Sep 20, 2013, 3:28 PM EDT
Well, we’ve reached the final stretch, the Nationals’ last hope of pulling off a miraculous, late-season surge into the postseason. There are nine games to go. They trail the Reds by five games in the NL Wild Card standings, the Pirates by six games. Everybody plays the same number of games the rest of the way, on the same days.
And two things have to happen for the Nats to do this: 1) They have to win almost every single night, and 2) Either the Reds or Pirates have to lose a bunch of games, likely to the other. Cincinnati opens a 3-game series at PNC Park tonight, and if you’re a Nationals fan, your best bet is to root for a Pirates sweep. However, if the Reds were to win the first couple of games, your allegiance would need to flip over to Cincinnati. (I know, it’s a bit complicated.)
First things first. The Nationals need to beat the Marlins again. They’re 7-0 against them at home this season, and they’ll probably need to make it 10-0 to have a realistic shot at this thing. So it’s up to Jordan Zimmermann tonight to keep the momentum going, and perhaps earn his league-leading 19th win in the process.
Updates to come, so please check back…
MIAMI MARLINS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Clear, 75 degrees, Wind 9 mph RF to LF
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 Jordan Zimmermann
RHP Jacob Turner
HP Brian O’Nora
1B Fieldin Culbreth
2B Adrian Johnson
3B Bill Welke
7:05 p.m. — We are underway on a gorgeous Friday night in the District. The Nationals have a new patch on their jerseys, which they’ll wear for the rest of the season. It’s a navy blue circle on the upper left chest, with gold lettering that reads: “Navy Yard, 9.16.13″ underneath the curly W logo. Nice touch.
7:09 p.m. — Wow, what a first inning for Jordan Zimmermann. He retired the side on nine pitches, eight of them strikes. He struck out both Chris Coghlan and Giancarlo Stanton, the latter on three pitches. Impressive.
7:21 p.m. — If Zimmermann’s first inning was impressive, what was his second inning? Holy moly, he just struck out the side, giving him five consecutive strikeouts. He’s retired all six batters he’s faced, and he’s combining a 95 mph fastball with a nasty, upper-80s slider so far. Dominant stuff from the right-hander. Scoreless as we go to the bottom of the second.
7:29 p.m. — Uh, what exactly was Wilson Ramos thinking when, after singling to center with two outs in the bottom of the second, he tried to take second base behind the throw to third? Adam LaRoche certainly didn’t know what Ramos was thinking, because he gave his teammate the stink eye after Ramos was easily thrown out, killing a potential rally. Weird. Still scoreless after two.
7:35 p.m. — Make it 9 up and 9 down for Zimmermann, who has six strikeouts and hasn’t let a ball leave the infield yet. He’s thrown 27-of-36 pitches for strikes. He’s efficient, he’s filthy and he’s dominant so far.
7:55 p.m. — Well, the Marlins did get a baserunner against Zimmermann in the fourth when Giancarlo Stanton drew a two-out walk. But Zimmermann has yet to allow a hit. And he’s now got eight strikeouts through four scoreless innings. He. Is. On.
8:03 p.m. — Not to be overlooked, Jacob Turner is dealing for the Marlins. He’s through four scoreless innings, having scattered three hits and a walk. Still 0-0 here.
8:10 p.m. — Make it five hitless innings for Zimmermann, who got an assist from Anthony Rendon in the top of the fifth. Rendon went to his right to make a nice, sliding play on Ed Lucas’ sharp grounder. Zimmermann is now at 67 pitches, 49 strikes. Still 0-0.
8:21 p.m. — Well, there goes the no-hitter. Donovan Solano, aka “The Shallot” lined a clean single over Desmond’s head with two outs in the sixth for the Marlins’ first base hit of the night off Zimmermann. That’s all they got, though, as Jordan continues to cruise. Now, if the Nats could just score, you know, a run.
8:51 p.m. — Well that kind of escalated quickly. Really quickly. The Nats just scored — yes, SEVEN — runs in the bottom of the sixth, turning what had been a scoreless game into a blowout. They sent 11 men to the plate, notched seven hits and a walk, got RBIs from Werth, Harper, Ramos, Rendon and Span and basically made mincemeat of the previously untouchable Jacob Turner and reliever Chris Hatcher. It’s now 7-0 as Zimmermann takes the mound for the top of the seventh, with just a bit of a cushion to work with.
9:12 p.m. — Make it 8-0 as the Nats keep piling on and Zimmermann keeps chugging along. Meanwhile, Jayson Werth has been pulled after the seventh, with Corey Brown taking over in right field.
9:20 p.m. — We go to the ninth, and Zimmermann will take the mound seeking his second career, 1-hit shutout.
9:28 p.m. — That it. Zimmermann goes the distance and the Nats win 8-0. The Reds trail 5-2 in Pittsburgh. The deficit is 4 1/2 for now, but it could be 4 shortly.
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com.
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