Jun 5, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT
The Nationals are in a funk right now, of that there’s no doubt. They’ve lost six of their last seven games, and their once-productive lineup has gone silent, averaging a mere 2.3 runs and 6.9 hits per game since May 20. And because of all that, they found themselves this morning in second place in the NL East for the first time since May 17, trailing the Mets by 1/2-game.
They’ll try to get back on track tonight when Tanner Roark takes the mound to face the same Cubs club he beat last week at Wrigley Field. After going five innings and 66 pitches in that start and then six innings and 92 pitches Sunday in Cincinnati, he should be good to crack the 100-pitch mark if needed tonight.
New-look lineup for the Nats tonight. Yunel Escobar is out after hurting his wrist last night. Ryan Zimmerman his second, with Beyce Harper third and Anthony Rendon fourth. Updates to come…
CHICAGO CUBS 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
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 74 degrees, Wind 4 mph in from RF
CF Denard Span
1B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Michael Taylor
RHP Tanner Roark
CF Dexter Fowler
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Kris Bryant
C Miguel Montero
RF Junior Lake
SS Starlin Castro
LF Chris Coghlan
LHP Tsuyoshi Wada
2B Addison Russell
HP Rob Drake
1B Joe West (cc)
2B Kerwin Danley
3B Gabe Morales
7:05 p.m. — And we’re underway. The skies are still gray here, but there’s a little blue peeking through. And there’s no threat of rain for the first time all week as Tanner Roark fires strike one to Dexter Fowler.
7:18 p.m. — Boy, Roark has turned things up a notch this season, hasn’t he? He completed a 1-2-3 top of the first by striking out Kris Bryant looking at a 96-mph fastball that had serious tail on it. Looked like a 2-seamer, a pitch Roark used to throw in the 91-93 mph range. Really impressive. The Nats’ new-look lineup got its first test in the bottom of the inning, and it didn’t pass. Ryan Zimmerman, batting second now, popped out. Bryce Harper drew a 2-out walk, setting the stage for Anthony Rendon. But Rendon got caught looking at a slider from Tsuyoshi Wada on the outside corner. Scoreless after one.
7:39 p.m. — You know, it’s funny how things work out sometimes. Danny Espinosa was going to be the odd man out of the Nats lineup with Anthony Rendon healthy at last. Except Espinosa is back in the lineup tonight because of Yunel Escobar’s injured wrist. And it’s a good thing, too, because he just clobbered a 3-run homer OVER the left-field bullpen. Yes, OVER. That was a big-boy home run, Espinosa’s seventh of the season. And in one swing, he managed to outproduce the entire Nats lineup from the last 24 innings. Not bad. It’s 3-0 Nats after two.
7:54 p.m. — The good: Roark has retired all nine batters faced so far, four of them via strikeout. The bad: The Nats managed to get a leadoff single by Zimmerman and a drive off the right-field wall by Harper, yet didn’t score. That’s because Bob Henley threw up a late stop sign for Zimmerman at third base, and Harper didn’t see it and got caught in no-man’s land, giving himself up to be tagged out. Ugly, ugly play there. And it was costlier because the Nats still couldn’t drive in Zimmerman after that. So it remains 3-0 after three.
8:25 p.m. — Man, what a wild fourth inning we just had here. It began with Anthony Rizzo crushing a ball of the facade of the second deck in right field for the Cubs’ first hit (and run) off Roark. It included a great play by Michael Taylor to take Bryant’s drive off the left field wall and fire it to second base to nail Bryant (a play that left Espinosa banged up, though he managed to stay in the game somehow). Then came the bottom of the fourth, which included Espinosa sending a ball into the left field corner and Chris Coghlan pulling a Justin Upton. That is, throwing his hands up and claiming the ball is stuck in the gap between the wall padding and warning track. That prevented Desmond from scoring from first and brought up bad memories of the Upton play on Opening Day here a couple years ago. No matter, though, because the Nats made up for it with RBI from Taylor and Span. They had a chance to completely blow this game open when Wada intentionally walked Harper to load the bases (and then get yanked from the game in favor of Edwin Jackson). Our old pal Edwin, relegated to mop-up work these days, managed to get Rendon to pop out and end the inning. So it’s 5-1 Nats after four.
8:44 p.m. — Roark, meanwhile, is just cruising along tonight. He’s through five innings of 1-run ball, going right after the Cubs hitters. He’s back out for the with the Nats leading 5-1.
9:08 p.m. — So much for Roark cruising. He got roughed up during the sixth, serving up homers to Rizzo (his second of the night) and Montero. That last one ended his night and brought Aaron Barrett in from the bullpen. It’s 5-4 Nats after six.
9:27 p.m. — Nice inning of relief from Casey Janssen, who has looked much better since that awful appearance in Cincinnati last weekend. And the Nats added a big insurance run when Wilson Ramos doubled to right-center to score Anthony Rendon. So it’s 6-4 Nats as Blake Treinen enters for a big eighth inning against the top of the Cubs lineup.
9:34 p.m. — Impressive job by Treinen, who struck out Fowler and Bryant in the eighth. Even more impressive job by Span, who leaped high at the wall in front of the Red Porch to rob Rizzo of at least a double and bring the crowd of 36,124 to its feet. That kept this a 6-4 game heading to the bottom of the eighth, as Drew Storen begins to warm.
9:51 p.m. — Another insurance run as Dan Uggla makes the most of a rare at-bat to double down the third-base line and score Michael Taylor. So it’s 7-4 now as Storen enters for the ninth.
10:03 p.m. — And that’s your ballgame. Storen locks down his 18th save in 19 tries (though not before allowing one run) and the Nats get a much-needed 7-5 win.
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.
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THU: 2:30 p.m.
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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