Finally, the Washington Nationals' Opening Day Lineup as it was originally conceived...(well, sort of...)
Cristian Guzman SS
Lastings Milledge CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Austin Kearns RF
Wily Mo Pena LF
Paul Lo Duca C
Ronnie Belliard 2B
Aaron Boone 1B
Now, of course, Nick Johnson would ideally be batting third and playing first, but today Aaron Boone's got the big mitt, and Austin Kearns is batting clean-up, but Wily Mo Pena's finally out in the outfield, and The Flat-Brimmed Closer is out in the pen, ready to close it should the Nationals hold the lead in the ninth. DC starter Tim Redding drops a 1-2 curve on Kelly Johnson and gets a weak grounder to first to start the game. Yunel Escobar singles in front of Pena in left, but Chipper Jones rips a line drive into Guzman's glove at short and Escobar's caught off first, for an inning ending DP.
Cristian Guzman takes a low outside change to right for a leadoff double in the first. Lastings Milledge bunts for a base hit for the second time this season, laying it just passed the mound and into the grass. First and third for Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman grounds up the middle, Braves' shortstop Yunel Escobar can't come up with it, Guzman scores, both runners safe. 1-0 Nationals. Austin Kearns takes a walk. Wily Mo Pena goes down 1-2...Tom Glavine's hurt...Glavine leaves the game...Jeff Bennett, a righty-reliever on in relief. Pena grounds into a DP, but a run scores, 2-0 Nationals after one.
Tim Redding walks two with one out in the Atlanta second. Mark Kotsay grounds to Belliard at second, to Guzman covering, back to Boone at first. Double play. Aaron Boone hits a one-out single under Chipper Jones' glove and into left. Redding lays down a sac bunt. Boone to second for Guzman. Bennett walks Guzman. Lastings Milledge takes ball four high and tight. Ryan Zimmerman goes to a full count, and Bennett misses the outside edge, walking in a run. 3-0 Nationals. Austin Kearns walks. 4-0 DC. 4 straight walks. Wily Mo Pena...stares at strike three on a curve outside.
Redding retires the Braves in order in the top of the third. Bennett's back for Braves in the bottom of the inning, and he starts the frame with a fastball off Paul Lo Duca's hand. Aaron Boone takes a high hanging slider for a ride through the infield and into center, Lo Duca scores. 5-0 Nationals after three.
Chipper Jones calmly smacks a low fastball through the hole at second for a one-out single in the Atlanta fourth. Mark Teixeira rips a 1-2 pitch to first, Aaron Boone knocks it down and can only get the out at first. Brian McCann flies out to left to end the top of the frame. Lasting Milledge goes the other way for a leadoff single. Ryan Zimmerman up, Lastings Milledge steals second as Zimmerman takes a 2-2 ball high. Full Count...Zimmerman lines one...Teixeira catches the liner and has Milledge dead to rights off second. Double play. Austin Kearns grounds out to third. 5-0 after four.
Jeff Francouer flies out to right to start the fifth. Mark Kotsay works the count full and lines a single to center to give the Braves a baserunner. Tim Redding throws a slider high on an 0-2 count, and catches Matt Diaz off guard for a swinging strike three. Ruben Gotay pinch hits for Bennett, and works a two-out walk in front of Kelly Johnson, who flies out to left to end Tim Redding's fifth scoreless. Jorge Campillo gets Wily Mo Pena swinging over a nasty curve. Paul Lo Duca pops out to right. Ronnie Belliard lofts one right into Kotsay's glove in center. 5-0 after five.
Yunel Escobar flicks his wrists and pushes a leadoff single to right in the top of the sixth. Chipper Jones...goes the other way...Pena and Milledge chase it to left center...it's GONE!! Over the wall and into the bullpen. 5-2 DC. Mark Teixeira tests Nationals Park's dimensions in right, but can't lift it over the scoreboard, and Tex settles for a double. Redding's done for today. 5-2 Nationals..."Half-A" Ray King on to face Brian McCann. McCann hits one deep in the hole at short, Ronnie Belliard catches on the run, jumps and throws to first, Boone catches it on one hop for the out. Tex to third. King out. Saul "Sa-ool" Rivera on. Jeff Francouer flies out far enough to right to score Teixeira from third without a throw. 5-3 middle of six. Jorge Campillo gets a ground ball from Aaron Boone, and gets Felipe Lopez swinging over a dramatic curve, before Cristian Guzman chases strike three off the plate to end the sixth inning.
Saul Rivera issues a two-out walk on a full-count fastball outside to put Kelly Johnson on in front of Yunel Escobar in the top of the seventh. Kelly Johnson steals second as Rivera goes to a full count with Escobar. 3-2 pitch. Ball four in front of Chipper Jones. C.Jones grounds weakly to second. 5-3 DC after six and a half. Stand up and stretch...Righty Chris Resop is on in relief for Atlanta. Lastings Milledge explodes on a hanging curve, and launches it into the left center gap for a stand-up double. Ryan Zimmerman chops Lastings Milledge over with a groundout to first. Austin Kearns rips one to short, Yunel Escobar knocks it down, throws to first..Milledge breaks for home. Teixeira sends the ball home. Milledge is beat. He slides to the left of home. Reaching for the plate. McCann applies the tag. "You'rrrre OUT!!," yells the Ump. 5-3 Nationals after seven. (ed. note - "Upon further review, Milledge was safe.")
Mark Teixeira takes an outside fastball from Luis "Set-Up" Ayala and pushes it to left for a single. Brian McCann floats the first pitch the same way for an out. Jeff Francouer grounds to Zimmerman at third, to Felipe Lopez at second, but the throw to first is late, Francouer beats out the back end of the DP. Mark Kotsay works the count full, and then slices a line drive right at Wily Mo Pena, who has it go by his glove and bounce off his shoulder as he comes charging in at full speed...one run scores. 5-4 Nationals. Matt Diaz takes a huge hack at a high fastball but just sends a big breeze out over the infield with an unsuccessful home run swing. 5-4 DC after eight.
Blaine Boyer vs Wily Mo Pena in the bottom of the inning. Pena can't lay off the high heat, striking out on a check swing. Johnny Estrada and his stirrups get a pinch hit appearance, but it ends in a K, as Estrada misses a nasty curve. Nick Johnson gets an at bat, and lines out to first for the final out of the eigth...Wait for it...
Chad Cordero enters the game with a one-run lead in the top of the ninth. The Flat-Brimmed Closer wears the red DC logo on his cap, stitched in white above a brim as flat as...Johnny Estrada is behind the plate receiving the pitchers. Brayan Pena stares at strike three on the outside corner. 1. Kelly Johnson flies the first pitch out to left. 2. Yunel Escobar up next. 2-2 pitch. Low and outside. 3-2. Fastball inside. Ball four. Chipper Jones steps to the plate. Cordero vs. C. Jones. Cordero goes to 3-1. Chipper Jones rips a line drive to right. Escobar takes third. Teixeira gets the intentionals. Bases loaded. Manny Acta pulls Cordero. The Tallest Pitcher in MLB History comes on to close it out...(Why do this to Cordero?) Rauch vs Brian McCann...flies to right on the first pitch...Austin Kearns...HAS IT!! 1,2,3 Nationals win. The losing streak ends at nine.
Nationals now 4-9.
?'s And Notes For Nationals' Fans...
Did Wily Mo Pena look ready at all? 0-4 with 3 K's, 4 LOB, and 1 error?
Aaron Boone made the most of his start today at first base. Solid in the field, and 2 for 3 at the plate 1 a run scored and 1 RBI.
Why make Chad Cordero come back in a tight situation, when he hasn't been throwing above the mid-80's in 2 rehab starts? The MASN radar had him at about 85mph on his fastballs? Cordero didn't look happy leaving the game or on the bench afterward.
Lasting Milledge? 3 for 3 with a walk, his 4th double of the season, 1 run scored, and a .308 AVG after today...AND NOW MILLEDGE IS HEADING BACK TO SHEA!!! Say it Mets' fans..."Milledge is the new Kazmir!!!"
Travel day tomorrow...7:10 pm Tuesday..."Opening Night" Odalis Perez (0-2, 4.91 ERA) vs Mike "Mouthpiece" Pelfrey (1-0, 3.60 ERA)...