|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
Really, though, lineup construction is less about who hits where and more about who is hitting at all. So the best hope for the Nationals' run-scoring abilities moving forward is the simple fact they've got a complete, healthy lineup in place (including Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos) for the first time since mid-April.
That lineup will try to keep things going tonight against the Padres, who send hard-throwing right-handed Andrew Cashner to the mound. Gio Gonzalez, who has been fantastic lately, gets the ball for the Nats, trying to put his team two games over the .500 mark again.
Updates to come...
SAN DIEGO PADRES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 183
Weather: Mostly clear, 88 degrees, Wind 11 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
2B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
LHP Gio Gonzalez
SS Everth Cabrera
CF Chris Denorfia
LF Carlos Quentin
3B Chase Headley
RF Kyle Blanks
2B Logan Forsythe
1B Jesus Guzman
C Yasmani Grandal
RHP Andrew Cashner
HP Mike Everitt (cc)
1B Bruce Dreckman
2B Quinn Wolcott
3B David Rackley
7:07 p.m. — We are underway on a very warm Friday night in the District. Gio Gonzalez starts off Everth Cabrera with a fastball for strike one.
7:20 p.m. — The bad news: Gio's first-inning struggles continue. He allowed a pair of doubles, to Chris Denorfia and Chase Headley, bringing home the night's first run and putting the Nats in an early 1-0 hole. The good news: Gonzalez has shown he can quickly bounce back from those rocky starts this season. His first-inning ERA is now 5.50. After that, it drops to 2.59.
7:26 p.m. — A 1-2-3 bottom of the first for Andrew Cashner, including a weak grounder to second off the bat of Bryce Harper. That leaves Harper 0-for-15 since his dramatic homer on his first swing back from the DL on Monday. Obviously, he's still getting his timing all the way back after the long layoff. Still 1-0 Padres after one.
7:40 p.m. — More trouble for Gio in the top of the second. He had runners on second and third with nobody out, but he then escaped the jam with back-to-back-to-back strikeouts. Nicely done.
8:06 p.m. — Holy moly, the Nats bats are back out in full force tonight. They just put up a 5-spot on Cashner in the bottom of the second. And all three outs were well-struck. The highlights: Wilson Ramos picked up right where he left off yesterday, delivering a two-run single, making him 4-for-5 with 7 RBI now since his return from the DL. Denard Span smoked a two-run double into the right-field corner to keep the rally going. Ian Desmond actually drew a walk (shocking, I know). And Harper just got under a ball a tad, just missing a grand slam, instead settling for a sac fly to deep center. So it's 5-1 now as the new-look Nats lineup continues to rake.
8:14 p.m. — Chase Headley is a one-man wrecking crew tonight, doling out some serious punishment on Gio. He doubled in a run in the first and now he just crushed a solo homer to left in the third, trimming the Nats' lead to 5-2.
8:30 p.m. — Ramos. Again. A run-scoring single in the third makes it 6-2 and makes Wilson 5-for-6 with eight RBI since his return. For comparison's sake, Ramos now has eight RBI in 1 1/3 games, the same number of RBI Kurt Suzuki had over his previous 23 games. Unreal.
8:55 p.m. — Make it 8-2 Nats after four innings. If you've lost track, here are their run totals over the last six days: 13, 10, 0, 1, 8, 8. I seriously think they're incapable of scoring three or four runs on a single night.
9:13 p.m. — Gio has really settled into a nice groove now after a somewhat shaky start to his evening. He's retired eight straight and isn't giving the Padres any reason to think they can claw their way back into this game. It remains 8-2 in the middle of the sixth.
9:32 p.m. — What was that I was saying about clawing back? The Padres are starting to do just that after Carlos Quentin murdered a fastball from Craig Stammen with two outs in the seventh. That three-run blast just trimmed the lead to 8-5. Gio's final line: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 110 pitches, 70 strikes. Solid, though he's certainly been better in recent starts.
9:50 p.m. — Tyler Clippard puts out the fire. We move to the bottom of the eighth, still 8-5.
10:05 p.m. — That's your ballgame. Rafael Soriano closes out an 8-5 victory, the Nats' second straight and seventh in their last 11 games. And with the Braves having now lost three in a row, the deficit in the NL East is back down to five games.