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Game 97: Nats at Astros

Jul 19, 2011, 8:50 PM EDT

US Presswire file photo
Jordan Zimmermann faces J.A. Happ tonight at Minute Maid Park.

Though his team managed to scrape together five runs last night, Davey Johnson is making one significant tweak to tonight's lineup against the Astros: Danny Espinosa will lead off, with Ian Desmond bumped all the way up to the No. 2 slot.

The primary reason for this: J.A. Happ is starting for Houston, amazingly the first left-hander to start against the Nationals since Johnson took over as manager. And since Roger Bernadina doesn't fare all that well against lefties (career .225 average), it seems like a logical move to bump him down to the 7-hole and go instead with Espinosa (career .277 average vs. lefties).

But there's another byproduct of this: Desmond moving up to the No. 2 slot. He's fared much better up there in his career (slash line: .282/.319/.396) than he has when he's hit eighth (.236/.286/.344). Perhaps this switch might help get Desmond going.

Jordan Zimmermann makes his first start of the second half, as the countdown to his 160-inning limit begins. He enters tonight at 115 innings, so figure seven or eight more outings before he's shut down.

I'm not in Houston for this series, so please enjoy the game and conversation among yourselves…

NATIONALS at ASTROS
Where: Minute Maid Park
Gametime: 8:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Dome (Outside: 87 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from RF)

STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS (48-48)
2B Danny Espinosa
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse

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