As the Washington Nationals packed up in a cramped clubhouse at Wrigley Field and prepared to head to Philadelphia for the final leg of their nine-game road trip, they did so without knowing when they'd have their cleanup hitter and first baseman in the lineup next.
Washington's Michael Morse had to leave Thursday's game against the Chicago Cubs after being hit on the left elbow by a pitch.
Throughout Chien-Ming Wang's career in the major leagues, through his moments of triumph and his downfalls, his identity has been the same. He's a sinkerballer. He'd live by it, and die by it. When was winning 19 games for the New York Yankees or finishing second in the American League Cy Young voting, he threw his sinker no less than 75 percent of the time.
It's been 30 days since a line drive by Ty Wigginton struck John Lannan in the face. It had been only two since Colorado Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio was carted off the field Friday night on a stretcher and later underwent neck surgery after Ian Desmond's line drive hit him in the head.
The slide was more suited for second base, a takeout slide on a potential routine double play from the looks of it. Only it happened at home plate and the man on the ground trying to gain his bearings was Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross — not a middle infielder.
Chad Billingsley was falling apart. Ripe for the taking. One fat pitch away from allowing the Washington Nationals to blow open the series' rubber match and all with no outs in the first inning Sunday at Dod-ger Stadium.
Ryan Zimmerman looked up at the sky, then down at his feet. He kicked some of the infield dirt around his post at third base. A sixth-inning grounder he'd lined up had just inexplicably gone through his legs. In truth, it was just the tip of the iceberg for the Washington Nationals.
The Washington Nationals are .500 as the second half begins for the first time since 2005, their first year in D.C. After a first half that featured gut-wrenching losses, an eight-game win streak, the sudden resignation of a manager and 36 one-run games, they open the second half Friday with a chance to finish with their best record in the nation's capital.
Jason Marquis had arguably the worst outing by a Washington Nationals pitcher all year in his last start, allowing seven runs, six of them earned, in just 1 1/3 innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the game, a 10-2 Nationals loss, Marquis was determined to put the start behind him.