Welcome to MASN’s discussion space for tonight’s Nationals-Astros game. I’ll have updates and analysis here throughout the night, and if you want to get involved in the discussion, leave your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll respond to you there. You can also follow me on Twitter (@masnBen) for additional updates.
7:10: Jason Marquis starts off with a 1-2-3 first inning, meaning he’s already retired two more batters than he did in his last outing. It’s another sparse crowd here, and we could be looking at record-low possibilities again.
7:24: One inning, one set of bases left loaded by the Nationals. Adam Dunn singled, but Ryan Zimmerman’s double went to left, not deep enough for Dunn to score. And after a Michael Morse walk, Ivan Rodriguez chopped an outside fastball back to Wandy Rodriguez on the mound.
7:29: Odd sight here in the second inning; Justin Maxwell caught Chris Johnson’s fly ball, began to throw it in - and dropped it. But Carlos Lee left first base too early, and was called out after he slid into second. It’s an 8-4-3 double play for the Nationals.
7:55: The Nationals have a 1-0 lead after Danny Espinosa’s triple - which came after a 5-for-51 slump - began their half of the third. Espinosa ran so hard to third that he arrived before the ball got to the infield. Then Ian Desmond singled up the middle to score Espinosa. Desmond was thrown out stealing, though, with Adam Dunn at the plate, and the Nationals could only muster a run in the inning.
8:17: It’s 2-1 Nationals now, after Michael Morse took Wandy Rodriguez deep, putting one just beyond the fence in left center. Morse has 12 homers this year in 235 at-bats; over 550 at-bats, that’s 28 homers.
8:50: Jason Marquis begins the sixth inning with a walk, and has thrown 38 balls among his 95 pitches. Marquis never has been a supreme strike thrower; his career average is 61 percent, just below the MLB average of 62 percent. But he’s getting by; he got a double play and a strikeout to end the inning without a run, and will likely come out after six innings with a quality start.
9:20: Things are coming apart for the Nationals in the seventh inning. After Marquis gave up a leadoff double to Jason Michaels, he was lifted for Doug Slaten, who walked pinch hitter Anderson Hernandez. Then Tyler Clippard came in, got a quick out and then walked Jason Bourgeois on a near-check swing that brought manager Jim Riggleman out of the dugout for an argument. And Angel Sanchez just singled to right, bringing in two runs. That means Marquis gets a no-decision and Slaten, who pitched to one batter, is in line for the loss with the Astros up 3-2.
9:32: Once again, the Nationals have taken a late lead from the Astros, this one coming on Espinosa’s two-run homer to right center. He has a triple from the right side and a homer from the left side tonight. Tyler Clippard is in line to take over the team lead in wins. And as Nats PR intern Kyle Brostowitz points out, that God-awful Bobby McKey’s video they’re playing at Nationals Park is serving as the Nationals’ own Rally Monkey - except even more annoying. They’ve taken the lead the last two nights after it’s played.
9:48: Adam Dunn, who was lifted for pinch hitter Kevin Mench in the seventh inning, was pulled from the game after getting hit on the right hand with a pitch in the fifth inning, according to MASN’s Debbi Taylor. We’ll have to see how serious the injury is after the game.
10:05: Joel Peralta, who pitched the eighth inning for the Nationals, is back out for the ninth, with Sean Burnett staying loose in the bullpen. There’s no sign of Drew Storen, who has struggled in his last two games. One other update: The Nationals are calling Adam Dunn’s injury a right elbow contusion.
10:07: Now Riggleman lifts Peralta, who struck out three of the four batters he faced, for Burnett, with Geoff Blum again at the plate and the Nationals again wanting him to hit right-handed. Storen is finally getting loose in the bullpen. I’ve got to say I’m a little puzzled here, both with the decision to pull Peralta when he’s cruising and to not give Storen another chance to save the game. If you’re trying to develop him as the closer, in my mind, you go right back to him to see how he can bounce back. But that’s just my two cents.
10:14: Hey, what do I know? Burnett gets a double play to end the game. The Nationals win 4-3, and guarantee at least a split of the series. I’ll have more in a while, and I’ll be talking Nationals on “Nats Talk Live” with Byron Kerr in a little bit; tune in on 1500 AM.