Jul 29, 2014, 3:42 PM EST
MIAMI — Was last night’s meltdown a blip on the radar or the beginning of a downward trend? The man who may have the most to say about that is Stephen Strasburg, who tonight gets the ball for the middle game of this series.
Strasburg has his own Marlins Park demons to exorcise. In five career starts here, he sports an 8.61 ERA. So the pressure’s on the right-hander to deal with the Miami lineup and the humidity inside this ballpark and put forth the kind of start that gives the Nationals a chance to win.
The Nats’ lineup, meanwhile, faces a daunting challenge in trying to beat All-Star Henderson Alvarez. And the challenge is only tougher tonight with Jayson Werth sidelined after spraining his right ankle in the top of the seventh last night. Werth and Matt Williams expressed optimism after the game that he could return, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the ankle swelled up overnight. We’ll see.
Updates to come, so please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MIAMI MARLINS
Where: Marlins Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 869, MLB.com
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Nate McLouth
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LF Christian Yelich
2B Jordany Valdespin
RF Giancarlo Stanton
3B Casey McGehee
CF Marcell Ozuna
C Jarrod Saltamacchia
1B Jeff Baker
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
RHP Henderson Alvarez
HP D.J. Reyburn
1B Ben May
2B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
3B Brian O’Nora
7:11 p.m. — We’re underway as Henderson Alvarez throws ball one to Denard Span.
7:16 p.m. — The good news: Span drew a leadoff walk, meaning he has now reached base in a career-high 24 consecutive games. The bad news: He was immediately wiped out on Anthony Rendon’s 6-4-3 double play. Adam LaRoche, batting third tonight with Jayson Werth out, also grounded out to end the inning.
7:27 p.m. — A good bottom of the first for Stephen Strasburg, in spite of a weird play in left field in which Bryce Harper seemed to have no idea where Jordany Valdespin’s ball down the line was headed. Harper initially broke in, then appeared to put himself back in position to make the catch, then pulled up and watched the ball land about 8 feet from him. Weird. No matter, because Strasburg’s fastball command was strong. And he got Casey McGehee to strike out on a curveball, ending a scoreless first.
7:48 p.m. — On one hand, the Nats couldn’t ask for a better opportunity than they got in the top of the second: Bases loaded, nobody out, with Alvarez laboring and getting visited by a trainer. On the other hand, they couldn’t have set it up in a worse spot, with Danny Espinosa, Nate McLouth and Strasburg due up. Sure enough, they couldn’t push across one run. Espinosa struck out. McLouth smoked a liner that was snagged by a lunging McGehee at third base. And Strasburg, after fouling off multiple 2-strike pitches, grounded out to second. That’s a pretty good example of the importance of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman to this lineup. Normally, the 7-8 hitters would be Desmond and Ramos. Tonight, it’s Espinosa and McLouth. And so it’s still scoreless heading to the bottom of the second.
8:01 p.m. — Both pitchers are settling into a groove now. Strasburg has retired five straight since that weird Harper play in left. Alvarez has retired six straight since loading the bases in the second. Bottom of the third coming up.
8:22 p.m. — Here’s an encouraging development: Bryce Harper is now 4-for-6 in this series after delivering his second single to right field tonight. And he easily could be 5-for-6 if his bad-hop smash to shortstop last night was scored a hit instead of an error. Still 0-0 in the middle of the fourth.
8:34 p.m. — Four scoreless innings in the books for Strasburg. He has allowed only one hit (the ball Harper lost in left field) and two walks while striking out three. But he’s already at 66 pitches, which is a bit high.
8:48 p.m. — Make it five scoreless for Strasburg on 79 pitches. Alvarez, though, has matched him, putting up five zeroes on 82 pitches and cruising since that bases-loaded jam in the second.
9:00 p.m. — Rendon gave the Nats a shot at putting something together in the top of the sixth, roping a leadoff double to right-center. But they couldn’t get him home. LaRoche flied out to center. Ramos grounded out to second. Harper drew a walk, but then Desmond grounded out on the first pitch he saw. So the Nats are 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position tonight, and this remains a scoreless game in the middle of the sixth.
9:09 p.m. — It’s no longer a scoreless game, thanks to the one and only Giancarlo Stanton. He roped a double down the left-field line to score Jordany Valdespin and put the Marlins up 1-0 after six. Strasburg is at 96 pitches and he’s due up third in the top of the seventh. No action in the bullpen yet, but we’ll see how this plays out.
9:18 p.m. — Weirdness in the top of the seventh. Plate ump D.J. Reyburn took a 3-1 fastball directly off his right forearm, writhing in obvious pain. After a lengthy delay while a trainer looked at him, Nate McLouth went to first base, thinking he had drawn a walk. Except he actually had been called for a check-swing on the pitch, so the count was 3-2 and he was sent back to the plate. At which point he flied out to left. Strasburg got to hit for himself and grounded out, so it’s still 1-0 Marlins heading to the bottom of the seventh, with Strasburg still on the mound.
9:29 p.m. — Alvarez is done after seven scoreless innings and 102 pitches, so the Nats will get a shot against the Miami bullpen. It’ll be right-hander Bryan Morris against the top of the order in the top of the eighth.
9:43 p.m. — The Nats had another opportunity in the eighth when Rendon and Ramos drew walks. That brought Harper to the plate with two on, two out and left-hander Mike Dunn on the mound. Harper, who is batting .333 against lefties this season, swung at a first-pitch breaking ball and popped it up to short. So the Nats are 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and still trail 1-0 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
10:05 p.m. — This just turned into a 3-0 game after Jerry Blevins and Aaron Barrett combined to give up two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Things are not looking so good for the Nats, who must put together the kind of rally the Marlins did last night if they want to avoid dropping their third straight and potentially falling out of first place.
10:18 p.m. — That’ll do it. The Nats loaded the bases in the ninth, but McLouth, Jayson Werth and Rendon couldn’t do it. So they lose 3-0, fall to 2-4 since Ryan Zimmerman was hurt, risk falling out of first place if the Braves win in L.A. tonight and suddenly lead the Marlins by only 5 games.
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT IN
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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)...
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