The Washington Nationals look for their fifth straight victory tonight. Unbeaten in four so far on the current homestand. (7-2) in their last nine games. The Nationals are now a half-game away from exiting the NL East basement. Right hander Joel Hanrahan gets his second start of the season against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals. Hanrahan faces right hander Joel Piniero, who was supposed to close for Boston this season, and now returns to the starter’s role on the hill for the Cardinals. Both starters work scoreless first frames.
Ronnie Belliard gets a unique double play in the top of the second, dropping a pop fly from Yadie Molina with Scott Spiezio frozen at first, Belliard catches Molina sleeping as he pouts his way to first and Belliard lets it drop, throws to first, and then backs off as Felipe Lopez chases Spiezio down for the tag and double play.
Adam Kennedy, batting in the ninth spot in the order, tucks a home run just inside the fair pole in right, a hanging change inside from Hanrahan leaves the yard on a slow arching descent. 1-0 Cards in the third. Hanrahan pounds the Cards with fastballs for the rest of the frame. Nook Logan beats out an infield hit for a single with one out in the Nationals third. Hanrahan lays down the sac bunt, Felipe Lopez walks, Ronnie Belliard grounds into a force at second. 1-0 Cards after three.
Hanrahan really has a hard tailing fastball, mid-90’s, cutting across the plate, and nearly impossible to catch up with. Ronnie Belliard makes it all look like child’s play again, doubling Scott Rolen off first after catching Scott Spiezio’s line drive for an inning-ending double play in the fourth.
THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Number sixteen on the season on a fastball inside and pulverized into the upper deck stands for a leadoff homer and a 1-1 game in the bottom of the fourth. DY singles through second. Austin Kearns beats out the tail end of a double play grounder. Two outs later, and after a Brian Schneider walk, Austin Kearns scores on Nook Logan’s single to right. Schneider moves to third and the Nationals take a 2-1 lead. Nook Logan takes second with nobody covering?, and the Nationals pitcher Joel Hanrahan doubles down the line in left to score two and make it 4-1 Nationals. Piniero throws away the pick-off throw to first.
Hanrahan scores. Lopez to third. Tony LaRussa blows his top. 5-1 Nationals.
Hanrahan walks Piniero with two outs in the fifth, and all of a sudden, Kennedy and David Eckstein have singled and the bases are loaded for Jim Edmonds. Hanrahan gets a fly ball to right from Edmonds and preserves the four run lead. Hanrahan’s still in the low 90’s with his fastball as he takes the mound again in the sixth. Back to back singles from Scott Rolen and Chris Duncan, and Manny Acta, Nationals Manager has seen enough. Saul “Sa-ool” Rivera on to hold Hanrahan’s first Major League win…
Saul Rivera gets a pop out from Spiezio for the first out of the sixth, but loads the bases when he walks Juan Encarnacion. Yadier Molina grounds to third, Zimmerman to Belliard to DY, double play to end the top of the sixth. Brian Schneider hits a long double off the Cards Mike Maroth, all the way the dirt of the warning track with one out in the Nationals sixth. Logan lines a single to right, Jim Edmonds takes a hard fall allowing Schneider to score, Logan safe at second. 6-1 Nationals lead. Tony Batista lines a single to left. Logan scores. 7-1 Nationals. Belliard smacks a sac fly to center to score Batista. 8-1 Nationals. Mr Zimmerman? THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIMM!! Four-Hundred feet and into the rim of box seats below the upper deck!! Two-run blast on a low-hanging breaker, Ryan Zimmerman hits number seventeen. 10-1 Nationals.
Billy Traber pitches a scoreless seventh in relief. Stand up and stretch…Ryan Church singles off Brad Thompson who faces the buzzsaw Nationals offense in the bottom of the seventh. Brian Schneider’s been stroking recent-BANG!!! Home run to right scores Church and makes it 12-1 Nationals.
Billy Traber gets a double play ball from Encarnacion to end the eigth. Chris Schroder’s on to close it. Chris Schroder loads the bases in the ninth, but Ryan Zimmerman scoops up a grounder running in and throws out Scott Rolen to bring an end to Joel Hanrahan’s first Major League win. Final Score 12-1 Nationals. Hanrahan (W, 1-0 3.27 ERA, 3 walks, 3 K’s, 6 hits allowed). Zimmerman 2 for 5, 2 HR’s, 2 runs, 3 RBI, and now .270 on the season. Nationals win fifth straight, (8-2) in their last ten, 5-0 on the homestand, and if the Astros manage to beat the Marlins (5-5 in the 11th at 10:05pm), the Nationals will be a fourth place team!!!