Aug 2, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
The bad news: The Nationals have lost six of their last nine. The good news: The Braves also have lost six of their last nine. So the Nats’ lead in the NL East remains 1 1/2 games, despite their recent struggles. They’ll try to get back on track tonight after dropping the first two games of this 4-game series with the last-place Phillies.
Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball, looking to build off his last start in Miami, when he carried a shutout into the seventh and was in line for the win before Rafael Soriano’s ninth-inning meltdown.
A.J. Burnett, rumored to be on the trading block earlier this week but retained by the Phillies, will start as scheduled against a Nationals lineup that has averaged only 3 runs and hasn’t hit a homer in its last nine games.
Updates to come…
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 9, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 78 degrees, Wind 9 mph RF to LF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
2B Asdrubal Cabrera
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
CF Ben Revere
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
RF Marlon Byrd
LF Grady Sizemore
C Carlos Ruiz
3B Cody Asche
RHP A.J. Burnett
HP Chris Guccione
1B Eric Cooper
2B Tom Hallion (cc)
3B Tripp Gibson
7:06 p.m. — We are underway. It’s been a cloudy afternoon and early evening, but it has remained dry so far. Keep your fingers crossed.
7:12 p.m. — A scoreless top of the first for Jordan Zimmermann, with only Jimmy Rollins’ groundball single through the right side hole blemishing the frame. Anthony Rendon made a nice stop of Ben Revere’s hot smash to his left, despite playing way up on the grass. Zimmermann also got Chase Utley to fly out and Ryan Howard to ground out. Thirteen pitches, eight strikes for the right-hander.
7:26 p.m. — The Nats couldn’t have drawn up their first two at-bats of the night any better. Denard Span singled up the middle, extending his streak of reaching base to 28 games (his OBP is now .460 over that, uh, span). Span then stole second, putting him in position to score without a throw on Rendon’s RBI single through the right side of the infield. Rendon also stole second, foreshadowing how aggressive the Nats intend to be tonight against A.J. Burnett. Opponents are now 82-for-92 in stolen-base attempts against the veteran righty over the last three seasons. Yikes. Hey, A.J.: Have you ever considered using a slide step? 1-0 Nats after one.
8:07 p.m. — Well, that was kind of an eventful bottom of the second. And since it appears many of you weren’t able to see most of it on TV (certainly not the Nationals’ feed), here’s a quick play-by-play account … Bryce Harper walked on four pitches to lead off, then advanced to second when Chase Utley booted Asdrubal Cabrera’s grounder. Wilson Ramos struck out on a 2-2 fastball off the plate, but Burnett then walked Zimmermann to load the bases. Denard Span sent a sinking liner to left, caught by a diving Grady Sizemore but allowing Harper to tag and score. Rendon then crushed the Nats’ first homer in 85 innings, a 3-run shot into the Red Porch. So the Nats are up 5-0. But that’s just when things really got interesting. Burnett, apparently upset at Chris Guccione not calling a pitch on the outside corner to Rendon before the homer, threw ball one to Werth and yelled at the umpire: “THAT’S outside.” Which prompted Guccione to blow his stack and eject Burnett, then later Ryne Sandberg. What a mess. After a long delay, Phillippe Aumont entered from the bullpen and got Werth to ground out, ending the inning. But it’s 5-0 Nats after two, and the Phillies are a complete mess at the moment.
8:31 p.m. — And the Nats keep it going in the bottom of the third. Desmond drew a leadoff walk, then stole second — the Nats are now 86 percent in stolen base attempts this season, easily tops in MLB — and then scored on Harper’s RBI single to right. Cabrera delivered his first hit since the trade, smoking a ball down the first-base line, but the Nats couldn’t get anything else going in the inning. It’s 6-0 after three.
8:43 p.m. — Zimmermann hasn’t exactly been in top form, he’s allowed five singles in four innings, but he has kept the Phillies off the board so far. Still 6-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth.
9:07 p.m. — Hey, remember when the Nats held a 6-0 lead way back on Monday in Miami, only to … well, I won’t make you relive that debacle. Just know that they’re determined not to let that happen again. They now lead 11-0 — yes, 11-0 — after four innings. All eight starting position players have driven in at least a run, and Zimmermann nearly did with a drive to the wall in right-center. Phillies pitchers have given up 11 runs while recording 12 outs. And they still need to record 12 more before this game can end. If ever there was a time for the mercy rule, this would be it.
9:30 p.m. — Still 11-0 in the middle of the sixth. Zimmermann has retired eight in a row, including the last four on strikeouts.
9:45 p.m. — With a chance to join everyone else in the Nats lineup and drive in a run, Zimmermann … drew a walk in the bottom of the sixth. Boo. That did load the bases for Span, who drilled a ball to left field, but right at Sizemore. So it remains 11-0 heading to the seventh. Werth has come out of the game, with Harper shifting to right and Scott Hairston taking over in left. And now Desmond is out as well, with Cabrera shifting to shortstop and Kevin Frandsen at second base.
9:53 p.m. — Zimmermann isn’t letting the Phillies even think for a second about the possibility of a comeback tonight. He has retired 11 in a row and is through seven scoreless innings. Still 11-0 at the stretch.
10:01 p.m. — Up 11 runs, Matt Williams will entrust the eighth inning to Jerry Blevins. Good time for the lefty to get himself back on track.
10:06 p.m. — A much-needed, 1-2-3 inning of relief for Blevins. He can certainly use that confidence boost right now. Still 11-0 as we go to the bottom of the eighth.
10:14 p.m. — To the ninth we go. It’ll be Blake Treinen trying to preserve this 11-run lead.
10:25 p.m. — That’s your ballgame. Final: Nats win 11-0. They could’ve called this game after four innings and the result would’ve been the same.
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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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