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Nationals vs Marlins: Game Report..."Empty Dolphin-Blue and Orange Seats."

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Felipe Lopez is starting at second for the first time this season, and batting first in the lineup, where he leads off with a double to the gap in left center field in front of the number two batter, shortstop Cristian Guzman. Florida Marlins' lefty Andrew Miller walks Guzman to bring up Ryan Zimmerman. Andrew Miller walks Zimmerman on a 3-1 pitch in the dirt. Nick Johnson waits for a 3-1 pitch over the plate and lifts it the other way for a sac-fly RBI and a 1-0 Nationals' lead. Lastings Milledge lines a full-count fastball to right scoring Guzman from second, and moving a running Zimmerman up to third. 2-0 DC. Austin Kearns grounds out to third, Zimmerman scores. 3-0 Nationals after a half.

Tim Redding pitches two scoreless against the Marlins, with Miller throwing his second frame as if he were a completely different pitcher. 3-0 DC after two. Tim Redding rolls through the third, retiring the Marlins' lineup in order the first time through.

Andrew Miller drops a nasty, nasty curve on breaking ball-challenged WIly Mo Pena, and then saves himself from a face full of baseball by quickly catching a line-drive off Johnny Estrada's bat to end the top of the fourth. Tim Redding lets the first Marlin of the day on base when he walks Hanley Ramirez to start the bottom of the frame. Ramirez steals second with Dan Uggla at bat, but Redding strikes out Uggla for the first out. Jeremy Hermida finds the gap in left center and scores Ramirez from second with double to make it 3-1 Washington. Redding blows a fastball by Josh Willingham for the second out, and gets one inside on Mike Jacobs for another swinging K to end the fourth. 3-1 DC.

The Andrew Miller of the fifth inning wouldn't even recognize the Miller of the first. Cristian Guzman singles up the middle. Ryan Zimmerman's up with two outs, Guzman on first...Zimmerman blasts one to center...Alfredo "The Amazing" Amezaga fields it on one hop and hits the cutoff man Dan Uggla as Guzman gains speed around third...the throw to the plate beats Guzman...Marlins' catcher MIke Rabelo lunges and applies the tag as Guzman touches the plate...the Ump punches Guzman out ending the top of the frame. Still 3-1 Washington. Redding gets two fly balls and one check-swing strike three to hold the lead through five innings of play.

Andrew Miller gives up a leadoff double to Nick Johnson who pulls a pitch down the right field line and arrives at second standing up. Florida righty Justin Miller takes over against Lastings Milledge. Milledge lines out into Wes Helms' glove at third. Kearns grounds out to Helms, who dives in the dirt and then throws to first. Wily Mo Pena chases a curve into the dirt. 3-1 middle of six. Hanley Ramirez takes a fastball on the wrist, and takes his base with one out in the Marlins' sixth. Redding strikes Uggla out swinging as Ramirez steals his second base of the game. Jeremy Hermida lines a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Ramirez to cut the DC lead to 3-2. Josh Willingham takes the first pitch from Redding off the top of the scoreboard in left...two-run blast for "the Hammer." (ed. note - "Worst nickname ever.") 4-3 Marlins after six.

Johnny Estrada starts the seventh with a single off reliever Justin Miller. Willie Harris pops up and out on a sac bunt attempt. Felipe Lopez lifts a soft liner into center for the second single of the frame. Cristian Guzman walks to load the bases. Ryan Zimmerman hits a weak chopper toward third, Wes Helms makes a barehand grab and throws home in time for the force. Nick Johnson will face a new Florida arm, lefty Taylor Tankersley. Nick Johnson works the count full...and DOUBLES off the wall in right, clearing the bases for a 6-4 DC lead after six and a half. Stand up and stretch...

Luis "Set-up" Ayala retires the Marlins in order for a scoreless inning in relief. Doug Waechter makes his Marlins' debut in relief with a scoreless the top of the eigth, holding the lead at 6-4 Nationals after seven and a half. Hanley Ramirez lays down a perfect bunt and reaches first safely with one out and Luis Ayala back on the mound in the eigth. Ayala gets a glove on a Dan Uggla chopper over the mound, Cristian Guzman barehands it and throws to first. Two down. "Half-A" Ray King comes on to face Jeremy Hermida. King gets a ground out from Hermida. 6-4 DC after eight.

Felipe Lopez singles to center to start the ninth. One out later, with Zimmerman at bat, Lopez steals second, and then takes third as the throw from Florida catcher Mike Rabelo, ricochets into center. Zimmerman gets caught staring at strike three. Nick Johnson gets the intentionals. Rob Mackowiak flies out to center in a pinch hit appearance...Wait for it...

The Tallest Closer in MLB History Jon Rauch towers over the mound in the bottom of the ninth. Willingham lines out to third. 1. Mike Jacobs grounds out to second. 2. Wes Helms...rips one to third...Zimmerman makes a diving backhand stab, but can't get a throw to first that Nick Johnson can handle...Helms safe. Helms takes second without anyone caring. Rauch drops a two-strike curve on Mike Rabelo for a swinging strike three and a 6-4 Nationals win.

Nationals now 5-12.


GAME NOTES and ?'s Raised:

Felipe Lopez earned the start at second (and short tomorrow), because, "...He's kept a tremendous attitude and worked hard," according to Manny Acta, who is quoted in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Lopez's attitude earns him two starts", stating that Lopez's professional approach this season, especially after losing out at second and short to Cristian Guzman and Ronnie Belliard, is behind the decision, as he relays to Mr. Ladson:

"'I think that's the reason I'm leaning more toward giving him an opportunity to play more and, who knows, maybe get his job back,' Acta said."

Ronnie Belliard's batting just .212 early this year, and with Guzman hitting an impressive .310 with 2 HR's and 6 RBI's, if Manny Acta isn't just trying to motivate his infield, second base would seem the most likely spot for Lopez to work his way back onto the field. After going 1 for 8 in his last 2 games, Guzman gets a rest Saturday, and there's no word yet on who'll play where on Sunday...

Shawn Hill?

Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga sums up the thoughts of all Nationals' fans in his recent "Nationals Journal" post entitled, "Lineups and general demeanor", in which he asks:

"Shawn Hill set to start tomorrow. He's optimistic it'll be the first of 30 or so starts. Are you?"

??? Rauch or Cordero? If both are healthy...Who do you want closing? Vote below.