Baseball fans can start their Fourth of July celebration early in the nation's capital on Thursday, with an 11:05 a.m. ET first pitch between the Nationals and Brewers.
The 237-year-old celebration of America's independence will be highlighted at Nationals Park by a couple of rookies.
Donovan Hand, 27, will make his third career start for the Brewers, and Taylor Jordan, 24, the second of his career for the Nationals in the finale of a four-game set. The Brewers won two in a row after the Nationals took the opener.
"I think it's pretty cool," Hand said. "I mean, how many opportunities do you get to be in the capital on the Fourth at all, much less play this game you love and be the starting pitcher. So, yeah, it's definitely an honor. That would be the best way to describe it."
Hand was called up from Triple-A Nashville on May 26 and has made nine relief appearances. But in two starts filling in for a depleted Milwaukee staff, Hand has pitched 9 2/3 strong innings to earn a spot in the rotation -- at least temporarily.
The right-hander threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Braves in his first Major League start on June 22, a 2-0 Brewers win, and five innings against the Pirates on Saturday, a 2-1 loss, when he allowed five hits and both runs.
Hand said his experience playing in the Minors will help him with Thursday's early start time.
"I have a little familiarity with it, because at Triple-A, we play 11 a.m. games on kids' days," Hand said. "You just have to get yourself woken up and try to get going."
Is he a coffee drinker?
"I'm going to be tomorrow," Hand said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes tomorrow."
Jordan made his Major League debut against the Mets on Saturday, and he gave up five hits and an earned run in five innings and took the tough-luck loss.
A large crowd did not faze him in his first start, and he doesn't think a sizable holiday crowd will affect him, either.
"I wasn't really nervous about the crowd or whatever," Jordan said. "Early on in the season, when I wasn't as used to the crowds and pitching in a game, then I might have been nervous, but I'm not nervous anymore."
Nationals: Ramos set to return in series finale
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is expected to start his first Major League game since May 16 on Thursday against the Brewers.
Ramos, who will likely split time with Kurt Suzuki, has been out with a strained left hamstring he suffered against the Dodgers.
"He's been doing a whole lot of running, catching, whatever, so I plan on catching him tomorrow," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "And I might even catch him the next day, too, because the next game's a night game. We'll see."
Ramos went 0-for-3 with a walk as a designated hitter for Class A Potomac on Wednesday. He was hitting .250 with two home runs and six RBIs in 44 games before he was placed on the disabled list.
The Nationals also signed veteran Kelly Shoppach to a Minor League deal on Wednesday as an insurance policy.
• Dan Haren threw a three-inning simulated game on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to have a bullpen session on Friday before starting Tuesday against the Phillies. The right-hander has been on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation since June 25, but he was able to throw all of his pitches on Wednesday against teammates Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore.
Brewers: Peralta Sunday start in question
The Brewers remained up in the air about Wily Peralta's next start following the right-hander's hamstring injury on Tuesday against the Nationals.
Peralta left the game with a strained left hamstring in the sixth inning but said he hopes to make his next start, against the Mets at Miller Park on Sunday. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was more cautious.
"I think that's still iffy," Roenicke said, "but I'm really glad that he's feeling well."
Peralta said he felt tightness in his hamstring in the third inning but stayed in the game until he was pulled in the sixth. He played catch and worked out in the weight room on Wednesday, but Roenicke said the team will not take any chances with its young pitcher.
"Talking with [head athletic trainer] Dan Wright … to put him back out there if they don't think he's 100 percent, I don't think we'll do that," Roenicke said.
Tyler Thornburg is the obvious choice to get Sunday's start if the Brewers push Peralta back.
• Ryan Braun swung a bat for the second consecutive day on Wednesday, a good sign after his previous swinging session left his injured right hand sore. Roenicke said there is a possibility Braun could return prior to the All-Star break, but he did not want to put a timetable on the injury.
• The Brewers are 11-5 against the National League East this season, but 23-44 against all other opponents.
Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.