The Nationals head out west for 11 games starting tonight, flying high after a series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. First up is the Arizona Diamondbacks and left-hander Zach Duke. And there's no one happier to see him than Rick Ankiel, who gets the start in center field tonight with Roger Bernadina in left field. Check out Ankiel's career numbers against Duke below which are rivaled only by Jayson Werth's career numbers against him.
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals for The Washington Times.
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It's a question that comes up often among writers, fans and even players: If you were starting a team from scratch, who would you pick as your first player, the franchise player? Well ESPN decided to take the question and put it into draft form, in honor of the first-year player draft coming up on Monday. They gathered 30 ESPN Baseball "experts" and had them "draft" one player they'd start a team with right now. Believe it or not, three Nationals went in the top 30 picks, the most picks of any one team besides Florida, which also had three players taken. Only four other teams, Colorado, Tampa, Seattle and San Francisco, had more than one player chosen.
The most intriguing of the three outs Drew Storen got on Wednesday, of course, was the last one: a one-on, two-out strikeout of Placido Polanco, who has hit the Nationals at a .332 clip in his career with more hits against them than against any other team in the National League.
From the bullpen, Drew Storen's view of left field was blocked. As Doug Slaten's 1-0 fastball rocketed off the bat of Domonic Brown with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning, Storen could see Laynce Nix sprint to his left but that was it. The ball looked like a sure hit. Even Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he thought there was "no way" the ball would be caught. It was a standard double in the gap. So, from the bullpen, Storen had no idea immediately if the Nationals 2-1 lead over the Phillies had been preserved. What he could see, though, was right fielder Jayson Werth.
Before the Nationals' 10-2 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman called a meeting with his team. It was something he does every year at the 1/3 point of the season but the Nationals struggles the past few weeks certainly added to the timing of the address. He also talked about the misnomer that he is a "small-ball" manager.
Here are the lineups for today's series finale with the Phillies -- a series that, if the Nationals win, would be just their third series victory over Philadelphia since 2008.
John Lannan has never beaten the Phillies. It's a fact he knows, his manager knows and, presumably, the Phillies know. So perhaps in an effort to change up his luck, the lefty's name was spelled wrong on the Nationals' lineup card this afternoon, popping in an E where the final A usually is (Lannen). It was an honest mistake, but a comical slip up. While Lannan will have his hands full with Philadelphia, the Nationals will face Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt for the first time this season.
The Nationals won Tuesday night -- just their second win on the homestand and third in the last 13 games -- but it puts them in the improbable position of not only winning their third series over the Phillies since 2008 but also to leave Nationals Park with a .500 homestand.
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will take a significant step in his return from abdominal surgery when he plays several innings in an extended spring training game on Wednesday.
With the Nationals facing left-hander Cliff Lee on a hot, steamy D.C. night tonight, manager Jim Riggleman's running out yet another lineup combination in the hopes that his team will be able to continue the small offensive progression they've made the past week or so.
I'm sure Cliff Lee and Jason Marquis weren't the only ones who were glad that tonight's game is being played at night. Temperatures were already hovering around 100 degrees by early afternoon and it should be an extremely hot batting practice. Gametime is at 7:10 and perhaps it will have cooled a few degrees by then. All that said, it likely won't make Lee any easier for the Nationals hitters.
Over the course of the last two days, days that included two more brutal one-run losses for the Nationals, the question has been posed several times to Nationals players and coaches. Seven of their last 11 games have been decided by one run. They've lost six of them.
Sean Burnett stood in front of his locker Monday afternoon and classified his season -- or at least the last five weeks or so of it -- as "terrible." From a promising start, a spotless spring training and use in save situations early this season, Burnett has take a tumble. He'll be the first to admit it. "I feel good, I feel strong, but I've just been terrible," he said. "No way to explain it, just flat out terrible."
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman has a predicament. He has three left-handed hitting outfielders and only two spots. He has a guy in Laynce Nix who's been his team's most consistent hitter -- and a middle-of-the-order bat who's been irreplaceable, a young outfielder who needs a chance to play consistently in Roger Bernadina and the team's opening day center fielder in Rick Ankiel trying to find his way back into the lineup after an injury. It's going to cause some lineup shuffling.
Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond are both getting the day off with Rick Ankiel playing center and sliding into the leadoff spot and Danny Espinosa moving up to No. 2 in the lineup. Alex Cora will take Desmond's place at shortstop and bat eighth.