Nats' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann singled on the first pitch of the third, taking a 90 mph two-seamer through the left side of the infield in front of Steve Lombardozzi, who sent an 83 mph 0-2 splitter back up the middle for the second-straight single, bringing Bryce Harper up to the plate in his second career at bat against the Philadelphia Phillies' 35-year-old right-hander Roy Halladay. The first time up to the plate, Harper hit a 1-1 splitter through the right side of the infield. The second time up, he took a first pitch curve for a ride, tripling on a fly that bounced, one hop, and off the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center to put the Washington Nationals up 2-1 in the second game of three for the Nats in Citizens Bank Park. After going 2 for 5 tonight, the Nats' 19-year-old 2010 no.1 overall pick is four for nine in Philly in this series, and 6 for 19 with a double, triple, two stolen bases, four walks and two K's in five games against the Nats' divisional rivals so far this season...
"We had guys on first and second, and [Zimmermann] got a great hit leading off the inning and [Halladay] hung a curve to the kid, and the kid smoked it," Davey Johnson said when asked about the key to the Nats' offense coming through against the Phillies' starter. "That was really the turning point, as far as I'm concerned in the game," Johnson said, "And then a good sac fly by [Adam] LaRoche, that gave us a pretty good cushion." When a reporter mentioned how calm Harper looked against a pitcher like Halladay who's more than 15 years his senior with 15 years of experience on the first year player, Johnson said, "He doesn't look fazed at anybody and he's going to get his hacks."
"He's been that way last year and every time I've ever seen him," the Nats' manager continued, "He's not going to get cheated. And he has a pretty good idea of what he's trying to do. I mean, he's not over pull conscious, he's not over-conscious going the other way, he's just looking for a ball he can drive and he got one right there." As for the "he has a pretty good idea of what he's trying to do," comment, Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore hinted on Twitter tonight, that it's more true than you might think when it comes to Harper's preparation:
See Eckstein-Harper convo nugget in this ST story. wapo.st/yf5tP1 Tonight, I asked Harper about it. He said, "That was the guy."— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) May 23, 2012
• Click the link in that Tweet it's well worth it. And check out Harper's third triple of 2012 HERE. (I'll post the video when MLB enables it.)
• Though Nats' starter Jordan Zimmermann got the win, Davey Johnson wasn't happy with one aspect of the now-26-year-old right-hander's outing. Zimmermann went 6.0 innings in his ninth start of the season, but his pitch count was up again. In his last three starts, the right-hander's gone seven on 105 pitches, six on 107 and tonight he threw 107 pitches, 71 for strikes. "[Zimmermann] was outstanding," the Nats' manager said after tonight's game, "He pitched good, but again, it's too many pitches in too [few] innings. He was right at 20 pitches an inning, and that's not him. But our pitchers have been doing that here lately. I'm not real happy with it."
Gio Gonzalez threw 108 in 6.0 scoreless innings on Monday, holding the Phillies to just three hits and three walks while going over a hundred pitches for the fourth-straight start. It was the shortest of the four outings though and Davey Johnson voiced his displeasure after that game too. "Gio pitched a good ballgame," Johnson said, "But the thing about him, he threw a whole lot of pitches. He was pretty much unhittable, but his pitch count was way up there. He gave me a strong six innings, with a lot of pitches and our bullpen was kind of beat up and kind of short, [so] the outcome was good, but getting to the outcome wasn't so easy."
Gonzalez K'd nine Monday night to retake the NL strikeout lead from Strasburg and the MLB lead from Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. Gonzalez now has 69 K's (11.36 K/9) in 54.2 IP, which is second in the league in K/9 behind the Tigers' Max Scherzer's (11.65 K/9). Gonzalez's manager, however, said he'd prefer to see fewer K's and longer outings if possible. "I'd prefer he didn't have as many strikeouts and fewer pitches and could go further. He's got such great stuff I'd prefer to see him get into the seventh or eighth inning. Sixth inning puts a crimp in my bullpen."