Aug 26, 2014, 3:33 PM EST
PHILADELPHIA — Despite the Phillies’ overall struggles this season, Cole Hamels remains as formidable as just about any other left-hander in the league. So Matt Williams is playing the percentages tonight, stacking his lineup with right-handed hitters. Out is Bryce Harper. Out is Adam LaRoche. In are Scott Hairston and Kevin Frandsen.
Hairston has feasted on Hamels in his career, hitting .386 (17-for-44) with five homers, nine RBI and a 1.266 OPS. Interestingly enough, this is only the 20th game Hairston has started since joining the Nationals nearly 14 months ago; five of those starts have come against Hamels. Actually, three of his last four starts have come against the Philly lefty.
Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, gets the start for the Nationals, trying to build off his strong outing last week against the Diamondbacks, and rediscover some semblance of consistency for the stretch run. Ryne Sandberg, like Williams, is stacking his lineup with right-handed hitters, benching Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Updates to come…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 869, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
2B Asdrubal Cabrera
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
LF Scott Hairston
C Wilson Ramos
1B Kevin Frandsen
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Ben Revere
SS Jimmy Rollins
C Carlos Ruiz
RF Marlon Byrd
1B Darin Ruf
LF Grady Sizemore
2B Freddy Galvis
3B Andres Blanco
LHP Cole Hamels
HP Manny Gonzalez
1B Gary Cederstrom (cc)
2B Chris Segal
3B Jim Reynolds
7:07 p.m. — We are underway. It’s another small crowd here at Citizens Bank Park despite very nice weather.
7:14 p.m. — The Nats tried to get something going in the top of the first against Cole Hamels, with Anthony Rendon initially called safe on a close play at first base in which umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled Darin Ruf’s foot came off the bag. The Phillies, though, challenged the call and were proven right. Rendon was ruled out, and Hamels had himself a 9-pitch, 1-2-3 inning to get this game started.
7:22 p.m. — A solid, if not spectacular, bottom of the first for Gio Gonzalez. He did issue a 1-out walk to Jimmy Rollins but otherwise got three groundballs and was able to keep the ball over the plate. That’s a good sign for him.
7:28 p.m. — The good news: Scott Hairston did what Scott Hairston always does to Cole Hamels. He laced a 2-out single to center in the top of the second, raising his career average against the lefty to an even .400 (18-for-45). The bad news: Nobody else has touched Hamels yet tonight. We go to the bottom of the second, still scoreless.
7:37 p.m. — Gio got himself into a jam in the second but pitched his way out of it. He got Freddy Galvis to pop up a bunt, then got Andres Blanco to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning unscathed.
7:59 p.m. — The Nats tried to get something going in the top of the fourth, but saw that foiled when Ian Desmond was picked off first base. Desmond was upset, claiming Hamels balked. And it sure looks like he did. Hamels’ right leg came all the way back behind his left leg, prompting Desmond to take off, before throwing over. That’s pretty much the definition of a balk. No dice. Still scoreless here in the middle of the fourth.
8:03 p.m. — Desmond took out his frustration on Ruiz, making perhaps his finest play of the season in the field. He ranged way into the hole to snag Ruiz’s grounder, then fired to first base for the out. Really, a fantastic play to helped Gio complete a 1-2-3 inning. That’s four scoreless for Gonzalez on only 43 pitches.
8:23 p.m. — Uh-oh, that didn’t go well in the bottom of the fifth. Gonzalez hung a curveball to Grady Sizemore, who crushed it to right-center for a leadoff triple. He then threw a high fastball to Galvis, who somehow managed to connect and tag the ball deep to left for a 2-run homer. That wasn’t quite Hunter Pence territory, but it was way up in the zone, at Galvis’ neck. Whatever the case, it’s 2-0 Phillies after five, with the Nats showing very little at the plate so far against Hamels.
8:28 p.m. — Geez, the Nats can’t do anything against Hamels. He’s through six scoreless innings on a scant 59 pitches.
8:36 p.m. — Uh-oh again. Darin Ruf hammered a 2-2 fastball down the pipe from Gonzalez for a solo homer in the sixth. It’s 3-0 Phillies, and the Nats have their work cut out for them now.
8:53 p.m. — But they accomplished quite a bit of work in the top of the seventh. The Nats strung together four singles and a walk, pushing across two runs against Hamels. Ramos and Frandsen delivered RBI singles. Danny Espinosa nearly did himself, except his scorched liner happened to be hit directly at Rollins at shortstop. Span the bounced out to end the inning and strand the bases loaded. But it’s now a 3-2 game as we reach the seventh-inning stretch.
9:13 p.m. — Asdrubal Cabrera, folks. Yet another big hit for the July 31 acquisition, this one a leadoff homer in the eighth to tie this game up 3-3. That ended Hamels’ night, and he wasn’t happy handing over the ball to Sandberg. Speaking of not happy, the entire Nats dugout didn’t appear too pleased with Ken Giles’ emphatic dance off the mound after he struck out three straight in relief of Hamels. So we’ve got a whole new ballgame here, tied heading to the bottom of the eighth.
9:23 p.m. — Uh-oh, again. The Phillies have re-taken the lead after an overturned call at first base (the second one successfully challenged by Sandberg tonight) changed an out into an error on Desmond. Revere then stole second second base off Tyler Clippard, took third on Rollins’ flyball and scored on Ruiz’s sac fly. So now the Nats trail 4-3 and have to rally against Jonathan Papelbon again.
9:32 p.m. — Game over. Papelbon closes it out for the second straight night and the Nats drop two straight for the first time since August 5. Final score: 4-3.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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