Sep 12, 2013, 10:50 AM EDT
NEW YORK — Here’s a sentence that features all kinds of outrageous elements: The Washington Nationals today will be trying to sweep a four-game series on the road, earn their sixth straight win and their 23rd in their last 32 games, with Tanner Roark on the mound trying to improve to 6-0 in his career. Stop and think about all that for a moment. Wow.
Such is the situation the Nationals face today, and they’re happy to be considering all of it. Roark has been a huge, pleasant surprise and today makes his second big-league start, trying somehow to maintain his sparkling 0.94 ERA. Does the 26-year-old right-hander have a real future in this team’s rotation? That’s still to be determined, but every game he pitches like he has, he certainly makes a stronger case for himself.
Veteran Aaron Harang, a bust in Seattle this season who just signed a minor-league deal with the Mets a couple weeks ago, will be opposing a Nationals lineup that has hit .290 and scored an average of 5.3 runs over the last 31 games. The Reds are off today, so a win would move the Nats to within 5 1/2 games of the final Wild Card berth with 16 to go.
Updates to come, please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Rain late, 82 degrees, Wind 11 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 Tanner Roark
LF Eric Young Jr.
CF Juan Lagares
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Lucas Duda
3B Josh Satin
RF Mike Baxter
C Anthony Recker
SS Ruben Tejada
RHP Aaron Harang
HP Jim Reynolds
1B Bob Davidson
2B John Hirschbeck (cc)
3B James Hoye
1:10 p.m. — We are underway on a gray afternoon here in Queens. It’s Flushing Day at the ballpark. Insert your own joke here.
1:17 p.m. — Sweet Fancy Moses, Ryan Zimmerman did it again. He’s got eight homers in his last 10 games. This one was a bomb to center field, a solo shot that gives the Nats an early 1-0 lead.
1:30 p.m. — But Tanner Roark gives the run right back in the bottom of the first on a single by Eric Young Jr., a sacrifice bunt by Juan Lagares and an RBI double by Daniel Murphy. Jayson Werth did have a chance to cut the ball off in right field, but he couldn’t quite get there in time, so that allowed the run to score. So it’s 1-1 after one, and there’s worse news: We’re now in a rain delay. Begging the question: Why did they start this game on time if they knew there was foul weather nearby?
2:10 p.m. — They’ve announced the game will resume at 2:20 p.m., but I’ll believe it when I see it. There’s a ton of water on the warning track in front of the Nationals’ dugout, and there’s nowhere for it to go. The grounds crew is just pushing it around, but there’s no drain.
2:26 p.m. — Well, play ball! Just hope nobody has to make a catch along the third-base railing, cause it’s still a moat down there.
2:32 p.m. — Adam LaRoche, ladies and gentlemen. He launched a drive off the top of the wall in left-center, which was originally ruled a double by John Hirschbeck but upon review was correctly changed to a home run. That’s LaRoche’s 20th homer of the season and the 11th hit by the Nationals in 29 innings played so far in this series. The Mets have hit zero. Nats lead 2-1 in the second.
2:41 p.m. — Roark, meanwhile, returned despite the near-hourlong delay and showed no ill effects. He retired the side in the bottom of the second, striking out Anthony Recker.
3:01 p.m. — Roark through three innings now, having allowed only those two early hits in the bottom of the first. He’s bounced back well from the rain delay. We’ll see how long Davey lets him go, though. He’s at 38 pitches. Still 2-1 Nats as we go to the fourth.
3:23 p.m. — We’ve got a tie game again after the Mets strung together three hits in the bottom of the fourth. Bryce Harper did help matters by throwing out the trailing runner at third as Duda scored ahead of him. But it’s 2-2 as we go to the fifth.
3:31 p.m. — And the Nats retake the lead as Wilson Ramos launches his 13th homer of the season and the 12th by the Nationals in this series. (The Mets still have zero.) I wrote before the game about Ramos starting his 20th straight game today and his plan to start at least 23 straight. All the work doesn’t appear to be affecting his ability to hit for power. It’s 3-2 Nats now.
3:46 p.m. — Um, Aaron Harang has struck out 10 Nats batters in six innings today. That’s a bit surprising.
3:55 p.m. — Just another impressive outing by Roark, who has completed six innings of 2-run ball on 78 pitches. There’s some action in the bullpen, so that may be it for him today. If so, he’s in line for the win, which would make him 6-0 in his career.
4:04 p.m. — There’s a big insurance run for the Nats bullpen. LaRoche led off the seventh by nearly clubbing another homer, but settled instead for a double off the wall. He wound up scoring on Rendon’s sac fly. So it’s 4-2 now as Craig Stammen enters for the bottom of the seventh. I’m curious to see how Davey uses his bullpen to finish this one out, given how much Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano have pitched lately.
4:18 p.m. — Stammen got himself into trouble in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on second and third with two outs. With the count full against Lagares, he was one bad pitch away from turning this into a tie game. But Stammen reached back and fired a 93 mph fastball to strike out Lagares and quash the threat, a big-time out from the right-hander. So it remains a 4-2 Nats lead as we move to the eighth.
4:33 p.m. — Lots happening in the top of the eighth. Denard Span, in likely his last chance to extend his hitting streak, roped a hustle double to right-center, so the streak now stands at 23 games. That’s the second-longest in Nats history, behind only Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game streak in 2009. So, appropriately enough, Zim doubled home Span just now. Werth then was plunked by Frank Francisco and had some words for the right-hander. Though not nearly as many as the New Yawker sitting in front of the press box, who yelled out “Be a professional, you baby! Walk to first base!” among other things. Meanwhile, Harper wound up breaking up a double play at second base, and that allowed Zimmerman to score. So it’s now 6-2 as we go to the bottom of the eighth.
4:49 p.m. — Unbelievable. The Nats hit another homer. Anthony Rendon did it this time, giving the Nats 13 homers in this series. The Mets still don’t have one. It’s 7-2 in the ninth.
5:02 p.m. — That’s it. Nats win, 7-2. They sweep the four-game series. They’ve won six in a row overall and 23 of 32. With the Reds off today, they head home 5 1/2 games back with 16 to play.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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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.
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