Ryan Zimmerman had a hard time hiding his frustration after he'd committed his sixth throwing error of the year on a fairly routine grounder in the fifth inning of Saturday afternoon's game in the nation's capital. The fact that Washington Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg, who'd cruised through 4.2 inning pitched, imploded after the two-out E:5 and ended up giving up four unearned runs in a 42-pitch inning, certainly didn't help things. "Just a bad throw," the Nats' third baseman told reporters after the loss to the visiting Chicago Cubs. "It's frustrating. Stevie's throwing the ball well and has a heck of a game going and that obviously changed the momentum a little bit. So, you feel bad and you don't want that to ever happen, but it did and unfortunately it was a big play in the game."
Strasburg walked the next batter he faced after the two-out error, putting two on for the opposing pitcher, Edwin Jackson, and E-Jax doubled in the Cubs' first two runs to make it 2-0 against his former rotation mate. Another walk to David DeJesus and an infield single by Starlin Castro loaded the bases and the two-run single Anthony Rizzo hit to center made it 4-0 Chicago before Strasburg got out of the fifth.
In Nationals' manager Davey Johnson's mind, however, his pitcher should have been able to recover from the error and pick his teammate up.
"[Strasburg] is too good a pitcher to let adversity behind him let him down," Johnson said. "He's certainly capable of picking us up when somebody else -- it's a team effort, you know, and errors are part of the game." Johnson told reporters after today's loss that he was actually happy with the way Zimmerman has been throwing lately as he continues to search for a way to throw comfortably again after a year or more of dealing with the shoulder issues he fought through last season which eventually required surgery this past winter.
"I like where he's at," the Nationals' 70-year-old skipper said. The error, though, Johnson added, "... is exacerbated when the pitcher doesn't pick us up." The Nats' 28-year-old third baseman was at a loss to explain what continues to cause the errant throws. His shoulder is fine, Zimmerman told reporters, including MASN's Byron Kerr, so he's not sure why the errors continue to happen:
"I am just working on coming back and getting back to where I was before all of this happened last year. You will feel good for a week or so at a time. And then you will have a day where you do something like this."
Davey Johnson isn't worried about Zimmerman. He talked to reporters after Friday night's win about how the entire team's defense has improved recently. "I know what kind of talent I got out there," Johnson said, "And I've said it [before]. I think it could arguably be -- it's one of the best infields I've ever had anywhere I've ever been. And I've been a few places. So, I mean, I don't worry about guys making errors. Like I said, I saw Brooks Robinson make three errors in one ballgame. We weren't ready to run him out of town."
It wasn't just one ballgame. It was one inning. The fifth inning of a July 28, 1971 game with Oakland at home in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Davey Johnson was playing second for the O's that day. There were two outs in the inning as well, in what was at that point a scoreless game between the Orioles and Athletics. "First [Robinson] threw wildly on Bert Campaneris' bunt," an AP account printed in the Milwaukee Journal the next day reads, "Then he fumbled George Hendrick's grounder for one error and threw the ball over the first baseman's head for another."
Two runs scored to give the A's a 2-0 lead. Orioles' starter Mike Cuellar, a pitcher, oddly enough, whose demeanor Davey Johnson once compared to Strasburg's, struck Reggie Jackson out in the next at bat to strand Hendrick, then threw four scoreless to keep it close enough that hard-hitting outfielder Frank Robinson could pick his teammates up and win it for the O's with a ninth inning, walk-off, three-run home run off A's closer Blue Moon Odom. Baltimore won 3-2.