Someone in the crowd at Nationals Park yelled out a compliment for Head and Shoulder's spokesmodel Joe Mauer's hair as he stepped to the plate for the first time today in Washington, D.C. That was apparently the kind of game it was going to be in the nation's capital this afternoon as the Nationals took on the one-time Washington Senators now known as the Minnesota Twins in the first of three the two teams will play in the next forty-eight hours. Nats' lefty Gio Gonzalez was on the mound for the home team in the series opener. Gonzalez issued a two-out walk to Twins' right fielder Ryan Doumit in the top of the first, but completed a 25-pitch scoreless frame after which Nationals' leadoff man Denard Span singled to center to start the home-half of the inning. But Span was erased on a double play grounder to third off Jayson Werth's bat and Minnesota starter Kevin Correia got Ryan Zimmerman swinging with a 2-2 curve on the final pitch of nine-pitch first vs the Nats. 0-0.
Davey Johnson had a quick, forceful discussion with first base ump Chris Conroy after the umpire incorrectly called Twins' center fielder Aaron Hicks safe on a weak grounder to the left of the mound which Ryan Zimmerman somehow got to before firing a sidearm throw to first. Hicks was called safe and Conroy was not persuaded by the Nats' 70-year-old skipper's argument. Gio Gonzalez refused to be rattled though, and the grounder to second he got from Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier allowed 2011 Nats' 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon to start his first 4-6-3 inning-ending DP. 12-pitch inning, 37 for Gonzalez after two. 0-0 in D.C.
After turning the double play, Anthony Rendon hit a 2-2 fastball outside from Kevin Correia to right for an opposite field double with two down in the Nationals' second. The rookie infielder's third two-base hit of the year didn't amount to anything unfortunately, as Roger Bernadina K'd swinging to end the second in the next AB.
Jamey Carroll does all the little things right. The Twins' utility infielder started at third today, and took a two-out walk from Gio Gonzalez at the end of a seven-pitch at bat in his second trip to the plate, after an eight-pitch battle with the Nats' starter in the top of the first. Another grounder to Anthony Rendon and a force at second ended Gonzalez's third scoreless after 16 pitches with the left-hander at 53 overall. Kurt Suzuki grounded out to Carroll at third base to start the Nationals' third inning. Denard Span lined to right for his second hit in two at bats this afternoon, giving Jayson Werth a two-out chance to make something happen. And Werth made it happen. #WERTHQUAKE. Two-out, two-run home run to left. 2-0 Nationals after three in Washington, D.C. Werth's fifth.
Former National Josh Willingham hit a sharp grounder toward third and off a diving Ryan Zimmerman's glove for a one-out hit in the Twins' fourth. An error by Adam LaRoche at first allowed a Justin Morneau grounder into right, and Willingham scored to cut the Nats' lead in half. 2-1 Nationals. Aaron Hicks worked the count full and walked on a fastball outside away. Brian Dozier stepped up next and ripped an 0-2 fastball inside to left for an RBI single that brought Morneau around to tie it at 2-2. Pedro Florimon didn't come close to Gonzalez's 1-2 bender as he K'd for the second time in two at bats and the second out of the Twins' fourth and the Nationals' lefty got the opposing pitcher swinging too to end a 24-pitch inning at 77 pitches overall. A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 4th had Kevin Correia at 57 total after four. 2-2 game in the nation's capital.
Gio Gonzalez's 85th pitch of the game ended up in the visitor's bullpen as Twins' catcher Joe Mauer hit an opposite field blast to left to break up the tie with his sixth home run of 2013 and the 100th of his career. 89 pitches on the day for the Nats' starter after a 12-pitch sixth inning. 3-2 Minnesota after four and a half. Roger Bernadina doubled off the right field wall to start the Nationals' half of the fifth, but three outs later he was stranded at third when Denard Span K'd swinging to end the inning.
• Wow, Joe Mauer, Wow:
Justin Morneau doubled to the warning track in left to start the Twins' sixth, just out of the reach of a diving Roger Bernadina. Morneau's 14th two-base hit of 2013. Gio Gonzalez collected his fifth and sixth Ks of the day from Aaron Hicks and then Brian Dozier to hold Morneau at second, then walked Pedro Florimon intentionally to get to the opposing pitcher. Kevin Correia K'd looking to end a 25-pitch inning that had Gio Gonzalez at 114 overall. Adam LaRoche hit a two-out single to left in the Nationals' sixth, but Correia got a grounder back to the mound from Ian Desmond to finish the sixth at 84 pitches.
Fernando Abad took the mound for the Nationals in the top of the seventh and gave up a one-out double by Joe Mauer (2 for 4). One out later, Drew Storen replaced Abad with Josh Willingham due up and a got a sharp grounder to third from the outfielder. A slick, sliding backhand play and strong throw to first by Ryan Zimmerman kept it a one-run game after six and a half with the visiting Twins. Anthony Rendon (2 for 3) buzzed Kevin Correia's tower with a line drive back to the mound and off the pitcher's glove. A sac bunt by Roger Bernadina moved Rendon into scoring position and he scored from there when a high chopper to short off Kurt Suzuki's bat got under Twins' shortstop Pedro Florimon's glove. 3-3 game. Left-hander Brian Duensing took over for Correia with Suzuki on second. Pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi flew to right field, allowing Suzuki to take third, but a groundout to short by Denard Span ended the seventh. 3-3 game.
Tyler Clippard started the eighth inning against Justin Morneau. A 3-1 pitch missed outside, putting the Twins' leadoff man on in the top of the inning. Aaron Hicks bunted/gave up an out to move pinch runner Eduardo Escobar over to second. Pinch hitter Chris Parmelee stepped in for Brian Dozier. Clippard threw a 1-1 fastball at Parmelee's feet, and it got by Kurt Suzuki, moving the runner to third with one out. A fly to left by Parmelee wasn't nearly deep enough for Escobar to test Roger Bernadina's arm. Pedro Florimon hit one back to the mound and off Tyler Clippard, but the Nats' reliever recovered and got the third out at first.
Casey Fien came out to the mound for Minnesota in the bottom of the eighth. Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman went down swinging and Adam LaRoche flew to center to end the inning.
Twins' pinch hitter Clete Thomas singled to left off Rafael Soriano to start the top of the ninth. Jamey Carroll was swinging away instead of bunting, and he grounded sharply to third to start a 5-6-3 DP. Joe Mauer hit a sharp grounder to third that Ian Desmond dove for and got, but the Nats' shortstop's bounced overhand throw arrived a step late at first according to first base ump Chris Conroy. Who was 1 for 1 on close calls today after seemingly getting this one right. A two-out single to right by Ryan Doumit sent Mauer around to third with Josh Willingham due up. The Hammer worked the count full, but K'd looking at a full-count fastball to end the Twins' ninth. Still 3-3.
Jared Burton vs Ian Desmond. Groundout to second. Anthony Rendon K'd swinging through a 1-2 heater. Roger Bernadina flew to center. 3-3 after nine.
Eduardo Escobar faced Erik Davis in the first at bat of the top of the tenth. A grounder up the middle got by a diving Anthony Rendon and into center. Escobar took second when Aaron Hicks bunted/gave up an out. Ian Krol came on to face lefty Chris Parmelee. A groundout to first moved Escobar to third. Pedro Florimon stepped in with two out and flew out to center to end the Twins' tenth. Josh Roenicke was Minnesota's fifth pitcher. Kurt Suzuki flew to center to start Washington's tenth. Pinch hitter Chad Tracy flew to center for out no.2, but Denard Span snuck a single through the right side with two down. Jayson Werth grounded into a force at second. 3-3 after ten.
It was Craig Stammen's turn in the top of the eleventh. A leadoff walk to Chris Hermann allowed Jamey Carroll to lay down a bunt/give up an out and after an intentional walk to Joe Mauer, a Ryan Doumit single to center brought Hermann around and made it 4-3 Twins after ten and a half. Glen Perkins came on to close it. Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to second. Adam LaRoche popped up behind short for out no.2, but Ian Desmond lined a two-out single to center to keep hope alive. Anthony Rendon? Fly out to left. Ballgame.
Twins win, 4-3 final.
Nationals now 29-31