Apr 20, 2014, 10:21 AM EST
It’s a new day at Nationals Park, which means Bryce Harper is out of the doghouse and back into the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see what the fan reaction is when his name is announced and when he steps to the plate for the first time in the bottom of the first. It’ll also be interesting, of course, to see how hard Harper runs out of the box the first time he makes contact this afternoon.
Beyond that juicy storyline, the Nationals also need to win today to salvage a four-game series split with the Cardinals. They’ve got Stephen Strasburg on the mound, coming off a terrible start in Miami and hoping to get himself back on track. St. Louis gives the ball to young Shelby Miller.
Plenty of updates to come…
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS VS. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside D.C. market), MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 185, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 62 degrees, Wind 12 mph in from RF
CF Denard Span
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Anthony Rendon
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg
3B Matt Carpenter
RF Jon Jay
LF Allen Craig
1B Matt Adams
C Yadier Molina
SS Jhonny Peralta
2B Mark Ellis
CF Peter Bourjos
RHP Shelby Miller
HP Greg Gibson
1B Bill Miller (cc)
2B Vic Carapazza
3B Adam Hamari
1:37 p.m. — And we are underway on a deceptively chilly Sunday afternoon. It’s 58 degrees as Stephen Strasburg fires strike one to Matt Carpenter, but with the wind blowing in, it feels much, much colder. At least up here in the mile-high press box, that is.
1:42 p.m. — Wow, no first inning issues for Strasburg today. He threw six straight strikes to start his afternoon and finished with 12 of 14 pitches for strikes overall. He struck out Carpenter and Allen Craig on curveballs and mixed in a couple of devastating changeups along the way. Impressive way to get this one underway.
1:49 p.m. — A 1-2-3 bottom of the first for Shelby Miller, including a grounder to short off Bryce Harper’s bat. Harper, for what it’s worth, busted down the line and actually came close to beating it out. Scoreless after one.
1:59 p.m. — The Cardinals get a run off Strasburg in the second, thanks to a leadoff double by Matt Adams and a subsequent single to right by Yadier Molina. The Nats, though, were happy to give up the run in exchange for a 6-4-3 double play off Jhonny Peralta’s bat. So Strasburg trails 1-0, but it could’ve been worse.
2:16 p.m. — Strasburg gets back to business in the top of the third, retiring the side. He has four strikeouts so far through three, with the Nats still trailing 1-0.
2:35 p.m. — The Nats had a rally going in the bottom of the third, started by (of all people) Strasburg, who battled through a great at-bat and wound up drawing a walk. The crowd showed its appreciation for that effort. Harper also worked to a full count before walking, and Werth then reached on four straight balls. But with the bases loaded and two out, LaRoche whiffed mightily at a 96 mph fastball, losing his bat in the process. The bat hit the backstop on the fly. So, nothing doing for the Nats, who still trail 1-0 after three.
2:43 p.m. — Some more absolutely filthy changeups from Strasburg in the top of the fourth, producing a couple more strikeouts. He’s got six Ks through four innings now and has been cruising. His teammates, of course, will need to get something going to give him a lead at some point.
2:55 p.m. — Strasburg struck out with two on and two out in the fourth, but it was another impressive at-bat from the pitcher. The Nats collectively had battled against Miller, making him throw 77 pitches in only four innings. It hasn’t paid off yet, but it should help eventually. Still 1-0 after four.
3:08 p.m. — The good news: Strasburg struck out the side in the fifth, giving him nine for the afternoon. The bad news: He also walked No. 8 hitter Peter Bourjos, then served up an RBI double to Miller, the opposing pitcher. Shows you what happens when you ease off the gas pedal for even just a moment. So now the Nats trail 2-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
3:29 p.m. — This hasn’t exactly been a banner weekend in right field for Jayson Werth, who just looked mighty awkward trying to make a tough catch on a line drive over his head. It’s not necessarily Werth not making the catch, but the way he looked trying to make it. This has been more of a recurring theme than the Nats would like. Meanwhile, Strasburg is at 90 pitches through six innings, but with the Nats trailing 2-0 and the pitcher’s spot due up fourth, that might be it for him. Craig Stammen has begun warming in the pen.
3:47 p.m. — Well, there was the Nats’ best chance of the day. They had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the sixth, with Span and Harper up. Mike Matheny, though, had Randy Choate at his disposal, and the savvy left-hander managed to induce groundballs out of both hitters. That would be the argument against having Harper hit second behind Span. It only encourages an opposing manager to bring in lefties and create tough matchups in big spot. Still 2-0 Cards in the seventh.
4:05 p.m. — I take it back. The Nats gave themselves an even better chance in the bottom of the seventh. And this time, they delivered with four straight singles off Carlos Martinez. LaRoche, Rendon, Desmond and Espinosa all came through, with Espinosa’s RBI single to right tying the game 2-2. Danny is now hitting .303 this season left-handed, a remarkable turnaround for him. Brand new ballgame, tied heading into the eighth now.
4:18 p.m. — I guess that’s why the Nats went out and made the acquisition of Jerry Blevins a priority this winter. He just struck out Matt Adams with two outs and the go-ahead run in scoring position to close out the top of the eighth. Still 2-2 here.
4:37 p.m. — Nice job by Harper in the bottom of the eighth with an opposite-field single off lefty Kevin Siegrist. Then he stole second base, his first steal of the season. Of course that was bound to happen today. But with Harper in scoring position, Rendon had no chance against the sidewinding Pat Neshek. He struck out looking. So it’s on to the ninth in a 2-2 game, with Rafael Soriano in from the Nationals’ bullpen.
4:40 p.m. — Quick work from Soriano in retiring the side. So it’ll be Desmond, Espinosa and Lobaton in the bottom of the ninth againast right-hander Seth Maness.
4:56 p.m. — Nats win. Denard Span drives in Danny Espinosa with a bases loaded sac fly to give them a 3-2, walk-off win.
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 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
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