Welcome to MASN's discussion space for tonight's game between the Nationals and Astros at Nationals Park. I'll have updates and analysis throughout the night, and you can talk about the game by leaving your thoughts in the comments section. I'll respond to you there.
One little tidbit: There was this quote on the Nationals' clubhouse whiteboard today, written in hitting coach Rick Eckstein's meticulous hand:
"The way to bring out the best in you is not by chance, but rather through preparation." -M.S.
That'd be Mike Shanahan, who put the quote in his book. Eckstein is reading it right now, and the line, grammatically awkward though it may be, jumped out at him.
And the handwriting was certainly painstaking; Eckstein is the only baseball man I've ever seen use a piece of paper as a straight edge so his clubhouse announcements line up perfectly.
7:12: Three up, three down for the Astros in the first, all on groundouts to Danny Espinosa at shortstop. Livan Hernandez threw just 12 pitches to get those three groundouts.
7:19: The Nationals have a 2-0 lead; Adam Dunn doubled to right to score Adam Kennedy and Ryan Zimmerman, who came home all the way from first.
7:46: Livan Hernandez gives up a run in the top of the third, allowing a pair of hits and a sacrifice bunt from Bud Norris. It's 2-1 Nationals.
8:13: This is turning ugly. Let's recap the fifth inning so far: Chris Johnson doubled to right to start it. Then Adam Dunn actually made an impressive stop, ranging to his right on a hopper to first. But Livan Hernandez was too late to catch Dunn's flip to first, and the first baseman was charged (unjustly, in my opinion) with an error. Whoever's fault it was, it led to another runner on base for Humberto Quintero's homer. Then came another error by Willie Harris, a Jeff Keppinger single two batters later, a Carlos Lee single (and a third error in the inning) and a homer for Geoff Blum. All told, it was a seven-run inning for the Astros, though only four of the runs were earned, and Hernandez is done for the night. Yikes.
8:44: A couple nice defensive plays from the Nationals in the sixth inning; Danny Espinosa catches a Quintero pop-up with his back to the infield, before Ryan Zimmerman sprawls out for a ball at third base and makes an impressive throw to first base. And, it should be noted, the throw was overhand.
8:57: The announced attendance here tonight: 10,999. That's the smallest crowd since the team came to Washington.
9:30: The Nationals have left eight runners on base tonight, three of them coming in the seventh inning after Adam Dunn struck out with the bases loaded. It's still 8-2. One (minor) bright spot, though: Collin Balester had a 1-2-3 eighth inning. As a reliever, he hasn't been half-bad; he's got a 2.40 ERA and has reined in his control since he had those two scary hit-by-pitches in late July and early August. He's got a power arm and a good curveball, when he's controlling it. Is it crazy to want to take a look at him next year?