|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
Stephen Strasburg gets the start for the Nationals, coming off the worst start of his career and also dealing with some oppressive heat and humidity tonight. As I type this, the heat index in Washington stands at 110, with the dew point an insane 78. We've seen Strasburg struggle with heat in the past; it'll be interesting to see how he deals with this tonight.
If you've got tickets to the game, please be prepared yourself for the conditions and plan to drink lots of water. If you're staying home to watch in the comfort of central air conditioning, you're in luck. I'll be sweating it out here and will have updates and analysis throughout...
LOS ANGELES DODGERS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 184
Weather: Humid, 92 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
2B Anthony Rendon
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
1B Chad Tracy
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LF Carl Crawford
RF Yasiel Puig
1B Adrian Gonzalez
SS Hanley Ramirez
CF Andre Ethier
C A.J. Ellis
3B Juan Uribe
2B Mark Ellis
RHP Ricky Nolasco
HP Paul Schrieber
1B Chad Fairchild
2B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
3B Eric Cooper
7:08 p.m. — We are underway. Stephen Strasburg's first pitch (94 mph) actually topped the gametime temperature (92 degrees) but barely. The heat index at 7 p.m.: 105.
7:16 p.m. — And already we've seen the conditions have an effect on Strasburg, who lost his grip on a 90-mph changeup to Hanley Ramirez and threw it behind the cleanup hitter's head. No intent there, just a sweaty right hand. Strasburg immediately went to the rosin bag, and he bounced back to get Ramirez to pop-up on a nice curveball. Jayson Werth also made a nifty catch in foul territory, reaching over the wall to snag Yasiel Puig's foul pop. Overall, 17 pitches (11 strikes) for Strasburg in a scoreless top of the first.
7:24 p.m. — The good news: Denard Span drew a walk in the bottom of the first, the third straight game he's done that when leading off. The bad news: Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman each grounded out to second, with Rendon's grounder turning into a 4-6-3 double play. Scoreless after one.
7:33 p.m. — Strasburg has put four men on base through two innings, but he's managed to limit the damage to three singles and a walk and got help with a 6-4-3 double play in the bottom of the second. He's at 32 pitches (19 strikes) through two scoreless.
7:47 p.m. — Wow, lots of stuff going on in the bottom of the second. It began with Bryce Harper's leadoff double, making him 6-for-7 with two doubles and two homers this season against Nolasco, not too shabby. Harper then took third base on Jayson Werth's flyball to right, though by no fault of Puig, who fired a perfect strike on the fly to third and actually appeared to get Harper just in time. Umpire Eric Cooper called him safe, and that proved significant when Nolasco uncorked a wild pitch to bring Harper home with the first run of the night. But that throw by Puig ... wow. The ballpark was buzzing after that. Nats lead 1-0 after two.
7:56 p.m. — Just when it looked like Strasburg was finding his groove — he struck out Crawford and Puig back-to-back to begin the third inning — he gave it back with a two-out rally. Gonzalez singled up the middle. Ramirez then crushed the very next pitch to right-center for a two-run homer. It wasn't a terrible pitch by Strasburg: 95 mph on the outside corner, but Ramirez is certainly capable of doing damage on pitches like that. So just like that, the Dodgers are up 2-1 in the third.
8:13 p.m. — Strasburg has been walking a tightrope all night. He's allowed seven hits and a walk through four innings, but so far Ramirez's homer is the only actual damage. The right-hander is already at 67 pitches, though, and under these conditions you've got to wonder how far Davey will let him go tonight. Still 2-1 Dodgers heading to the bottom of the fourth.
8:29 p.m. — Yikes, if you wanted to encapsulate the 2013 Nationals into a single half-inning, that was it just now. They loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth ... and came away with nothing. Desmond grounded out weakly to third on a check-swing. Tracy lofted a shallow fly ball to left field, and though Harper decided to test Crawford's admittedly weak arm, he pulled up after 20 feet ... only to watch as Crawford's throw sailed way up the first base line. He would've scored easily. So now it was up to Ramos, to grounded out to the pitcher. You don't usually hear very many boos directed at the home team in this ballpark, but there were plenty at the end of that fiasco. It's still 2-1 after four.
9:10 p.m. — Well, on the bright side, the Nats have tied the game. Singles by Zimmerman, Werth and Desmond produced a run in the bottom of the sixth and knocked Nolasco out. But with a chance to take the lead, Tracy took the first pitch from reliever Jose Dominguez and grounded into a 6-3, inning-ending double play. I think it's about time we add "veteran, left-handed bench bat" to Mike Rizzo's July 31st shopping list. It's 2-2 after six.
9:16 p.m. — Nice job by Strasburg. On this sweltering night, he battled and has retired 11 in a row since the fourth inning. He's now through the seventh, having allowed just the two runs on Ramirez's homer. Nice job by the right-hander in really tough conditions. Still 2-2 at the stretch.
9:30 p.m. — Man, this Yasiel Puig kid is something in the field. There's obviously the arm, but he also just made a remarkable catch down the right-field line, slamming into the wall to rob Rendon and end the bottom of the seventh. Just remarkable. Still 2-2 as we go to the eighth and Tyler Clippard enters.
9:39 p.m. — A dominant eighth inning from Clippard. He struck out Puig on a changeup, got Gonzalez to hit a weak flyball to left field and struck out Ramirez on a fastball. Good stuff from the righty. Now it's up to the Nats lineup to get the go-ahead runner across the plate in the bottom of the eighth.
9:49 p.m. — And we go to the ninth inning, the game still tied. And here's a head-scratcher: Rafael Soriano is now in, even though Davey had double-switched out Rendon earlier, ostensibly so Clippard could pitch two innings. I'm not quite understanding this one.
9:56 p.m. — And Soriano serves up a go-ahead homer to Ethier to lead off the ninth. It wasn't a bad pitch from the Nats closer - a slider way down in the zone - but Ethier managed to golf it off the top of the fence in right field. So now the Nats trail 3-2 and are down to their last three outs.
10:07 p.m. — That'll do it. The second half of the season begins with a 3-2 loss that sure felt a lot like plenty of losses from the first half of the season. The Nats are back at .500 and, with the Phillies cruising in New York, are about to fall into third place in the NL East.