Jun 18, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT
So, they scored 16 runs on 23 hits Tuesday night. Then they were shut out on two hits Wednesday night. What on earth can we expect from the Nationals tonight in their series finale against the Rays? Your guess is as good as mine, though they face an extra challenge in this one with Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer on the mound.
Archer has been perhaps the AL’s best pitcher this season, certainly over the last month in which he had three straight starts allowing one or fewer runs with zero walks and 11 or more strikeouts. Nobody thought much of it at the time, but the 26-year-old right-hander actually made his MLB debut right here at Nationals Park on June 20, 2012, allowing three runs in six innings but taking the loss to Stephen Strasburg (who struck out 10 in seven innings).
Doug Fister, of course, starts tonight for the Nats, making his return from a 5-week stint on the DL with a strained forearm. Fister sounded pretty encouraged yesterday when discussing his rehab and how he currently feels. We’ll see if all that translates to his first big-league game since May 14.
Updates to come…
TAMPA BAY RAYS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 184
Weather: Chance of rain, 85 degrees, Wind 4 mph in from RF
CF Denard Span
2B Anthony Rendon
3B Yunel Escobar
RF Bryce Harper
C Wilson Ramos
1B Danny Espinosa
SS Ian Desmond
LF Michael Taylor
RHP Doug Fister
CF Kevin Keirmaier
LF Joey Butler
3B Evan Longoria
2B Logan Forsythe
RF Steven Souza Jr.
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Jake Elmore
C Rene Rivera
RHP Chris Archer
HP Fieldin Culbreth (cc)
1B Jim Reynolds
2B Manny Gonzalez
3B Paul Schrieber
7:05 p.m. — And we’re underway with some blue sky visible above despite some torrential rain earlier. Doug Fister’s first pitch in five weeks is an 86-mph sinker low to Kevin Kiermaier for ball one.
7:33 p.m. — Nice first inning for Fister, who induced a double-play grounder (nicely started by Ian Desmond and turned by Anthony Rendon) and struck out Evan Longoria to end a 14-pitch frame. And nice job by the Nats to jump on Chris Archer for two runs in the bottom of the inning. They were aided by an overturned call (Denard Span had been ruled out trying to steal second, replays proved he was safe) and by one of the hardest-hit comebackers you’ll ever see from Bryce Harper (112 mph off the bat, knocking Archer off his feet, with the ball ricocheting into shallow left field for an RBI single). A nice takeout slide by Wilson Ramos and hustle down the first-base line by Danny Espinosa prevented the Rays from turning an inning-ending double play and brought another run home. So the Nats have jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one.
8:07 p.m. — Fister wasn’t nearly so efficient in the top of the second. He wound up allowing three straight singles, bringing home one run. He did manage to limit the damage to that, but it took 30 pitches to get through the inning, leaving him at 44 total. No worry, though, because the Nats got the run back in the bottom of the second on Escobar’s 2-out bloop single to center. The only problem: Bob Henley got Span thrown out at the plate to end the inning with Harper standing in the on-deck circle. Nats up 3-1 after two.
8:26 p.m. — Fister bounced back with a 6-pitch third inning, and though an Escobar error put him in a jam in the fourth, Fister was able to escape thanks in part to Ramos throwing out Souza trying to steal second. Before they could begin the bottom of the fourth, though, the skies unleashed with heavy rain. So they’ve pulled the teams off the field and called for the tarp. This shouldn’t last long, though.
8:43 p.m. — And we’re back after a delay of only 17 minutes. No big deal. This felt like one of those really short delays they used to have in Miami at the old ballpark.
9:02 p.m. — Still 3-1 Nats after five. Fister has thrown 71 pitches, not bad at all considering he needed 30 in the second inning alone. He’ll come back for at least one more. Archer, meanwhile, has given up at least one hit in each inning so far, but the Nats haven’t scored anything more since the second.
Chase here taking over for Mark while he works on the Harper story…
9:32 p.m. — So, the sixth inning was a bit of a disaster. Not only did the Nats allow four runs to the Rays and lose the lead, but they saw Harper go down with an apparent left knee injury. He hurt it on a throw attempt from right field and appeared to slip as he was planting his foot. Teammates and head trainer Lee Kuntz rushed to his aid before Harper limped off the field. It was a scary scene for Nats fans and one we will certainly try to update you on postgame. It’s now 5-3 Rays.
9:45 p.m. — Seven innings in the books, and it’s still 5-3 Tampa Bay as the Nats hold their breath waiting for word on Harper. The life has been sucked out of the ballpark, as you might imagine.
10:07 p.m. — The Nats got a leadoff double from Espinosa in the eighth, but couldn’t advance him. Desmond and Taylor each struck out, and Tyler Moore roped a liner to center that hung up just too long. So it’s still 5-3 heading to the ninth.
10:24 p.m. — And that’ll do it. That Nats fall 5-3, but obviously that pales in comparison to the status of Bryce Harper. We’ll update our story as soon as we find out more, so be sure to check the homepage shortly.
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.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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