Tuesday’s starter vs. Dodgers still TBA (Nats lose 2-1 in 18)

The Nationals don’t need to add a fifth starter to their rotation until next weekend, but it appears they’ll go ahead and make a move in time for Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers.

For now, the club is listing Tuesday’s starter as “TBA,” with Gio Gonzalez pitching Wednesday night and Stephen Strasburg pitching Thursday afternoon.

The Nationals have options for this starting job.

Joe Ross throwing white.jpgJoe Ross will be eligible to come off the disabled list after missing the last two weeks with right shoulder inflammation. The right-hander has been playing catch this week, but it’s unclear if he needs more time (and perhaps a minor league rehab outing) to build up his stamina again.

Lucas Giolito, the organization’s top pitching prospect, could be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, where he actually hasn’t yet made a start since his demotion one week ago. Giolito, who made two starts for the Nationals against the Mets, started for low Single-A Hagerstown on Tuesday while Syracuse was on its All-Star break.

Giolito has since been assigned to Syracuse, which hasn’t yet announced a date for his next start.

One final, though seemingly unlikely, option: Reynaldo Lopez. The 22-year-old right-hander has burst through the Nationals farm system in the last two seasons; he has only made two Triple-A starts so far, but he’s listed as Monday’s starter for Syracuse.

Lopez isn’t currently on the Nats’ 40-man roster, so someone else would need to removed in order to call him up. Giolito already is on the 40-man and thus can be promoted and demoted without a corresponding move.

Update: We’re through five innings here, and we’re still waiting for the afternoon’s first run to cross the plate. Max Scherzer has given up two doubles, a single and a walk, but never more than one in any particular inning, so he has held the Pirates in check. Chad Kuhl, meanwhile, allowed a one-out single to Ben Revere in the bottom of the first ... and absolutely nothing else since then. Not a whole lotta offense on this warm Sunday afternoon. It remains scoreless through five.

Update II: The Pirates broke the deadlock in the top of the sixth, getting doubles from Adam Frazier and Starling Marte to take a 1-0 lead. It could’ve been worse, though, had Marte not made a baserunning blunder and not tagged up on a popup to shallow right field that second baseman Trea Turner caught with his back to the plate. Scherzer hasn’t necessarily been dominant, but he has kept the damage to a minimum, giving the Nats to rally before this game is over.

Update III: Holy cow, Daniel Murphy has tied this game with a pinch-hit home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Given a chance to pinch-hit after sitting out the last 26 2/3 innings with a sore hamstring, Murphy battled through a tough at-bat with Mark Melancon, then turned on a 2-2 fastball down and in and sent it soaring just inside the right field foul pole. The crowd of 32,775 went nuts and gave Murphy a (well-deserved) curtain call. And so now this game is going to extra innings, tied 1-1 in dramatic fashion.

Update IV: To the 11th we go. The Nats had a golden opportunity in the 10th after Arquimedes Caminero walked Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos on a combined eight pitches. But right-hander A.J. Schugel escaped that jam, getting Clint Robinson to fly out to left and Stephen Drew to ground into a 6-3 double play into a perfectly shifted infield. So this game continues...

Update V: To the 12th we go. The Nats again had a chance in the 11th after Chris Heisey walked and reached second on a wild pitch. But Turner struck out for the fourth time in five at-bats today, and then Michael A. Taylor (pinch-hitter) grounded out to extend this game at least one more inning.

Update VI: To the 13th we go. Right fielder Adam Frazier ensured that with a leaping grab of Ramos’ drive to deep right field to end the 12th. Props to the Nats bullpen, which so far has churned out five scoreless innings to keep this game going.

Update VII: To the 14th we go. Tom Jefferson has won two Presidents Races today. That’s all I’ve got for you at this point. Sorry.

Update VIII: To the 15th we go. The Nats bullpen has followed up Scherzer’s seven innings of one-run ball with seven innings of scoreless ball.

Update IX: To the 16th we go. This will match the longest regular season game in Nationals history. They may have played one longer than this in the playoffs once. I can’t really remember these things.

Update X: To the 17th we go. And for that, you can thank Taylor, Espinosa and Ramos, who combined for a perfect relay to the plate on Harrison’s two-out double off the center field wall. Eric Fryer tried to score all the way from first, but he was dead meat at the plate thanks to two perfectly executed throws (and catches) by the Nats defense. Welcome to the longest regular season game in Nats history!

Update XI: To the 18th we go! We’ve now matched the longest game in Nats history, regular season or postseason! Can you feel the excitement?

Update XII: Well, after all that, this day ended in disappointing fashion for the Nationals. Starling Marte crushed a two-out homer to left off Oliver Perez in the top of the 18th, sending the Pirates to a 2-1 victory. Murphy’s dramatic homer in the bottom of the ninth went for naught. And there’s something about 18-inning games that just doesn’t agree with the Nats.

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