, but the storm stayed just to the north, so we're in the clear. Stephen Strasburg starts off David DeJesus with a 95 mph fastball for ball one.
4:15 p.m. — Well, things started off shaky for Strasburg, who fell behind 3-0 to DeJesus, then served up a looong flyball to the wall in right-center (ultimately caught by Roger Bernadina). But the big guy settled down after that. He struck out Starlin Castro on a 91 mph changeup and got Anthony Rizzo to ground out to end the inning. That, folks, was the first 1-2-3 first inning this season for Strasburg.
4:23 p.m. — And now Edwin Jackson retires the side in the bottom of the first. I don't know the last time he did that. Sorry.
4:31 p.m. — I think the Real Stephen Strasburg is showing up today. After starting his afternoon with those three balls to DeJesus, he went on a tear, throwing 20 of his next 21 pitches for strikes. He's retired all six batters faced, has three strikeouts, is dialing his fastball up to 98 mph and is featuring both a devastating curveball and changeup. Welcome back, Stephen.
4:40 p.m. — Ian Desmond continues to not only swing a potent bat but flash some serious hustle. He turned a base hit to left-center into a double, then tagged up and took third on a flyball to medium-deep center. Unfortunately, Tyler Moore couldn't drive him home, striking out to end the second inning. It's still scoreless here.
4:46 p.m. — Wow, Strasburg showed up today, huh? No "pitching to contact" so far, he's reached back and firing on every single pitch, and he's got command of his entire arsenal. Nine up, nine down, five strikeouts. He could have something really special going on here today. Still 0-0 in the middle of the third.
5:02 p.m. — Well, so much for Strasburg's run at perfection today. Anthony Rizzo lined a base hit to center with two outs in the fourth, the Cubs' first baserunner of the day. That said, Strasburg still is dealing unlike we've seen him all year. He's got seven strikeouts through four scoreless innings, and he's thrown 41 of 53 pitches for strikes. Now, if his teammates could only score a run off Edwin Jackson...
5:10 p.m. — Not to be forgotten, Edwin is dealing his own gem right now. He's retired 12 of the 13 batters he's faced, allowing only Desmond's double in the second. Zimmerman and LaRoche did each make really solid contact in the fourth, but each hit line drives right at outfielders. So it's still scoreless as we go to the fifth.
5:33 p.m. — Just when it looked like Strasburg was going to cruise through another quick inning ... disaster. With two outs and nobody on, Wellington Castillo hit a routine grounder to third base, and Zimmerman committed his sixth throwing error of the season. Obviously, it's on Zim to make that play, and he had looked much better in recent days. But it's also on the pitcher to pick up his teammate when that happened, and Strasburg didn't come close to doing it. He immediately walked the No. 8 hitter, then served up a two-run double to the pitcher on a 3-2 count. He then walked DeJesus, allowed an infield single to Castro and then a two-run base hit up the middle to Rizzo. And just like that, it's 4-0 Cubs and Strasburg has the look of a defeated pitcher out on the mound. He needed only 53 pitches to complete four innings, but he needed 42 just to get through the fifth (26 of them coming after the Zimmerman error). Not good.
5:43 p.m. — Well, Desmond led off the bottom of the fifth with a blast to left-center, his sixth homer and league-leading 21st extra-base hit of the season. So that trimmed the lead to 4-1, but then came the most interesting development of the inning: Chad Tracy pinch-hit for Strasburg, ending the right-hander's day in abrupt fashion. I'll be very interested to hear what Davey has to say about him today. Strasburg's final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 95 pitches, 64 strikes. Stunning, really, when you consider what his first four innings looked like.
6:00 p.m. — And this game just got really ugly for the Nationals. Zach Duke entered for the sixth and promptly retired only two of seven batters faced, one of them on a sac bunt. He couldn't even finish the inning, yanked by Davey after allowing four runs. A game that 30 minutes ago looked like a gem for Strasburg has since turned into disaster. Oh, and it looks like it's about to start pouring any minute now. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice. 8-1 Cubs in the bottom of the sixth.
6:22 p.m. — Try as they might to flip this game on its head, the Nats couldn't do it in the bottom of the sixth. They did load the bases with one out, knocking Jackson out of the game and bringing Desmond to the plate to face Fairfax's own Shawn Camp. Desmond did what he's been doing so much lately: hit the ball hard. He singled to left, bringing home a run and leaving himself a triple shy of the cycle for the second time in less than 24 hours. But that's where the rally died. Espinosa struck out and Moore grounded out on the first pitch, so it's still 8-2 as we move to the seventh. But at least it didn't rain. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.
6:32 p.m. — Yikes, Zim with his second error of the day, this one a hard grounder under his glove. You've got to wonder where his head is right now. Though to his credit, he started a very nice 5-4-3 double play to end the top of the seventh. Still 8-2.
6:54 p.m. — Once again, no cycle for Desmond. Needing a triple in his final at-bat, he struck out. Oh well. Still 8-2 going to the ninth.
7:14 p.m. — It's over. Nats lose 8-2, snapping their five-game winning streak. It'll be real interesting to hear what Davey Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg have to say after this one. Check the homepage later for their reaction.