May 23, 2015, 12:40 PM EST
It is an absolutely spectacular Saturday afternoon in the District of Columbia. I mean, somebody needs to hit a pause button on the atmosphere right now and keep this intact for the next three months. Is that doable?
The Nationals and Phillies resume their weekend series later this afternoon, with a 4:05 p.m. first pitch from Stephen Strasburg. Not to put too much stock in it, but this feels like a really important start for Strasburg. After a terrible outing in Arizona, he took a step forward in San Diego last weekend, but he’s still not all the way back to who he has been (or should be). He’ll get an opportunity to do that today.
Cole Hamels gets the start for Philadelphia, facing his old nemesis Bryce Harper. Dan Uggla gets the start at second base, though his numbers vs. Hamels (9-for-62, 3 HR, 7 BB, 22 K) aren’t much to get excited about.
Check back for updates throughout…
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183
Weather: Sunny, 74 degrees, Wind 4 mph LF to RF
CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
3B Yunel Escobar
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
C Wilson Ramos
2B Dan Uggla
LF Michael Taylor
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LF Ben Revere
SS Cesar Hernandez
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
3B Maikel Franco
RF Grady Sizemore
CF Odubel Herrera
C Carlos Ruiz
LHP Cole Hamels
HP Dan Bellino
1B Ben May
2B Bruce Dreckman
3B Alfonso Marquez (cc)
4:07 p.m. — And we’re underway on a perfect afternoon for baseball. It’s 69 degrees without a cloud in the sky as Stephen Strasburg delivers his first pitch to Ben Revere.
4:20 p.m. — Strong first inning for Strasburg, who retired the side on 17 pitches (11 strikes). He got a pair of groundballs and then struck out Chase Utley on a curveball. His fastball command was good, hitting 97 mph. All in all, a good start to this afternoon for Stephen. The Nats also went down in order against Hamels. To the second we go…
4:35 p.m. — The top of the second featured a rare sight (for this season, at least): a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error. Really, it was more of a decision error than anything. He tried to make a near-impossible throw to second base after charging in on a chopper. The throw came nowhere close to the bag, and he probably should’ve taken the easy out at first. No harm, though, because Strasburg picked him up. He struck out Odubel Herrera on a fastball, then got Carlos Ruiz to ground out. So that’s two scoreless for Strasburg, who has three strikeouts and has looked pretty good so far. Also looking good: Hamels, who has retired all six batters faced, including Bryce Harper (who struck out on three pitches to begin the bottom of the second).
4:50 p.m. — So much for the good vibes about Strasburg. He just gave up four runs in the top of the third, an inning that got worse as it progressed. It started with a walk to Ben Revere, continued with a cue-ball double to left by Cesar Hernandez. Strasburg nearly got out of it allowing just one run, but that’s when things got ugly. Ryan Howard turned on a fastball and roped it down the right-field line for a 2-out RBI double. Maikel Franco then crushed a high, 0-2 fastball to right-center for a 2-run homer. The Nats wanted Strasburg to be more aggressive with his fastball today. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much if he can’t locate it. And he certainly didn’t on that pitch to Franco. It was shoulder-high and right over the plate. So just like that, the Nats are down 4-0 and Strasburg is struggling again.
5:18 p.m. — And it keeps getting worse. The Nats just played the top of the fourth like they did an early-April game. There were three errors (Harper, Desmond and Taylor), along with three more well-struck base hits off Strasburg, who was yanked by Williams mid-inning. He departs having allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. His season ERA is now 6.50, his WHIP is 1.69. The Nats are down 6-0, and there continue to be major questions about Strasburg.
5:43 p.m. — A.J. Cole took over for Strasburg, and promptly served up a homer to center to Ryan Howard, leaving Howard a triple shy of the cycle. The Nats lineup, meanwhile, has managed two infield singles and a walk against Hamels so far today. It’s 7-0 after five.
5:55 p.m. — Oh my lord, we just witnessed the ugliest play in MLB this season. By both teams. I mean, seriously, I can barely explain what happened. With a man on first base in the top of the sixth, Hernandez lined a ball to right-center. It scooted in between Span and Harper. Harper eventually got the ball back in, but there was nobody covering third base, so Hernandez advanced all the way there while Revere scored. But then the Nats appealed to first base, and ump Ben May ruled that Hernandez never touched the bag, so he’s out. The official scoring on that one: Hernandez is out 3-unassisted but still gets credit for an RBI because Revere scored on the “hit.” Whatever the case, it’s 8-0 Phillies and this one can’t end soon enough for Matt Williams and Co.
6:12 p.m. — Nothing happening in the seventh, aside from a lovely rendition of “God Bless America” during the stretch. It remains 8-0.
6:28 p.m. — On the bright side, A.J. Cole did save the bullpen today. He went 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out seven without walking a batter. That will help tomorrow and beyond, with a fresh pen available to Matt Williams. Meanwhile, we go to the ninth. It’s now 8-1 Phillies after Ian Desmond’s RBI double scored Michael Taylor in the bottom of the eighth.
6:34 p.m. — Casey Janssen just made his long-awaited Nats debut, pitching the top of the ninth. He retired the side, throwing 7-of-8 pitches for strikes. His fastball started out at 86 mph but ticked up to 88 mph by the end of the inning. That still seems a bit low for him, but the fact he’s healthy and pitching a scoreless inning in the big leagues is encouraging enough for today.
6:40 p.m. — That’ll do it. The Nats lose 8-1. It’s one loss after 18 wins in 22 games. But it sure wasn’t pretty. And it did nothing to ease concerns about Strasburg.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
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)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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