Tuesday’s Nationals-Astros discussion space

Welcome to MASN’s discussion space for tonight’s Nationals-Astros game at Nationals Park. I’ll have updates and analysis throughout the night, and if you want to participate, leave your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll respond to you there.

7:11: The Astros already have a 1-0 lead, having started the game with a pair of singles up the middle against John Lannan. But Ryan Zimmerman, who was working on overhanded throws again before the game today, just made a nice sidearm snap throw to get Hunter Pence at first on a close play.

7:13: And now it’s already 3-0; Jason Michaels homered to left off John Lannan. Chris Johnson punched a double inside the left-field line after that, and the Astros already have four hits on Lannan.

8:00: An odd scene on John Lannan’s second strikeout of the night: His curveball spiked off the plate and hopped over Ivan Rodriguez’s head. But Pudge still had enough time to retrieve the ball at the backstop and throw out Chris Johnson at first. Lannan has settled down here after the first inning, only giving up one hit since then. But the Nationals still don’t have a hit against J.A. Happ.

8:26: The Nationals had the bases loaded, courtesy of an unlikely walk from John Lannan, who has drawn just four of them this year. But Johnson, who caught Michael Morse in a rundown earlier in the inning, snared a Danny Espinosa smash and stepped on third to end the inning. The Nationals still trail 3-0 after five.

8:50: Would you believe Lannan has pitched into the seventh inning with only six hits allowed after his disastrous first - and done it having thrown just 75 pitches through six? Part of it has been the Astros, who weren’t making Lannan work deep into counts even when they tagged him for three runs in the first. But give the left-hander credit for settling down, spotting his fastball effectively and getting 10 ground ball outs since the last run he gave up. The Astros have just one hit since the second inning.

8:58: And now Lannan has pitched through seven innings, getting a double play and a groundout to second to end the inning. Give him credit for gathering himself and working deep into the game after the Nationals had gone four days without a quality start.

9:02: After Happ left the game with 111 pitches, the Nationals finally have something working against Mark Melancon in the seventh inning. Back-to-back doubles by Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell got them their first run, and Maxwell stole third on a pitch in the dirt. They’ll have a chance to tie the game with the top of their order here.

9:21: Tyler Clippard notched his 100th strikeout of the year, becoming the first DC reliever to do so and the sixth in Nationals/Expos history. Some of it is because of how much Clippard pitches - he’s currently working his 73rd game of the year - but he’s averaging 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings this year, and has two tonight. With a lively fastball, solid changeup and odd delivery, he misses more than his fair share of bats. In fact, Clippard is second on the team in wins and strikeouts, behind only Livan Hernandez - and he trails Hernandez by just 10 strikeouts. That’s more of an indictment of the rotation than it is a compliment of Clippard, but give him credit for getting to the 100-K plateau; he’s only the second reliever in baseball to do it. No. 3 among reliever strikeouts? Former Nationals closer Joel Hanrahan with 92, courtesy of reader Lintyfresh85.

9:38: Wow. The Nationals just tied this game on a two-run homer by Ivan Rodriguez. The catcher got an 0-2 curveball from Felipe Paulino, and smacked the left-field foul pole, about three-quarters of the way up. It’s 3-3 in the eighth, and Bernadina just got his second hit of the game.

9:50: The Nationals took a 4-3 lead on Adam Kennedy’s single to right, and made it 5-3 when Maxwell raced home on Paulino’s wild pitch. Suddenly, they’ll get a chance to win this game in the ninth with Drew Storen. And guess who’s in line for his 10th win? Why, that’d be the Ultimate Vulture himself, Tyler Clippard.

9:58: It’s 7-3 now; Ian Desmond and Adam Dunn drove in runs with singles. Think about this: When Rodriguez hit his homer, the Nationals were down to their last strike of the inning. Now they’ve scored six runs with two outs.

10:00: Make it seven - Zimmerman singles to right to bring in another run. 8-3 Nationals. What an inning.