Zim back in lineup as Nats face Hamels

741598.png

Zim back in lineup as Nats face Hamels

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels faces the Nationals tonight. The last time Cole Hamels faced the Nationals ... well, you know what happened. Will there be any carryover tonight? The hunch here is that there won't be. Hamels clearly realizes he woke up a sleeping giant with his intentional plunking of Bryce Harper. And the Nats seem to realize they're much better off exacting their revenge on the scoreboard.

So they'll be going for their 10th win in their last 11 games against the Phillies, their seventh straight at Citizens Bank Park and their first three-game sweep of the season. They've actually had eight previous opportunities this season to finish off a sweep of a two-, three- or four-game series and have failed to do it each time. This will be opportunity No. 9.

The good news is the Nationals will have Ryan Zimmerman back in the lineup and at third base after he was held out by Davey Johnson last night with a recurrence of soreness in his right shoulder. In a bit of a surprise, Johnson isn't stacking his lineup with right-handed hitters against Hamels, though he tried a similar thing last time, citing the effectiveness of Hamels' changeup against righties.

A friendly reminder that tonight's game will be on ESPN2 ... but you can only watch that broadcast if you live outside the MASN viewing area. Live updates and analysis to come, so please check the Nats Insider live game thread...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, ESPN2 (outside D.C. area) MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Scattered storms, 74 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to LF

NATIONALS (26-17)
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
CF Rick Ankiel
LF Xavier Nady
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson

PHILLIES (21-23)
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
RF Hunter Pence
C Carlos Ruiz
CF Shane Victorino
1B Ty Wigginton
SS Freddy Galvis
2B Mike Fontenot
LHP Cole Hamels

UMPIRES
HP Lance Barksdale, 1B Fieldin Culbreth, 2B Adrian Johnson, 3B Gary Cederstrom

Quick Links

Morning tip: Wizards skip 'rivalry' chatter about Celtics, offer praise before Game 1

Morning tip: Wizards skip 'rivalry' chatter about Celtics, offer praise before Game 1

BOSTON -- Maybe it was because the Wizards just didn't have the energy after a grueling six-game series with the Atlanta Hawks, but all were measured and respectful in their words about their heated rival Boston Celtics before Game 1 tips today.

They had a light walkthrough on Saturday, less than 24 hours after a 115-99 road victory expelled the Atlanta Hawks from the postseason. 

"People want to call it a rivalry, whatever they want, it's not a rivalry," said John Wall, who got into a confrontation with Jae Crowder at TD Garden in January that led to both players being fined by the league office. "This is the first time we've played them in the playoffs."

They tied the season series at 2, with each team winning comfortably on their home floor but falling on the road. 

Wall was ejected from the first meeting at Verizon Center after a flagrant foul on Marcus Smart. Last season, Smart broke Bradley Beal's nose and gave him a concussion with a blow to the face.

"It's basketball," Beal said. "We're not fighting out here. I don't think that's either team's intention to. We both play hard. We both are competitive. We both want to win.  That's all it is. It's no dirty play out here from us and it's not going to be from them. We're going to keep it clean."

[RELATED: Keys to look for in Wizards-Celtics semifinal series]

The Hawks series got more testy than expected as Markieff Morris and Paul Millsap clashed after Game 1 won by the Wizards. In Friday's closeout game, Kent Bazemore shoved Beal after he had a transition dunk and was prone in the air that led to three technicals being issued.

"No," Morris said when asked if there was ill feelings between the Wizards and Celtics. "Teams argue all the time. I wouldn't say there's bad blood. I'm good friends with Gerald Green."

Brooks was visibly upset after a 117-108 loss here on Jan. 18, when Crowder poked Wall in the nose with his index finger only to get slapped on the chin. The Celtics were only called for 10 total team fouls in a game that was loosely officiated. The Wizards only were called for 13. 

Two weeks later, the Wizards wore all black in a Funeral Game to bury the Celitcs. They routed them 123-108 in D.C. 

Brooks is past that blip on the radar of a 49-win season that has put the Wizards in the conference semifinals for the third time in four years. It's Brooks first season in Washington. 

"I think both teams play hard. I have no problem playing hard," he said. "The rivalry, I don't know if it's a rivalry. When is the last time the teams played in the playoffs?"

[RELATED: A rundown of the history between Wizards and Celtics]

Quick Links

Braden Holtby critical of his performance Saturday night

Braden Holtby critical of his performance Saturday night

Caps Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that Braden Holtby wasn’t “as sharp as he can be” in Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Penguins.  

Trotz also said he hasn’t given any thought to his Game 3 starter.

“Way too early to talk about that,” Trotz said, asked if he planned to return to Holtby on Monday night. “I haven’t really thought about it at all.”

Holtby allowed three goals on nine second period shots in Game 2 and was pulled at the intermission. Saturday's performance followed a Game 1 effort in which he allowed three goals on 21 shots and a first round series that saw him surrender 14 goals in the first four games.

RELATED: 3 observations: Missed opportunity leads to tough questions

Philipp Grubauer entered Saturday’s game at the start of the third period and promptly allowed two goals on the first four shots he faced.    

“I thought we just had to chance the mojo in that situation,” Trotz said of pulling Holtby. “He’ll tell you he could be better…and he will be.”

Pressed on what he thought of Holtby’s night, Trotz added: “I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. And when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit, that’s all.”

“Braden is our backbone and he has been all year,”Trotz continued. “We got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby. We got to find some goals in our room right now, and we haven’t found enough.”

Holtby said he didn’t like the Penguins’ third goal, scored by Jake Guentzel, who finished a 2-on-1, sniping a shot over his left pad and under his glove.

“The playoffs are made of big moments and on that third goal, that’s a big moment,” Holtby said. “That’s where your goalie needs to come up with a save and I just didn’t. Obviously, I was frustrated that I didn’t do that.”

Through eight playoff games, Holtby has a .911 save percentage—13th out of the 14 goalies who’ve played at least 5 postseason games. Holtby entered the playoffs with the best postseason save percentage in league history at .938.

So, yeah, it’s fair to say that none of this was expected...getting pulled as the Caps fight for their postseason lives or being asked by a reporter whether he thinks he'll be in net for the next game. 

“I expect to start every game until I’m told otherwise,” an exasperated Holtby said.

MORE CAPITALS: Hot start turns into disastrous finish as Caps fall 6-2