Jun 17, 2014, 3:23 PM EDT
It’s been some time since we last saw the Nationals on the friendly confines of South Capitol Street. They left town 12 days ago, starting to get hot, then they got really hot on the West Coast, then they got really cold over the weekend in St. Louis. What team should we expect tonight taking the field against the Astros in the opener of a two-game, interleague series before the Braves come to town for a huge, four-game set?
This much you should know: The Nats can’t take the Astros lightly. Despite their standing at the bottom of the AL West, Bo Porter’s up-and-coming club has won 15 of 22 and has some serious young talent, led by right fielder George Springer. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who takes the mound tonight, is 6-1 with a 1.33 ERA over his last seven starts.
Tanner Roark, who has been quite good himself, starts for the Nationals. He’ll have the regulars behind him in the field, including Ryan Zimmerman back in left field after a one-game stint at first base on Sunday.
Lots of updates to come from a sweltering Nationals Park, so please check back often…
HOUSTON ASTROS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 91 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Ryan Zimmerman
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Tanner Roark
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Jose Altuve
RF George Springer
1B Jon Singleton
C Jason Castro
3B Matt Dominguez
SS Jonathan Villar
LF Robbie Grossman
LHP Dallas Keuchel
HP Paul Nauert
1B Larry Vanover (cc)
2B Angel Hernandez
3B Adrian Johnson
7:06 p.m. — And we’re underway on a steamy Tuesday night at Nationals Park. Tanner Roark’s first pitch was 90 mph. The gametime temperature was 92 degrees.
7:18 p.m. — It turned into a bit of a laborious top of the first for Roark, who needed 22 pitches to face only four batters. Two of them singled: Dexter Fowler and George Springer. But Roark was helped out by Jose Altuve’s bouncer to second base, with Danny Espinosa applying the tag on Fowler and then throwing to first to complete the double play. Roark also struck out the imposing Jon Singleton to end the inning and bring the Nats to the plate.
7:38 p.m. — So much for the Nats’ offensive woes coming home with them. They just pounced on Dallas Keuchel for two runs in the bottom of the first, with four of the evening’s first five batters reaching safely. That included Denard Span snapping an 0-for-18 slump with an infield single that traveled more distance up in the air than it down out away from the plate. It included an Anthony Rendon RBI double and a follow-up RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman (who had been 3 for his last 27). Truth be told, this actually felt like a missed opportunity for the Nats. They still had runners on second and third with one out and a chance to really pile on, but Ian Desmond struck out swinging and Danny Espinosa struck out looking at a borderline pitch on the outside corner. Nevertheless, they’ll happily take a 2-0 lead after one.
7:51 p.m. — Things have settled down since that first inning, with both pitchers retiring the side in the second. Roark has a pair of strikeouts already.
8:00 p.m. — A really nice double play by Desmond to end the top of the third. He went up the middle and made a tough, backhand stab on a tough hop, then reversed course to step on second and throw to first. Not a whole lot has been made of it, but Ian has been really good in the field for awhile now. He’s currently on a 17-game errorless streak. Still 2-0 Nats heading to the bottom of the third.
8:12 p.m. — And here come the Nats again in the bottom of the third. Zimmerman laced his second RBI double in as many at-bats, one to each gap, scoring Werth from first. Desmond then singled to left, with Zim racing around to barely beat the throw home. Bob Henley has been really aggressive sending runners around third tonight, and so far it’s paying off. The Nats lead 4-0 after three.
8:33 p.m. — Another laborious inning for Roark, and this time he got burned. But only a little bit. Despite loading the bases with nobody out, he limited the damage to just one run. Old pal Pat Listach might have helped out a bit with his overly conservative approach at third base. He had a couple opportunities to send runners — including a shallow fly ball to Zim in left field — and elected not to. So it’s 4-1 Nats, but Roark has been all over the place and has thrown a whopping 77 pitches through only four innings.
8:56 p.m. — Well, this won’t go down as Roark’s finest night. He threw 94 pitches over five innings, allowing seven hits and two walks. But somehow he allowed only one run. That’ll probably be it for him, with Craig Stammen warming in the pen as we speak. Still 4-1 Nats, middle of the fifth.
9:08 p.m. — That indeed is it for Roark. His final line: 5 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 95 pitches, 55 strikes. Stammen enters for the sixth, the Nats still leading 4-1.
9:44 p.m. — Chase here taking over for Zuck as he puts together his game story. The sixth inning featured two insurance runs for the Nats on a Rendon double with one out. Scott Hairston walked and Span singled to put two men on before Rendon smacked a double to left field to put the Nats up 6-1. Drew Storen will now take over in the seventh.
9:46 p.m. — Not much to report in the seventh inning. Storen did allow a double to Altuve and Springer reached on a Rendon throwing error. It’s still 6-1, though, as they came away with no runs. The Nats then went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the inning. Tyler Clippard will pitch next.
10:40 p.m. — Okay, so now we have a game again. The Astros struck for four runs off Clippard in the top of the eighth to make it a 6-5 game. Villar and Fowler each had RBI singles and Altuve doubled to left field to score two more. It was Altuve’s fourth hit of the evening. Rafael Soriano will now pitch the ninth looking to preserve a 1-run lead and secure his 14th save of the season.
10:49 p.m. — Soriano gave up a walk to Castro, but no runs. Nats hold on to win 6-5 and move to 36-33 on the year.
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. Click here for past audio clips.
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