"Well that one hurt," Davey Johnson told reporters after the Washington Nationals' somewhat brutal 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night in Camden Yards. "It's a tough ballpark to pitch in," the former Oriole and O's manager said of the park he managed in during the 1996 and '97 seasons. "You make one little mistake, you let them get something going and the momentum shifts real quick. I thought [Jordan Zimmermann] had some pretty good stuff. But this ballpark can eat you alive."
There were 64 home runs hit at Camden Yards in 23 games before tonight. Only four parks in the majors have seen more HRs so far this season with 65 launched at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, 69 hit out of Progressive Field in Cleveland, 84 hit in both Minute Maid in Houston and Miller Park in Milwaukee and 91 sent out of the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Some of those, of course, could be attributed to the pitchers and hitters working in each of the respective parks.
It went both ways tonight as eight home runs total were hit out of the Baltimore Orioles' home. Ryan Zimmerman started the scoring with a two-out solo home run off Chris Tillman in the top of the first. Zimmerman crushed a 2-2 fastball for a long home run to left. After O's infielder Ryan Flaherty doubled in a run in bottom of the second to tie it, Roger Bernadina and Zimmerman followed with back-to-back blasts in the fourth. Chris Davis hit a hanging full-count slider out to right in the bottom of the fourth to get the Orioles within one at 3-2, but an RBI double by Denard Span and Zim's third in three at bats followed in the fifth as the Nationals got out to a 6-2 lead.
Nick Markakis hit the sixth home run of the game in the Orioles' sixth to make it a three-run game at 6-3. Steve Pearce hit a two-run home run in the home-half of the seventh to get Baltimore within one at 6-5, then an RBI double by Manny Machado and an RBI single by Markakis followed with Machado's hit ending Jordan Zimmermann's night and Markakis' hit the first of two Tyler Clippard allowed. When Chris Davis stepped in against Clippard with one on and one out, Davey Johnson decided to pitch to him and the O's slugger took an 0-2 change out to right for his second home run of the night and 19th of 2013. The six-run inning gave Baltimore a 9-6 lead.
The three home runs off Jordan Zimmermann tonight matched the number he'd surrendered in 73.2 IP this season before this evening's game. The home run Chris Davis hit off Tyler Clippard was the first by a left-hander off Clippard this season and just the second right-handed reliever's allowed in 21.0 IP. "The first baseman is in heat," Johnson said, referring to Davis, of course, "I probably should have put him on but I like Clipp against left-handers, he's been outstanding all year. They're hitting less than .100 off him and it's just one of those things, tough game. Tough one to take."
Davey Johnson was being nice to left-handed hitters, who actually had a .054/.167/.054 line against Clippard through 42 PAs before tonight's game.
Asked if the Nationals missed having Bryce Harper's bat in the lineup tonight, the Nats' manager said it wasn't a matter of any one player not being available. "We've got plenty of talent on the field," Johnson said, "We scored enough runs, our pitching is good enough to hold it. But we just didn't do it. One of those days."
And one of those nights in one of those parks.
"It always jumps here," the 70-year-old skipper said, "I know this ballpark and you've got to keep the ball down, you get the ball up -- Clippard made two good pitches to [Chris] Davis and then hung a changeup up over the plate and that's what happens here."
Leads like the Nationals had can evaporate quickly. Three straight hits started the seventh with two runs scoring on Steve Pearce's home run. The RBI double by Machado tied it up at 6-6 before Clippard replaced Zimmermann on the mound. "Clippard was the man [for] that part of the lineup," Johnson told reporters, "He was ready pretty quick. They jumped all over [Zimmermann] pretty quick. The home run, Pearce's home run just getting into the left field stands. That was a big blow."
"We've been pretty good holding a lead," the Nats' skipper said, "[Zimmermann] with a four-run lead going into that inning, I feel pretty good. He has a low pitch count, he can give me seven, but strange things happen in this ballpark. Let me tell you."
"It's a great ballpark to hit in," Johnson concluded, "but when you leave the ball up and he left the ball to [Nick] Markakis earlier, you just can't do that in this ballpark. It's a tough park to pitch in."