May 2, 2014, 3:41 PM EST
PHILADELPHIA — Hello from Citizens Bank Park, where tonight the Nationals open a three-game weekend series against the Phillies, with a star-studded pitching matchup on tap: Stephen Strasburg vs. Cliff Lee.
Strasburg returns to the scene of his worst moment in baseball: The mound where his elbow blew out in 2010, requiring Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t pitched much here (two career starts, including that fateful one four years ago) but he has pitched quite well here (one earned run in 10 1/3 innings).
Lee, meanwhile, poses a real challenge for a Nationals lineup missing Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos. Lee has had success against the franchise that drafted him way back in 2000 (2.87 ERA in 11 career starts) but the Nats have beaten him four times in the last three seasons.
Plenty of updates to come, so please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 869, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 65 degrees, Wind 11 mph LF to RF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Tyler Moore
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF Ben Revere
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
RF Marlon Byrd
LF Domonic Brown
C Carlos Ruiz
3B Cody Asche
LHP Cliff Lee
HP Jim Reynolds
1B Manny Gonzalez
2B Sean Barber
3B Fieldin Culbreth (cc)
7:07 p.m. — And we’re underway on a very nice Friday night in Philadelphia. Cliff Lee greets Denard Span with a fastball for strike one.
7:11 p.m. — A 1-2-3 top of the first for Lee, but both Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth hit the ball hard. Rendon smoked a sharp grounder down the third base line, only to be denied by Cody Asche. Werth, meanwhile, crushed a ball to the warning track in right-center, just getting under it a touch. So it’s a scoreless top of the first as Stephen Strasburg now takes the mound.
7:26 p.m. — There’s a strong wind blowing left-to-right tonight, and we just saw the effect it could have on this game. With two out and two on, Werth had to run a long way to make a play on Marlon Byrd’s long foul ball to right. The ball bounced off Werth’s glove, and that error proved costly because Byrd then crushed Strasburg’s 2-2 fastball into the jet stream and over the right field wall to put the Phillies up 3-0. Get this: 27 percent of the runs Strasburg has allowed this season (6 of 22) now have been unearned.
7:39 p.m. — Strasburg got back on track in the bottom of the second, needing only five pitches to retire the bottom of the Phillies’ lineup. But with Lee cruising along so far (he has retired all six batters faced), there’s really no more margin for error for Strasburg and the Nats the rest of the night. Still 3-0 after two.
7:47 p.m. — If you were wondering why Tyler Moore was starting tonight instead of Kevin Frandsen, it’s because he was 4-for-9 with three doubles and a homer in his career against Cliff Lee. Er, make that 5-for-10 with three doubles and TWO homers after Moore crushed one to left field in the top of the third. So the Nats trim the lead to 3-1.
8:08 p.m. — Lee entered tonight with only four walks in 41 innings, but he wound up giving free passes to two of the first 12 batters he faced tonight. Including Strasburg on four pitches! His latest walk was to Werth leading off the fourth, but the Nats couldn’t take advantage of it. LaRoche has struck out twice tonight and he does not appear pleased with Jim Reynolds’ strike zone. Still 3-1, middle of the fourth.
8:17 p.m. — He hasn’t been completely sharp, but Strasburg hasn’t given up a run since the Byrd homer in the first. He’s at 56 pitches (39 strikes) through four, keeping this a 3-1 deficit.
8:30 p.m. — Well, things just got really interesting in the top of the fifth. With one out and two on, Span was looking down and trying to call time when Lee fired a high-and-tight fastball right past him. Span paused and looked at the mound, eventually shrugging his shoulders and saying to Lee: “Come on, man.” Span wound up driving in a run with a groundball to second, then as he trotted back toward the dugout, Lee said something to him. Span stopped, turned around and started saying something back, at which point both benches and bullpens emptied. Nothing really happened, but everyone exchanged pleasantries for a minute or so until bullpen coach Matt LeCroy finally reached the infield, at which point he turned around and headed back with everyone else. So after all that, the Nats trail 3-2 in the middle of the fifth.
8:51 p.m. — Strasburg hasn’t given up anything since that first inning homer. He’s through six innings at 83 pitches, having kept this a 3-2 game. Now he needs his teammates to scratch out another run or two off Lee.
9:02 p.m. — With two outs and the tying runner on second base in the top of the seventh, Matt Williams had no choice but to pinch-hit for Strasburg. Up stepped former Phillie Kevin Frandsen, who flied out to right to end the inning and leave Strasburg in line for the loss. His final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 83 pitches, 57 strikes. It’s still 3-2 Phillies at the stretch.
9:14 p.m. — John Mayberry Jr., son of a big leaguer with the same name, just pinch-hit for Tony Gwynn Jr., son of a big leaguer with the same name. Somebody call the Elias Sports Bureau and find out if this has ever happened before!
9:45 p.m. — And the Nats have rallied against another team’s bullpen yet again. They scored twice off Mike Adams and Jake Diekman in the top of the eighth, taking a 5-3 lead. Span got it started with a double, then stole third. That set up Rendon’s latest clutch hit (giving him 21 RBI for the season). After Werth singled, LaRoche delivered his latest clutch hit, off a lefty. The Nats entered this game with a collective .828 OPS against relievers, which is really good. And that number only went up tonight. Impressive.
9:58 p.m. — With a 2-run lead and a bunch of feared left-handed hitters up, Tyler Clippard got the ball for the bottom of the eighth. I think it’s fair to question that. At some point, hasn’t Drew Storen earned the eighth inning job? Or, with the lefties up, how about Ross Detwiler? Isn’t his job supposed to be to get tough left-handed hitters out? Well, Clippard put himself in a jam, with a leadoff walk followed by a single. But props to him, because he got himself out of it. He got Howard to pop up, struck out Byrd on a high changeup and then struck out Brown on a fastball. It remains a 5-3 Nats lead heading to the ninth.
10:08 p.m. — To the bottom of the ninth we go. Here’s Rafael Soriano, who as you know enters tonight with 22 consecutive scoreless innings.
10:18 p.m. — Ballgame. Nats win 5-3, their ninth come-from-behind win this season. Blevins gets the win. Soriano gets the save and extends his scoreless streak to 23 innings.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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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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