It's hard to disagree with Tyler Moore's assessment. Neither he, anyone on the field for the opposing team or anyone in the Pittsburgh Pirates' dugout likely saw Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche's ninth inning double steal coming. It was stolen base no.1 of 2013 for Zimmerman, who just returned from a stint on the DL necessitated by a hamstring issue. Zim had stolen 30 bases total in his career before this afternoon*. It was also stolen base no.1 for LaRoche, who's kind of slow, and has stolen six bases total over 10 major league campaigns. But with the scored tied at 4-4 with one out in the ninth and Moore up, the Nationals pulled off the double steal to put both runners in scoring position and the sac fly that followed gave Washington the lead.
"'I would have thought those were the last two guys that were going to steal,'" the 26-year-old Moore told reporters as quoted by the Nationals on Twitter. The Nats' right fielder was 0 for 3 with a walk, two Ks and 6 LOB on the afternoon before his ninth inning at bat, but he made contact and hit one far enough to right to score Zimmerman from third and break up the tie game in the second of three with the Pirates in PNC. Zimmerman went 1 for 2 with a triple, two walks and three runs scored today. Before LaRoche's ninth inning single he had walked in three at bats and hit an RBI sac fly to drive Zimmerman in after the Nats' third baseman triple started the top of the fourth:
"When the middle of our lineup gets going, we can be awful tough," Davey on Zim and LaRoche each reaching base 4 times— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 4, 2013
The Nationals also got a strong start from Stephen Strasburg, who received no decision, but went 7.0 innings vs the Pirates in which he gave up five hits, four runs on two, two-run home runs, and a walk while striking out eight and inducing nine ground ball outs from Pirates' batters. Strasburg ended his outing with a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh after the Nats wasted a bases-loaded, two out opportunity in the top of the frame when Moore K'd swinging with three runners on for the second time in two innings.
Pittsburgh's left-handed reliever Justin Wilson struck Moore out in the sixth with the bases loaded and no one out, but Wilson Ramos came through with a two-run single to center that tied it at 4-4 a half-inning after Strasburg had surrendered a two-run blast to left-center by Clint Barmes.
Though Strasburg received no decision, after post game questions about his arm following his start in Atlanta, a successful outing likely calmed some nerves in the organization, fan base and on the Nats' coaching staff. The coaches also helped in the win as the Nationals took advantage of Pirates' reliever Tony Watson's slow delivery to set themselves up for the win, as Zimmerman told CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman after the game:
#Nats knew Tony Watson was really slow to plate, 1.8 sec. So they gave Zimmerman green light and let him decide pitch to try double-steal.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) May 4, 2013
Zim "We know who has what times, what guys are slow, what guys are fast, what guys people like me actually have a chance to steal bases on."— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) May 4, 2013
The Nationals got a win when they needed and once again proved the effectiveness of Davey Johnson's pregame team meetings:
#Nats have a 1.000 winning percentage after Davey-led team meetings this year. "That's how you get Manager of the Year," Desmond quipped— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 4, 2013
[ed. note - " * = Oh, BTW. Zim's stolen base in the ninth? That was the first time he's stolen third in his career."]:
For the record, Ryan Zimmerman's timely swipe of third base in the 9th inning today at PIT was the first of his career.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) May 5, 2013