Jul 6, 2014, 11:37 AM EDT
Matt Williams has had a full, healthy roster for six games now. And aside from one day off for Wilson Ramos, the Nationals manager has used the exact same guys in his lineup for all six games. Hey, there’s something to be said for continuity, especially when your team has won four of the first five games in this stretch while scoring more than six runs per game.
That lineup will face a challenge today, however, in the form of Jake Arrieta. Yes, the one-time Orioles washout has been lights-out for the Cubs, going 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA in 11 starts overall and carrying no-hitters into the seventh inning each of his last two outings.
Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball for the Nats, who are trying to avoid losing a series for the first time since that 3-game sweep in St. Louis three weeks ago.
I’m back at the ballpark and will have plenty of updates, plus news on the Nationals’ All-Star selection (or selections) later today…
CHICAGO CUBS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 185, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 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 Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
LF Ryan Sweeney
CF Justin Ruggiano
1B Anthony Rizzo
SS Starlin Castro
3B Luis Valbuena
RF Nate Schierholtz
C John Baker
2B Darwin Barney
RHP Jake Arrieta
HP Mike Everitt
1B Paul Schrieber
2B Ted Barrett (cc)
3B Will Little
1:36p.m. — We are underway. Jordan Zimmermann fires strike one to Ryan Sweeney.
1:45 p.m. — A 1-out double to left-center by Justin Ruggiano, but that’s all Zimmermann allowed in the top of the first. He got a pair of lazy flyballs to right field and then a popup to second to end the 20-pitch inning.
1:57 p.m. — How about manufacturing the game’s first run? The Nats did it flawlessly in the bottom of the first, thanks in large part to Denard Span’s 27th double of the season, this one aided in part by Ruggiano’s circuitous route in center field. Then came the productive outs: Anthony Rendon grounded to the right side to move Span up, Jayson Werth (after a horrible-looking swing for striketwo) then smoked a grounder to the left side that brought Span home and gave the Nats a 1-0 lead after one.
2:17 p.m. — Bryce Harper’s swing still isn’t quite back on track. After flying out to center to lead off the second, he’s now 4-for-19 since returning from the DL. He’ll get there, but he’s not there yet. Which explains in large part why he’s batting sixth right now. Still 1-0 Nats after two.
2:30 p.m. — Kind of a strange top of the third just now. Certainly, it wasn’t a banner half-inning for anyone who is a fan of decisive calls by umpires. The crew made two decidedly indecisive calls in a span of minutes. First base umpire Paul Schrieber had no call of LaRoche’s tag attempt on Sweeney after a wide throw by Rendon. Plate ump Mike Everitt wound up calling Sweeney safe, much to the Nats’ chagrin. LaRoche complained and Matt Williams wound up challenging the play. The call was reversed on replay, which is good from the Nats’ standpoint. But they shouldn’t have been forced to challenge. If the umps obviously weren’t sure themselves, they should initiate the review on their own. Later on, LaRoche snagged a bouncer right up the first-base line. Everitt made no call, but Schrieber did, ruling it fair and thus the third out of the inning. Rick Renterai was upset, (correctly) pointing out that is the plate umpire’s call. Alas, you can’t challenge fair-or-foul calls before they pass the bases. So anyway, after all that, it’s still 1-0 Nats.
2:48 p.m. — The good news: Zimmermann has four scoreless innings in the books. The bad news: He’s already at an uncharacteristic (and whopping) 77 pitches! The Cubs have five hits and a walk against him, and he just hasn’t been as sharp and efficient as usual.
3:06 p.m. — Another inning, another hit allowed by Zimmermann. But another zero on the scoreboard. He’s now at 93 pitches through the top of the fifth, the Nats still leading 1-0, having not been able to solve Arrieta since the first.
3:20 p.m. — The Nats had two on and nobody out in the bottom of the fifth. Faced with a decision, Matt Williams decided to let Zimmermann bat for himself. I’ve got no problem with that … if Zimmermann got the bunt down. Which he didn’t. He fouled it off, striking out. That proved significant, because Span’s subsequent flyball to center only advanced the lead runner to third instead of scoring him. Keep this inning in the back of your mind later, because it could wind up being a really big deal. Still 1-0 Nats after five.
3:28 p.m. — That’ll wrap up a strange afternoon for Zimmermann. He gave up at least one hit in all six innings and threw 105 pitches. But he put up six zeroes. Unconventional, but it worked. Drew Storen warming for the seventh now.
3:39 p.m. — The Nats are now 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position today after Zimmerman and Harper each struck out with Werth standing on second base in the bottom of the sixth. They seem determined to find out if this 1-0 can hold up. We’ll see. Here’s Storen for the top of the seventh.
3:59 p.m. — Well, you remember those chances the Nats had to tack on a run or two? They could really use them right now, because the Cubs just tied the game. Storen gave up a pair of singles and a walk, loading the bases with one out. He got Castro to loft a flyball to shallow center field, giving Span a shot at throwing out Chris Coghlan at the plate. The throw wasn’t perfect, and it certainly could’ve had more on it, but it was on target. Coghlan, though, had a nice slide to avoid the tag, and so we are tied 1-1 at the seventh-inning stretch. That’s only the fourth time Storen has been scored upon in 32 appearances this season.
4:27 p.m. — Now Tyler Clippard gets himself into a jam, putting two on with nobody out in the eighth. The Cubs bunted the runners up, so now the runners were on second and third with one out and Welington Castillo at the plate. Clippard came through with a big 2-2 changeup on the outside corner, with Mike Everitt ringing up Castillo. Castillo clearly didn’t like the call, to which Everitt said: “Hey, what’s your beef, Welington?” (Sorry, I’ve been waiting two years for a situation to come up in which I could use that line. Again, my sincere apologies.) Anyways, Clippard came up big again, getting Sweeney to ground out to escape the jam and keep this a 1-1 game heading to the bottom of the eighth.
4:43 p.m. — And the Nats take the lead. Span notched his second double of the day, his 28th of the season, this time of the “hustle” variety. He then scored on Zimmerman’s two-out RBI single to left. It’s 2-1 and here comes Rafael Soriano for the ninth.
4:49 p.m. — Ballgame. Nats win 2-1. Clippard gets the win. Soriano gets the save. With the Braves’ loss, the Nats move to within 1/2-game in the NL East.
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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