Jun 4, 2014, 3:25 PM EST
And so we officially move beyond Ryan Zimmerman Left Field Debut Day and into Ryan Zimmerman Regular Left Fielder Month. After last night’s successful return following 7 1/2 weeks on the DL, Zim is right back out there again, batting fifth and again starting in left field. Will he actually be tested defensively tonight? We shall see.
Between Zimmerman’s return, Adam LaRoche’s return, Ian Desmond’s power and the resurgence of Denard Span and Anthony Rendon, the Nationals’ lineup has suddenly become quite potent. They’ve hit .313 with and .856 OPS over their last five games, and that stretch even includes their shutout loss to Yu Darvish on Sunday. Tonight they’ll take their hacks against veteran A.J. Burnett.
Stephen Strasburg, meanwhile, is on the mound looking for another strong performance against the Phillies. He has not allowed an earned run in his last 21 innings against them, dating back over three starts.
If you’re coming to the game, bring your umbrella and raincoat. Storms are due to arrive sometime in the 8-9 p.m. range, so there’s a very good chance weather will affect this game in some capacity…
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 9, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 185, MLB.com
Weather: Storms approaching, 84 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Ryan Zimmerman
C Wilson Ramos
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
RHP Stephen Strasburg
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
RF Marlon Byrd
1B Ryan Howard
C Carlos Ruiz
LF Domonic Brown
3B Reid Brignac
CF Ben Revere
RHP A.J. Burnett
HP Ed Hickox
1B Ron Kupla (cc)
2B John Tumpane
3B Mike Everitt
7:08 p.m. — We are underway with a bunt foul by Jimmy Rollins off a Stephen Strasburg fastball. The skies have darkened considerably, the temperature has dropped and rain is headed this way. But it’s not here yet, so for now … play ball!
7:16 p.m. — It’s a 1-2-3 top of the first for Strasburg, though it took 18 pitches and included a brief delay when Rollins and Ryne Sandberg tried to argue the Phillies leadoff man foul-tipped a change-up from Strasburg and shouldn’t have been called out on strikes. Plate umpire Ed Hickox had Strasburg toss him the ball to examine it for any bat markings and apparently couldn’t find any, so the strikeout stood.
7:29 p.m. — The Nats had something going in the bottom of the first against A.J. Burnett, with Anthony Rendon singling and Adam LaRoche drawing a two-out walk. That brought Ryan Zimmerman to the plate to another big ovation. But Burnett was given the outside corner on an 0-2 fastball, so that rally was quickly quashed. Scoreless after one.
7:39 p.m. — A bit of a jam for Strasburg in the top of the second, with men on the corners and two out. But he got Ben Revere to rap a grounder up the middle, and Ian Desmond made a nice play on the ball, then stepping on second for the third out of the inning. Strasburg is at 32 pitches through two scoreless innings.
7:52 p.m. — Three scoreless innings for Strasburg, who has four strikeouts so far, giving him 94 for the season, now tops in the NL. He’s at 42 pitches overall. Oh, and there hasn’t been anything hit to Zimmerman in left field yet.
8:02 p.m. — Another nice piece of hitting by Denard Span in the bottom of the third. He poked a ball down the left-field line, another opposite-field hit for him, and hustled his way to a double. Span is now hitting a stout .391 since May 19. Incredibly, he has raised his batting average 47 points — all the way up to .283 — in 13-plus games. The Nats, though, couldn’t bring him home just now, so this remains a scoreless game through three.
8:10 p.m. — Man, does Strasburg look sharp tonight or what? His changeup has just been filthy, producing four of his six strikeouts through four scoreless innings. That gives Strasburg 96 K’s on the season, most in the majors. Rendon, meanwhile, made an absolutely spectacular play on a hot smash to his right, diving to snag the ball and then firing to first for the final out of the fourth inning. Zimmerman had a nice view of it all from his perch in left field. Still 0-0 here, heading to the bottom of the fourth.
8:29 p.m. — OK, here’s the situation: Bases loaded, one out in the bottom of the fourth, Espinosa at the plate. If ever he was going to shorten his swing and just try to put the ball in play, this was it. Or, you know, he could also launch a 2-run double off the top of the wall in right-center, coming about a foot short of a grand slam. Either or, no real difference, right? Man, what a big hit for Espinosa, giving the Nats the lead. But wait, there was more. Strasburg smoked a base hit up the middle to bring home another run. Then Espinosa (breaking from third) and Span (hustling down the first-base line to prevent a double play) used their speed and instincts to get another run home. It’s 4-0 Nats after four.
8:40 p.m. — And the Phillies get two runs right back in the top of the fifth thanks to three shaky defensive plays. LaRoche was charged with an error when a pickoff throw from Strasburg got away from him. Zimmerman then got his first tough chance in left field when he couldn’t get to Reid Brignac’s drive over his head, then short-hopped the throw back to Desmond, who was way out in shallow left field as the relay man. Then after a diving stop by LaRoche, Strasburg was charged with a tough error when he couldn’t make the running, reaching catch of LaRoche’s throw to first. So after all that, it’s now a 4-2 Nats lead. The good news: This game is official now, in case it starts raining.
8:46 p.m. — And Rendon gets one of the runs right back with a blast to the back of the bullpen in left field. It’s 5-2 Nats as the rain starts falling and this game moves to the sixth.
8:57 p.m. — Make it 10 strikeouts for Strasburg through six innings. He is dialed in tonight.
9:10 p.m. — And the hits keep on coming. Span doubled in a run in the bottom of the sixth. Rendon drove in two more with a single. It’s 8-2, yet A.J. Burnett inexplicably remains in the game for the Phillies. And updating my stat from last night: In their last 27 innings against pitchers NOT named Yu Darvish, the Nats have scored 34 runs. Impressive.
9:27 p.m. — John Mayberry Jr. takes Strasburg deep into the Red Porch, a 2-run shot that makes this an 8-4 game now at the stretch. The rain has really picked up, too, and now the tarp is on the field and both teams have been sent to their clubhouses. They have to wait this out a bit, but they could ultimately just call this game right here and award the Nats the win.
10:27 p.m. — And here’s the announcement: The game will resume at approximately 10:45 p.m.
10:43 p.m. — Well, it’s 10:43 and the tarp is still on the field and nobody has started warming up. So, yeah, this game won’t be resuming in the next 2 minutes.
10:58 p.m. — And now the Nats say this game will resume at approximately 11:15 p.m. At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it.
11:15 p.m. — And we’re back after a 1-hour, 48-minute delay. Justin DeFratus now pitching for the Phillies. The Nats still lead 8-4 in the bottom of the seventh.
11:26 p.m. — A one-out single from Ramos in the bottom of the seventh, but that’s it as Desmond and Espinosa strike out. So we go to the eighth, and it’s Aaron Barret in from the Nats bullpen with a 4-run lead.
11:33 p.m. — Barrett put two men on in the top of the eighth, but he got Brown to ground out and then struck out Brignac. Still 8-4.
11:42 p.m. — To the ninth we go. It’s Jerry Blevins in to close this one out, the Nats leading by 4.
11:55 p.m. — Ballgame. Nats win 8-4. They’ve won 4 of 5. They’re back over .500 at 29-28. They’re 1 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East.
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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