Sep 11, 2013, 3:48 PM EDT
NEW YORK — The Nationals have won four straight games without Bryce Harper in their lineup, but make no mistake, they’ll be thrilled to welcome him back tonight. After getting his ailing left hip examined Monday and taking a healthy round of batting practice yesterday, Harper has been cleared to play again and will be back in the lineup for the third game of this four-game series with the Mets, who send young fireballer Zack Wheeler to the mound.
Dan Haren gets the ball for the Nationals, and he’s in need of a quality start in the worst way after getting shelled in his last two outings, one of them against this same New York squad. If ever the veteran right-hander had a big-time start in him, tonight would be the time to break it out. (FYI: The Reds have already won, avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Cubs. So the Nats will need to win tonight to remain 6 games back.)
This, of course, is the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, so there will be tributes throughout the evening at Citi Field and players from both teams will be wearing commemorative caps. I say it every year on this day, but I’ll always remember what an important role baseball played in the nation’s healing in September and October 2001, and it’s once again nice to remember how this sport continues to help unite us.
Updates to come…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees, Wind 17 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
2B Anthony Rendon
RHP Dan Haren
LF Eric Young Jr.
RF Juan Lagares
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Lucas Duda
3B Josh Satin
CF Matt den Dekker
C Travis d’Arnaud
SS Ruben Tejada
RHP Zack Wheeler
HP James Hoye
1B Jim Reynolds
2B Bob Davidson
3B John Hirschbeck (cc)
7:11 p.m. — After some solemn and touching 9/11 remembrance ceremonies pregame, we are underway with Denard Span at the plate facing Zack Wheeler. … And on Wheeler’s third pitch, Span delivers a single to left field, extending his hitting streak to 22 games.
7:21 p.m. — The good news: After Span singled to extend his streak, Jayson Werth roped yet another rocket of a double to left field, continuing his torrid pace at the plate. Werth is now hitting .330 for the season, not to mention slugging .552. The bad news: The Nats couldn’t score in the top of the first. Bryce Harper, making his first at-bat in five days, struck out mightily at a high, 3-2 fastball from Wheeler. Ian Desmond then whiffed at an 88-mph slider, ending the inning and stranding two men in scoring position.
7:28 p.m. — Nice bottom of the first from Dan Haren, who retired the side on 13 pitches. He struck out Eric Young Jr. on a changeup to get this one started, then got Juan Lagares to fly out to right and Daniel Murphy to tap a dribbler to first, with Haren teaming with Adam LaRoche on a nifty, little 3-1 groundout. Scoreless after one.
7:43 p.m. — Looks like the good Dan Haren has shown up tonight. He’s through two scoreless innings, having retired 6 of 7 batters, striking out three and allowing only one ball to leave the infield. He’s really fooling the Mets lineup with his offspeed stuff so far. Thirty-one total pitches, 20 strikes, for Haren through two.
7:49 p.m. — Meanwhile, Wheeler has found a groove. Since that Werth double in the top of the first, he has retired eight straight batters, four on strikeouts. Nobody has gotten the ball out of the infield since. Still 0-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
7:57 p.m. — Make it three hitless innings for Haren, who has four strikeouts and has really looked sharp. He did get some big help in the bottom of the third from Ryan Zimmerman, who made a really nice diving stop of Ruben Tejada’s smashed grounder. More impressive than the stop, though, was Zim’s on-target bullet of an overhand throw to first that followed. That’s not a throw he makes earlier this season. Further evidence his shoulder is getting better. Scoreless through three.
8:05 p.m. — Here’s an encouraging sign: Bryce Harper just beat out a grounder to third. And not a ball in the hole or down the line. Like, basically a routine grounder. He was fired-up as Jim Reynolds called him safe. That was a 2012-type of play from Harper, a really encouraging sign. Unfortunately, it was wasted. Desmond grounded out with Harper on second and LaRoche struck out to end the inning, leaving the Nats 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position so far tonight.
8:14 p.m. — Well, Haren’s no-hit bid may be over after Juan Lagares led off the fourth with a single to left. But Haren’s shutout remains intact. He now has six strikeouts in four innings and has thrown 57 pitches. Looks really sharp. Still scoreless as we go to the fifth.
8:45 p.m. — Man oh man, is Ryan Zimmerman on some kind of torrid power streak, or what? He just clubbed a solo homer in the top of the sixth, his 22nd of the year but also his seventh in his last nine games. Even more staggering: Zimmerman’s last six hits have all been homers. That’s not easy to do. It’s 1-0 Nats as Haren takes the mound for the bottom of the sixth, hoping to keep cruising along.
8:54 p.m. — Make it six scoreless, 1-hit, 8-strikeout innings for Haren, who has been getting a ton of swings and misses tonight. He’s at 86 pitches (59 strikes) and looks good for at least one more inning, with the Nats still leading 1-0 as we move to the seventh.
8:57 p.m. — Er, I take that back. Steve Lombardozzi just pinch-hit for Haren in the top of the seventh. So that’s it for him. Interesting.
9:09 p.m. — The Nats have eight hits in seven innings against Wheeler tonight. But they only have one run, on Zim’s homer. They’re 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, reverting back to an old and disturbing trend. So it remains 1-0 at the stretch as Xavier Cedeno makes a rare entrance from the bullpen to pitch in a really big spot.
9:20 p.m. — And Cedeno proceeds to strike out Murphy on three pitches and get Duda to fly out to right. Guess Davey’s genius switch is in the “on” position tonight. We go to the eighth, still 1-0.
9:32 p.m. — The Nats finally get a hit with a man in scoring position, and it’s a biggie. Anthony Rendon roped a 2-out, 2-run double off the wall in left-center, scoring Desmond and an exhausted LaRoche to give the Nats a 3-0 lead as Tyler Clippard enters for the bottom of the eighth.
9:41 p.m. — Another 1-2-3 eighth inning for Clippard, though it did include a deep flyout to the warning track in right by Mike Baxter. The Nats are 3 outs away from their fifth straight win.
9:53 p.m. — We go to the bottom of the ninth. Rafael Soriano is on in search of his 41st save. Also, Zach Walters has replaced Ryan Zimmerman at third base. That’s odd.
10:00 p.m. — That’ll do it. Soriano finishes off a 3-0 victory, the Nats’ fifth straight. They’ve won 22 of their last 31 to improve to 76-69. But with the Reds’ win earlier, they remain 6 games back with only 17 to play now.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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