|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
We'll find out Davey's reasoning in each case. It's not all that surprising to see Harper get a day off against a tough left-hander in Francisco Liriano. But it is surprising to see Desmond sitting against this pitcher. Again, we'll see what the reason is in each case.
The benching of those two leads to some other changes, most notably Anthony Rendon sliding over to shortstop for his first career start at that position. Steve Lombardozzi will be at second base. Scott Hairston, meanwhile will be leading off and playing left field.
Oh yeah, and Stephen Strasburg is on the mound, trying to stop this five-game losing streak. Updates to come, so please check back...
PITTSBURGH PIRATES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 186
Weather: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees, Wind 10 mph in from LF
LF Scott Hairston
SS Anthony Rendon
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
CF Denard Span
2B Steve Lombardozzi
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LF Starling Marte
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
1B Garrett Jones
RF Travis Snider
C Michael McKenry
SS Clint Barmes
LHP Francisco Liriano
HP Mike Estabrook
1B Mike Winters (cc)
2B Laz Diaz
3B Tim Timmons
7:08 p.m. — And we're underway on an absolutely gorgeous night for baseball in the District. 81 degrees and low humidity on July 24?! I don't know what we did to deserve this! Stephen Strasburg starts off Starling Marte with a fastball for strike one.
7:13 p.m. — That's an 11-pitch top of the first for Strasburg, who struck out Marte on a 97 mph fastball and then got Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen to fly out. He's going to need to be dominant today, unless he wants to count on run support, which he probably doesn't want to do.
7:24 p.m. — The good news: Scott Hairston drew a leadoff walk. The bad news: Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth couldn't even advance him past first base. Such is the state of the Nats lineup these days. Scoreless after one.
7:37 p.m. — Strasburg threw a 96 mph fastball right down Broadway to Pedro Alvarez, and the result was, well, quite predictable. Alvarez destroyed the pitch, launching a laser over the fence in right-center to lead off the top of the second. That's his 26th homer of the season and it puts the Nats in a 1-0 hole.
7:52 p.m. — Strasburg isn't holding back tonight. He's got four strikeouts through three innings and dialed it up to 98 mph to get Marte swinging for the second time tonight. Five in a row now retired by the right-hander. Still 1-0 Pirates heading to the bottom of the third.
8:00 p.m. — Three innings down and the Nats are still looking for their first hit off Liriano. They really haven't come that close yet, either, aside from maybe Zimmerman's flyball to deep left in the bottom of the first. Still 1-0 after three.
8:26 p.m. — Five strong innings from Strasburg, who has allowed only Alvarez's earlier home run. But it's not going to mean much of anything if his teammates don't get a hit off Liriano. Which they have yet to do. 1-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
8:31 p.m. — And that's a five-pitch bottom of the fifth for Liriano, who is just carving up this depleted Nats lineup. He's issued two walks, but that's it so far for the lefty. Seventy-five pitches. Nats still trail 1-0 heading to the sixth.
8:38 p.m. — Can't fault Strasburg tonight. He's been fantastic, striking out eight through six innings and not allowing a hit since the second. He's at 91 pitches, and he remains in line for the loss with Liriano dealing. 1-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
8:52 p.m. — Good news: The no-hitter has been broken up. Rendon hit a hot smash to the left of third base, and Alvarez couldn't hang on after a diving stop. Zimmerman then drew a walk, putting two on with two out for Werth. The bad news: Werth struck out looking at a 1-2 pitch on the outside corner. I don't know if it was a strike, but I'll say this: It was identical to Liriano's previous pitch, which had been called a ball by Mike Estabrook. Big leaguers don't expect umpires to be perfect. They do expect them to be consistent, which Estabrook clearly wasn't there. Oh, by the way, the Nats are now 6 for their last 79 with runners in scoring position. Is that good? Still 1-0 after six.
9:02 p.m. — And Liriano goes right back to carving up the Nats, retiring the side in a very quick bottom of the seventh. So it remains 1-0 as Strasburg takes the mound for the eighth inning for only the third time in his career (all this season).
9:08 p.m. — That'll do it for Strasburg, who pitched an absolute gem: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 12 K, 118 pitches. And he's in line to take the loss. Still 1-0 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
9:21 p.m. — Hey, the Nats got another hit! Their second of the night, as Lombardozzi singles to center to lead off the bottom of the eighth. And that's all they got. Kurt Suzuki, pinch-hitting for Strasburg, put down a sacrifice bunt, moving Lombardozzi to second base. Liriano then struck out Hairston looking at a pitch at the knees. Clint Hurdle summoned lefty Justin Wilson to face Rendon, and he got Rendon to pop up to end the inning. So, if you've lost track, the Nats are now 6 for their last 81 with runners in scoring position. Still 1-0 going to the ninth.
9:43 p.m. — And this just turned into a 4-0 game in the ninth. Drew Storen and Fernando Abad combined to allow three runs and turn this into basically an insurmountable lead for the Pirates. Nats down to their last three outs now.
10:00 p.m. — It's over. Nats lose 4-2 after Werth crushes his fifth homer in four days, their sixth straight loss and 11th in 13 games. They're 5 games under .500.