Sep 15, 2013, 11:51 AM EDT
There’s plenty at stake today in the Nationals’ series finale against the Phillies. Jordan Zimmermann is seeking to become the first 18-game winner in the NL this season. Denard Span is seeking to extend his career-long hitting streak to 26 games. And Wilson Ramos is starting his 23rd straight game, most by any big-league catcher this season.
Of course, more important than any of those individual accomplishments is the actual game, which the Nationals absolutely must win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They dropped a game in the standings last night and now sit 5 1/2 behind the Reds with only 14 to play. At this point, they can’t afford to fall any farther back. Realistically, they can’t afford not to gain any ground, either.
Updates to come from Nationals Park on a glorious Sunday afternoon, so please check back…
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Partly cloudy, 76 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
2B Steve Lombardozzi
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
CF Roger Bernadina
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
LF Domonic Brown
RF Darin Ruf
3B Cody Asche
1B Kevin Frandsen
C Erik Kratz
RHP Tyler Cloyd
HP Jeff Nelson
1B Jim Wolf
2B Ed Hickox
3B Jim Joyce
1:37 p.m. — We are underway on an absolutely spectacular Sunday afternoon in the District. Roger Bernadina gets a nice ovation (and a few shark chomps) from the crowd as he steps in for his first at-bat at Nationals Park as a member of the Phillies.
1:42 p.m. — And that’s a nice-and-tidy, 1-2-3 top of the first for Zimmermann. He struck out Bernadina on four pitches, then got Jimmy Rollins to fly out and Chase Utley to ground out. Thirteen pitches for Jordan to get this one started.
1:52 p.m. — Tyler Cloyd also pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, though the Nats struck the ball far better against him. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth each just got under pitches and drove flyballs to the warning track. Denard Span also made solid contact on a lineout to left. Still, though, it’s scoreless after one.
2:02 p.m. — A rough top of the second for Zimmermann, who loaded the bases on a double, hit-by-pitch and infield single. Kevin Frandsen lofted a flyball to medium left field, deep enough to score Domonic Brown, though Bryce Harper tried to gun him down anyway. The throw was pretty good, but it ricocheted off Brown, and probably wouldn’t have beat him anyway. That allowed the trailing runner to advance to third, which could have proved costly if not for Zimmermann pitching his way out of the jam. So it’s 1-0 Phillies in the second.
2:11 p.m. — But the Nats storm right back to tie the game. Harper led off the bottom of the second with a double to right, then took third on Ian Desmond’s flyout to deep center. Up stepped the Iron Horse himself, aka Wilson Ramos, who delivered a base hit to left to bring Harper home. That’s Ramos’ 45th RBI in 54 games since returning from the DL in July. For perspective’s sake, that’s the equivalent of 135 RBI over 162 games. Pretty staggering when you think about it. 1-1 after two.
2:19 p.m. — Now the Phillies come right back and re-take the lead in the top of the third. Bernadina led off with a double into the left-field corner, though Harper made it interesting and nearly threw out the Shark at second base. A couple of groundballs to the right side later, Bernadina scored to make it 2-1 Phillies.
2:25 p.m. — There’s a solid base hit up the middle for Span. The hit streak is now at 26 games. Nice ovation from the crowd to recognize Denard’s accomplishment.
2:49 p.m. — Several Nats hitters just missed taking Cloyd deep in the first few innings, and though they still haven’t gotten one over the fence, they’re certainly making really good contact off him. Harper and Desmond hit back-to-back doubles to open the fourth, with Desmond’s just coming short of a 2-run homer. No worries, because Ramos delivered another RBI single (his 46th in 54 games since coming off the DL) and Zimmermann helped his own cause with a 2-out RBI single to right. It’s 4-2 Nats after four.
3:15 p.m. — And the hits keep on coming for the Nats. Zimmerman and Werth opened the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles, the latter scoring Zim and knocking Cloyd out of the game after allowing five runs and 10 hits in 4-plus innings. So make it 5-2 after five. In other news, the Reds currently lead the Brewers 4-0 in the fourth.
3:28 p.m. — Sweet Fancy Moses! Or, more appropriately, Sweet Fancy Buffalo! Ramos just homered. He’s 3-for-3 with 3 RBI today, giving him 47 in 54 games since he came off the DL. Oh yeah, did we mention he’s starting his 23rd straight game today? Man oh man, what a performance. It’s 6-2 Nats after six.
3:39 p.m. — Meanwhile, Zimmermann just cruises along. He’s completed 7 innings and hasn’t been scored upon since the third. It’s 6-2 at the stretch as the bullpen begins to stir.
4:13 p.m. — I mean, seriously, Wilson. I’m running out of ways to compliment you! Another two-run single for Ramos in the seventh, giving him four hits and five RBI on the afternoon (and 49 RBI in 54 games since coming off the DL). And he was far from the only member of the Nats lineup to cause damage in the bottom of the seventh. They scored five runs, batted around and now lead 11-2.
4:22 p.m. — Wholesale changes for the Nats in the top of the eighth. I won’t bother with all of them, except to say Xavier Cedeno retired the side. So it’s still 11-2 as we go to the bottom of the inning.
4:40 p.m. — That’s it. Nats win 11-2. They just completed a 14-5 stretch against the Phillies, Mets and Marlins. But now they have to play the Braves, who will have a chance to clinch the NL East title while they’re in town. The Reds, meanwhile, lead 5-2 in the eighth, so barring a Brewers rally, the deficit will remain 5 1/2 games with 14 to play.
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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)...
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