The rain is picking up at Nationals Park, but so is the Nats’ offensive production.
The Nats have put up five runs and seven hits off Tigers starter Doug Fister through two innings. Fister has retired just six of the 15 batters he’s faced.
This is the same Doug Fister who hadn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his previous six starts this season.
LaRoche is now 9-for-his-last-15. Yup, he’s heating up.
Fister has already thrown 61 pitches.
His counterpart, Dan Haren, hasn’t been incredibly sharp early on, but he’s avoided major trouble.
Haren has allowed a run on four hits and has surrendered a few loud outs. Prince Fielder smoked a ball that Bryce Harper - wearing the old-school stirrups today - tracked down in the first inning, and Austin Jackson roped a ball right at Span to end the second, leaving two runners on.
Haren did work a perfect third inning, however, navigating through the heart of the Tigers order. It’s 5-1 Nats.
It was a gorgeous day during batting practice, but the clouds have swept in over the last couple hours and the rain started to fall in the second inning.
It looks like if we can get through this cell, we might be OK the rest of the way out.
Of course, I probably just jinxed us.
Update: Tigers manager Jim Leyland has made an interesting call here in the fourth, choosing to pinch-hit for Fister and go to his bullpen very early on.
Leyland called on Victor Martinez to come off the bench and pinch-hit with two on and two out in the top of the fourth. Martinez struck out to end the inning.
Fister hadn’t pitched well today, allowing five runs and eight hits over his three innings, but he’d thrown just 74 pitches and it’s still very early in this ballgame. Leyland apparently would rather give his best pinch-hitter a shot in the fourth inning and then ask for six innings from his bullpen than see if Fister could buckle down and give his team a few more frames.
It’s still 5-1 Nationals.
Update II: Now it’s not.
Matt Tuiasosopo crushed a pinch-hit, three-run homer off Haren in the sixth, cutting the Nationals’ lead to 5-4. Tuiasosopo worked the count to 2-1, then took an 86 mph cutter out to left-center to get the Tigers back in this ballgame.
Go ahead, make your Manti Te’o jokes now.
That’s Tuisasosopo’s first career pinch-hit homer and the first pinch hit home run the Tigers have recorded since Alex Avila delivered one back on Sept. 14, 2011.
Haren is done after six innings of work. He allowed nine hits and four runs, walked one and struck out three. Not awful, especially against a quality offensive team, but likely not what Haren was looking for, especially after the way he pitched his last time out.
Update III: Two scoreless innings of work delivered by Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen, and the Nationals are now three defensive outs from a mini-sweep of the reigning American League champions.
They’ll take at least a one-run lead to the ninth. It’s 5-4 at the moment, with Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and a pinch-hitter due up.
Rafael Soriano is warming for the ninth inning. This would be his sixth appearance in the Nats’ last seven games. He’ll have to go through Miguel Cabrera to record his 12th save of the season.
Update IV: That’ll do it. The Nats beat the Tigers 5-4, giving Haren his fourth win of the season and Soriano his 12th save.
Cabrera singled with two outs in the ninth, bringing up Prince Fielder as the potential go-ahead run. Fielder flied out to the track in center, missing a homer by about 10 feet, and the Nats held on.
The Nationals put up just one hit after the third inning today, but have now won six of their last seven games.