Jul 2, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
If Matt Williams’ grand plan is to move guys around the field and throughout his lineup on a daily basis, he isn’t doing it yet. The Nationals tonight are fielding the same lineup they used the previous two nights with only one exception: Jose Lobaton is catching, with Wilson Ramos getting the night off.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with continuity. And there’s nothing wrong with sticking with what has worked quite well the last two nights. You’ve got to wonder, though, what this says for Danny Espinosa. If he’s not going to get a chance to play on a night in which the Nats are facing a left-hander for the third straight day, and on a night when Doug Fister is pitching and thus infield defense might take priority over offense, when exactly do you think he will get a chance to play?
Anyway, let’s keep things positive here: The Nationals are seeking a series sweep of the Rockies and a 5-game winning streak overall, their ninth win in 12 games. And don’t forget the special, early 6:05 p.m. starting time tonight, with postgame fireworks afterward. Updates to come…
COLORADO ROCKIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 6:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 91 degrees, Wind 10 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
2B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Doug Fister
RF Charlie Blackmon
CF Drew Stubbs
1B Justin Morneau
SS Troy Tulowitzki
LF Corey Dickerson
3B Ryan Wheeler
C Michael McKenry
2B D.J. LeMahieu
LHP Tyler Matzek
HP Rob Drake
1B Alan Porter
2B Joe West (cc)
3B Marty Foster
5:45 p.m. — Uh-oh, the Nats just announced that the start of the game will be delayed. There’s no rain yet, but it’s approaching. It’s also 97 degrees with a heat index of 104 as I type this. Stay tuned for updates.
6:15 p.m. — The game will start at 6:30 p.m., the team announced.
6:35 p.m. — And we’re underway after a 30-minute delay. It never actually rained here, though it did look threatening for a bit. Doug Fister fires strike one to Charlie Blackmon to get this one started.
6:39 p.m. — And that’s a 1-2-3 top of the first for Fister, ending with a bang. Ian Desmond made a fantastic, over-the-shoulder, diving catch of Justin Morneau’s soft liner to shallow left field. Just a great play by Desmond to cap the inning.
6:46 p.m. — D.J. LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki spit on Desmond’s play. My lord, what a 4-6-3 double play they turned in the bottom of the first, with LeMahieu diving to catch the ball going up the middle and flipping to Tulo, who caught the ball barehanded and spun before making a perfect throw to get Anthony Rendon by a half-step. Do yourself a favor and watch the replay of that one later tonight. You won’t see a prettier double play turned all season.
6:59 p.m. — The Rockies suddenly started smoking the ball off Fister in the top of the second, with Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson each singling to open the inning, then Ryan Wheeler smacking a hard line drive to center (though right at Span). The big blast, though, came from backup catcher Michael McKenry, who launched a 3-run homer off the back wall of the left-field bullpen to leave the crowd here stunned. It’s 3-0 Colorado in the middle of the second.
7:12 p.m. — More brilliant defense by the Rockies infield in the bottom of the second. After Ryan Zimmerman drew a leadoff walk, Bryce Harper drilled a grounder toward first base. Morneau made a great snag of it, stepped on first and then threw to second to complete the 3-6 double play. Matt Williams challenged the call, believing Zimmerman slid under the tag, but New York couldn’t find any conclusive evidence to overturn it. So the Nats are still down 3-0 after two.
7:33 p.m. — I think Zimmerman has had nothing but tough plays to make in his 2-plus games since going back to third base. And he’s made them all flawlessly, including a sharp grounder to his right in the top of the fourth that required a nifty pick and then a strong throw to second base for a force out. We still have to see what happens on an old-fashioned routine grounder, but no complaints about how he’s looked over there so far. Still 3-0 Rockies, middle of the fourth.
7:50 p.m. — And just like that, the Nats tie this game back up in the bottom of the fourth. I wrote earlier today how Jayson Werth was hopeful that a foul ball he hit in his first at-bat last night was a sign of good things to come. Well, it was. He just blasted a 2-run homer toward the Red Porch, continuing his torrid couple of nights. After going 42 plate appearances without any extra-base hits, he now has three of them in his last seven plate appearances. In these two games, he’s 4-for-5 with two doubles, the homer, five RBI and two walks. Impressive. Also impressive: Harper, who turned a bloop base hit to shallow left field into a hustle double, then took third on a wild pitch, then scored on Desmond’s RBI single. So it’s 3-3 all of a sudden and Doug Fister has new life.
8:12 p.m. — A couple of nice plays in the outfield in the top of the sixth. Harper came charging in to catch a sinking liner by Tulowitzki. And Span ranged well into left-center to catch up to Wheeler’s line drive. Five in a row retired by Fister. Still 3-3, going to the bottom of the sixth.
8:24 p.m. — Wow, another dazzling play at third base by Zimmerman. This time he dove to his left to snag a hot shot, then threw from his knees across the diamond for the out. Fister, meanwhile, has retired 11 of the last 12 batters he’s faced. Stretch time here, still 3-3.
8:40 p.m. — Triple for Desmond in the bottom of the seventh. No, wait. Make it a homer after the umps in New York reviewed it. The ball did appear to hit off the top of the fence, then ricochet off the railing behind it. So it’s 4-3 Nats as we go to the eighth, and now Matt Williams will pull Zimmerman for defense, moving Rendon to third and inserting Espinosa at second base. Tyler Clippard in from the bullpen as well.
8:50 p.m. — Nice job by Clippard, striking out Tulowitzki on a splitter to end the top of the eighth and protect this 1-run lead. Tyler had a fist pump as he hopped off the mound there. Still 4-3, with the Nats looking for insurance before Rafael Soriano takes the mound.
8:59 p.m. — Here we go, it’s Soriano vs. Dickerson, Wheeler and McKenry in the ninth, with the Nats clinging to a 1-run lead.
9:16 p.m. — Ballgame. Soriano strands the tying runner on third and the Nats win 4-3 to sweep the series and extend their winning streak to 5 games. They’re 8 games over .500 for the first time this season.
NL EAST STANDINGS
Through Saturday's games
NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Saturday's games
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
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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