|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
It feels like ancient history at this point, but this was a regular occurrence around here last season. The Nationals had 19 opportunity to sweep a three- or four-game series in 2012, underscoring just how much they've been fighting an uphill battle in 2013.
If you're going for a sweep, who better to have on the mound than Stephen Strasburg, looking to continue his recent hot streak? Unfortunately, the D'backs are sending a mighty impressive young pitcher to the mound themselves in Patrick Corbin, the 23-year-old lefty looking to improve to 10-0 on the season.
It's going to be another hot, muggy, potentially stormy day at the park. If you're headed over here, bring your umbrella and/or poncho. If you're stuck at work, check back here for updates throughout...
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 184
Weather: Chance of storms, 85 degrees, Wind 12 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
2B Anthony Rendon
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jhonatan Solano
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF Gerardo Parra
2B Aaron Hill
1B Paul Goldschmidt
C Miguel Montero
RF Cody Ross
LF Jason Kubel
SS Didi Gregorius
3B Cliff Pennington
LHP Patrick Corbin
HP Hunter Wendelstedt
1B Alan Porter
2B Mike Estabrook
3B Greg Gibson (cc)
3:18 p.m. — Your weather update: The tarp is currently being rolled out over the infield. That wouldn't seem to bode well for an on-time start, since it takes 30 minutes to get the field ready.
4:25 p.m. — Good news: The tarp is being removed and the rain has stopped. No sign of the pitchers yet, but figure first pitch will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 p.m.
5:07 p.m. — And we are underway at last, after a 1-hour, 2-minute rain delay. Stephen Strasburg starts off Gerardo Parra with a 95 mph fastball, which Parra skies to center field for a quick out.
5:10 p.m. — That didn't take long. Strasburg retired the side on eight pitches, following Parra's flyout with a pair of groundballs to the left side of the infield. Solid start to the afternoon for the right-hander.
5:18 p.m. — Hmm, you get the sense that after the rain delay on a getaway day for both clubs, these guys are going to be hacking at the plate. Both lineups were mighty aggressive in the first inning, with Ryan Zimmerman delivering the lone hit: a double to the base of the wall in right-center. Unfortunately, he was stranded there when Jayson Werth popped out to end the inning. 0-0.
5:28 p.m. — A leadoff walk from Strasburg to open the second, but that's all he allowed. A big assist goes to Denard Span, who glided back to the wall and made a fantastic, leaping catch of Jason Kubel's drive to center. What's so amazing about Span is how smooth and easy he makes those plays. Plenty of others would make the catch, but only after racing to the wall and making some kind of acrobatic maneuver. Span doesn't need the razzmatazz. He just puts himself in position to make the play and does it effortlessly.
5:50 p.m. — Man, can Aaron Hill grind out an at-bat, or what? The pesky little second baseman has been fouling off pitches all week, and he was up to it again in the top of the third, really making Strasburg work. Fortunately, Parra bailed the Nats out when he tried to swipe second base on a pitch in the dirt. Jhonatan Solano quickly retrieved it and fired to Rendon to get the out, ending the inning and leaving Hill in the batter's box. Still 0-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
6:05 p.m. — Four scoreless innings now for Strasburg, who is getting all kinds of movement on his pitches today. He struck out Hill on a 97 mph sinker that broke six inches down and to the right. You wouldn't know it based on the way his narrative has been spun this season, but Strasburg now sports a 2.29 ERA for the year. He's pitched a whole lot better than you think. Still 0-0 here.
6:15 p.m. — Corbin made Desmond look downright silly flailing away at an 0-1 slider in the bottom of the fourth, but Ian got his revenge three pitches later. On Corbin's 2-2 slider, Desmond this time stayed back and crushed it into the left-field bullpen. That's his 13th homer of the season, now tops on the team ahead of Bryce Harper. This one gives the Nats and Strasburg a 2-0 lead after four.
6:22 p.m. — Nice turn from Rendon on a 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the fifth. He's getting better and better at that with practice and game experience. Still 2-0 Nats.
6:45 p.m. — Whoops, Strasburg finally has a hiccup in the top of the sixth, and it costs him. He gave up a leadoff single to Corbin to open the inning. Two batters later, he grooved a 1-0 fastball to Aaron Hill and watched as the ball sailed into the left field bullpen for a two-run, game-tying homer. Strasburg continued to struggle after that, surrendering an infield single and then issuing a walk to put himself in a jam. He battled back and got out of the inning, but he's now at 102 pitches through six innings of what is now a 2-2 ballgame.
6:57 p.m. — Strange moment in the bottom of the sixth as Hunter Wendelstedt calls LaRoche out on what he thought was a swinging third strike on a high-and-tight pitch. LaRoche, though, argued and insisted the ball struck his bat. So even though the D'backs were trotting off the field, Wendelstedt told everyone to slam on the brakes and then sought assistance from third base umpire (and crew chief) Greg Gibson. Gibson determined the ball really did hit LaRoche's bat, so the at-bat continued. We complain about bad calls by umps all the time, but let's take this opportunity to give props to Wendelstedt for actually being willing to seek help. That's the way it's supposed to work. It remains 2-2 as we go to the seventh and Strasburg re-takes the mound, sitting on 102 pitches.
7:04 p.m. — Wow, guess there was nothing to worry about. Strasburg just mowed down the D'backs in the seventh on 11 pitches. So his final line will read: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 113 pitches. The Nats will need to score off Corbin in the bottom of the seventh, though, to put him in line for the win. Still 2-2.
7:17 p.m. — Man oh man, there has been some spectacular defense on display today by both clubs. Add Paul Goldschmidt to the tally, because he just robbed Span of a sure go-ahead double down the right-field line. Instead, the seventh innings ends with the game still tied 2-2. Strasburg can't earn the win, and now the game is in Drew Storen's hands.
7:27 p.m. — Wow, that was the most dominant inning of Storen's season. (Maybe his career.) He struck out the top of the Arizona lineup with a filthy assortment of pitches, getting Parra and Goldschmidt on changeups and Hill on a slider. Really impressive stuff there from Storen, keeping this a 2-2 game heading to the bottom of the eighth.
7:39 p.m. — Onto the ninth, still a tie game. It's Ian Krol looking to continue his impressive start to his big-league career.
7:53 p.m. — And the Ian Krol Fairy Tale continues. He put two guys on in the ninth, but escaped. The lefty has yet to allow a run and has put only four men on base in his first 9 2/3 big-league innings. Bottom of the ninth ahead, still 2-2. Who's going to win this thing?
8:02 p.m. — And David Hernandez strikes out the side. We go to extras!
8:11 p.m. — A scoreless top of the 10th from Rafael Soriano in the non-save situation. So the Nats have another chance to walk it off here in the bottom of the inning. It'll be Chad Tracy, Span and Rendon against right-hander Josh Collmenter.
8:25 p.m. — To the 11th. Span had a one-out single up the middle, but neither Rendon nor Zimmerman could drive the winning run home. And unfortunately, I've now got to head up to Bethesda for tonight's Baseball Show. Hopefully Chase will be able to take over from his perch in the press box in Bowie...
8:42 p.m. -- A Didi Gregorius bunt brings home Pollock to put the D-Backs up 3-2 in the 11th. Up next for the Nats is Werth, LaRoche, and Desmond.
8:53 p.m. -- Nats lose as Desmond grounds into a double play to end the game, final score is 3-2.