Jul 28, 2014, 3:30 PM EST
MIAMI — Hello from the one and only (and thank god for that) Marlins Park, where tonight the Nationals open up the final leg of their 3-city road trip, facing a Miami club that has won 7 of its last 8. I have to say I am quite outraged at the moment. Though the accompanying photo doesn’t show it, my press box seat leaves me with an obstructed view of the famed home run thingamabob! Who do I speak to about this travesty?
In actual baseball news, the Nationals send Jordan Zimmermann to the mound, looking for a crisper performance than he had earlier on this road trip in Colorado, his first start after suffering from a strained biceps muscle. We’ll see if the right-hander looks a little more like himself this time.
The Marlins have right-hander Nathan Eovaldi pitching, but Matt Williams will stay with Danny Espinosa as his second baseman, one day after Espinosa picked up a hit off a righty in Cincinnati. Otherwise, it’s the standard lineup for the Nats.
Plenty of updates to come, so please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MIAMI MARLINS
Where: Marlins Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 869, MLB.com
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
C Wilson Ramos
2B Danny Espinosa
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
LF Christian Yelich
2B Jordany Valdespin
RF Giancarlo Stanton
3B Casey McGehee
1B Garrett Jones
CF Marcell Ozuna
C Jarrod Saltamacchia
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
HP Brian O’Nora
1B D.J. Reyburn
2B Ben May
3B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
7:10 p.m. — And we’re underway. It’s 90 degrees outside, but a more-comfortable 80 degrees indoors as Denard Span takes ball one from Nathan Eovaldi.
7:27 p.m. — And 17 minutes and 31 pitches later, the top of the first is complete, the Nationals having manufactured one run off Eovaldi thanks to Anthony Rendon’s single, Jayson Werth’s walk, a wild pitch and Adam LaRoche’s sac fly. The Nats really made Eovaldi work, forcing him to throw more than six pitches on average to each batter. They’d obviously like to have scored more than one run out of it all, but they’ve already started to wear the right-hander down, so that’s a good thing. 1-0 as Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound.
7:30 p.m. — A nice first inning for Zimmermann, who retired the side on 17 pitches and displayed pretty good fastball command. He got Giancarlo Stantion fishing at a 3-2 breaking ball to end the 1-2-3 inning. Amazingly, that’s seven consecutive strikeouts now for Stanton. So I guess he’s one more away from a double golden sombrero?
7:50 p.m. — Zimmermann gave up a couple of hard-hit balls in the bottom of the second, but there was no real damage. His fastball command has been much improved from his last start in Colorado, a particular point of emphasis tonight. Still 1-0 Nats after two.
8:02 p.m. — Both pitchers have found their grooves now. Eovaldi has retired eight straight since the LaRoche sac fly in the first. Zimmermann has retired six straight and 9 of 10 overall. He needed only six pitches to get through the bottom of the third, giving him 40 total on the night.
8:13 p.m. — Make it four scoreless innings for Zimmermann on 50 pitches. He has retired nine in a row, and his lone blemish remains McGehee’s singe to center to lead off the second. We’ve got a pitchers’ duel here, folks, still 1-0 Nats heading to the fifth.
8:30 p.m. — We’ve seen Harper try to throw behind the runner at first base a few times this season, usually without positive results. This time, though, it worked. After Jarrod Saltalamacchia beat the Nationals’ shift with a single to left, Harper fired all the way back to LaRoche. Saltalamacchia decided to bolt for second, but LaRoche’s throw to Rendon (who actually covered second because of the shift) beat him. So it’s a single, then a 7-3-5 out to end the fifth. Crazy.
9:00 p.m. — The Nats finally got to Eovaldi in the top of the sixth, and then continued the damage against a wild Dan Jennings. Three straight singles by Span, Rendon and Werth brought one run home. Then with the bases loaded and one out, Mike Redmond summoned Jennings to face Harper. It was the right move, though Harper did enter the at-bat with a .341 batting average and .919 OPS vs. left-handers this season. He smoked the first pitch he saw up the middle, looking for a moment like an inning-ending double play. But the ball took a bad hop on Hechavarria, who nearly pulled off a spectacular play but instead lost a handle on the ball as he tried to feed it to second base. It was ruled an error, bringing a run home. Ramos’ bases-loaded walk brought home another run, and then Espinosa’s single to center (batting right-handed) brought home two more. Just like that, the Nats lead 6-0 in the sixth.
9:17 p.m. — Uh-oh, Werth had an awkward-looking slide attempt at second base in the top of the seventh and kind of hobbled off the field. Looked like maybe a groin issue. He has been replaced by Nate McLouth for the bottom of the seventh. It’s a 6-0 game, so perhaps things would be different if this was a closer contest. We’ll find out postgame.
9:27 p.m. — The Marlins finally got to Zimmermann in the bottom of the seventh, scoring two runs, though an ill-advised dive attempt by McLouth on a sinking liner didn’t help matters. It’s 6-2 now heading to the eighth, and whatever hope Zimmermann had of a complete game may be gone.
9:41 p.m. — In plenty of other parks, Harper would have just gone oppo boppo. Here, though, it’s a mere double off the 386-foot sign in left-center. Bryce has hit the ball quite well tonight, a very good sign for the Nats. Zimmermann’s night is done, by the way. His final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 91 pitches, 61 strikes. Again, the key was excellent fastball command.
9:57 p.m. — Things are getting a bit dicier than Matt Williams would like, with Ross Detwiler giving up a run in the eighth and departing with another runner on third and Stanton at the plate. Enter Drew Storen, who pitched the big slugger impressively. Storen backed Stanton off the plate with an inside fastball, then got him to flail at a pair of outside sliders. Nicely done, protecting the Nats’ 6-3 lead after eight.
10:03 p.m. — To the bottom of the ninth we go. It’s Rafael Soriano vs. McGehee, Jones and Ozuna, the Nats up 6-3.
10:28 p.m. — Oh, boy, that was really bad. Soriano blew it in the ninth, giving up three runs to tie it before getting yanked with the winning run on third. Jerry Blevins entered and after striking out Christian Yelich served up the game-wining hit to Jeff Baker over Bryce Harper’s head in left. A 6-0 lead turned into a 7-6 loss.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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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