Jul 30, 2014, 11:27 AM EST
MIAMI — The end of a long, 3-city, 9-game road trip has come, and in a bit of a surprise, the Nationals need to win today at Marlins Park to finish 5-4. Such is their predicament after losing the first two games of this series to the resurgent Marlins, who have won six in a row and suddenly are only 5 games back in the NL East.
The Nationals have one of their best on the mound in Tanner Roark, who sports a 2.42 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) against Miami. He’ll go up against lefty Brad Hand, who faces what has become the Nationals’ full lineup right now with Ryan Zimmerman injured.
Jayson Werth is back, his sprained ankle feeling strong enough to return to the lineup after coming off the bench last night. Wilson Ramos is catching a day game after a night game, something Matt Williams said he wants to try to do a little more often now. And Danny Espinosa is at second base, hoping to do some damage from the right side of the plate today.
Updates to come from this early matinee, so please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MIAMI MARLINS
Where: Marlins Park
Gametime: 12:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 9, MLB Network, MLB.tv
Radio: 1500 AM, 1580 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 Tanner Roark
LF Christian Yelich
2B Jordany Valdespin
RF Giancarlo Stanton
3B Casey McGehee
1B Garrett Jones
CF Marcell Ozuna
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
C Jeff Mathis
LHP Brad Hand
HP Ben May
1B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
2B Brian O’Nora
3B D.J. Reyburn
12:40 p.m. — And we’re underway. It’s summer camp day here, so there are thousands of screaming little tykes wearing various shades of neon T-shirts. Makes me actually miss the good old days when there would be 375 fans at the old ballpark on a weekday afternoon.
12:53 p.m. — And the Nats very quickly take a 1-0 lead thanks to the two guys atop the order. Denard Span drew a 4-pitch walk, extending his streak of reaching base to 25 straight games. He then broke for second base too soon but still managed to beat the throw from Brad Hand to Garrett Jones to Adeiny Hechavarria for his 19th stolen base in 21 attempts. Anthony Rendon then scooted a double just inside the bag at third base, bringing home Span and giving the Nats a 1-0 lead.
1:04 p.m. — Like Hand, Tanner Roark issued a leadoff walk. Unlike his counterpart, Roark was able to keep the damage right there. He got Jordany Valdespin to fly out, Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee to pop out. 17 pitches, 9 strikes for Roark in the first.
1:17 p.m. — Six in a row retired by Roark since the leadoff walk. He’s looking sharp so far.
1:31 p.m. — Nine in a row retired by Roark since the leadoff walk. He notched his first pair of strikeouts on the day in the bottom of the third, getting Jeff Mathis and Christian Yelich. He’s at 45 pitches, 33 strikes overall. Still 1-0 Nats heading to the fourth.
1:43 p.m. — The Nats tried to get something going in the top of the fourth, with a leadoff single from Werth (who appears to be running OK) and a 1-out walk by Desmond. But Harper just got under another pitch and skied a flyball to center, and Ramos followed with a grounder to short. So it remains 1-0 Nats here.
1:58 p.m. — Well, there’s something we haven’t seen in awhile: a home run. Old nemesis Jordany Valdespin took Roark into the second deck on a 3-2 fastball to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Incredibly, that was the first home run either hit by or given up by the Nationals in seven games. Even more incredible: The first four games during that streak were played in Colorado and Cincinnati! Crazy. It’s 1-1 now after four.
2:14 p.m. — Roark got back on track in the fifth, retiring the side. The Nats, though, haven’t been able to take advantage of some opportunities against Hand. They’ve put three men on base the last two innings but haven’t delivered a big hit when they needed it. Still 1-1 heading to the sixth.
2:21 p.m. — Make it 18 of 21 retired by Hand since the Rendon RBI double in the first. This lineup just hasn’t been able to get it going. Still 1-1.
2:32 p.m. — Roark nearly got himself into a pickle in the bottom of the sixth, issuing a 2-out walk to Stanton and then watching him steal second and take third on Ramos’ errant throw. But Roark buckled down and got McGehee to pop up, so this remains a 1-1 game heading to the seventh, with Roark sitting on 99 pitches.
3:04 p.m. — The deadlock has been broken. By the Nats. Scott Hairston led off the eighth with a pinch-hit, hustle double. Yeah, you read that right. Span then beat out a perfectly placed sac bunt attempt. And after a 3-minute delay to confirm that Span was safe at first, followed by a pitching change, Werth delivered the broken-bat sac fly that brought home pinch-runner Nate McLouth to give the Nats a 2-1 lead. But they weren’t done. LaRoche drew a walk, and then stole second (yes, you read that right, too). That proved big, because he was able to score on Desmond’s 2-run double to left. So just like that, the Nats lead 4-1 and Tyler Clippard enters for the eighth.
3:19 p.m. — A 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth for Clippard. So the Nats will go to the ninth leading by at least three runs.
3:42 p.m. — Well, here’s a twist: Up 3 runs in the ninth, the Nats are going with Drew Storen to close the game. Either Rafael Soriano needed two days off after a heavy workload, or Matt Williams decided to change things up. My hunch: Williams just wanted to give Soriano another day off.
4:00 p.m. — That’s your ballgame, though it didn’t come easy. Storen gave up a leadoff homer to Stanton, then a broken-bat infield single, then an RBI double off the end of the bat, then a walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But he hung on for a 4-3 win. The Nats finish the road trip 5-4. Roark improves to 11-6. Storen gets his first save of the season.
FINAL 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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