Coming off a disappointing 11-0 loss to the New York Mets on Friday afternoon in the nation's capital in which 27-year-old righty Jordan Zimmermann gave up six hits, three walks and five runs in 6 2/3 IP, 30-year-old journeyman right-hander Ross Ohlendorf took the mound in the nightcap of the doubleheader with Washington's divisional rivals. Ohlendorf went seven innings Friday night, in which he gave up six hits, two walks and one run in what ended up a 2-1 win when Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off blast in the bottom of the ninth.
Saturday afternoon in Nats Park, 32-year-old right-hander Dan Haren threw seven strong innings, giving up just three hits, a walk and one run in a 4-1 win over the Mets. Sunday it was 24-year-old rookie Taylor Jordan earning his first MLB win with six innings of work in which he allowed five hits, a walk and a run in the Nats' 14-1 win.
Davey Johnson was asked after Sunday's game about the importance of getting good starting pitching from the back end of his rotation. "That's huge," Johnson said. "And going into Detroit," the Nats had Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez facing the Tigers and then Zimmermann, Haren and Jordan lined up for the three-game weekend set with the Brewers in Milwaukee, "... that will line up 1-2-3 going into Atlanta. So, we're right where we need to be."
As obvious an issue as the offense has been for the Nationals this season, Johnson said the pitching has been less than consistent. "Everything rolls off of pitching," the Nats' skipper explained, "If you're getting a good pitched game, your offense is always more active, but when you're giving up runs early, it kind of puts a stifle on it. Everybody tries to be too fine. And I think the pitching is coming around and obviously the hitting is coming with it."
The Nationals got a strong start from Strasburg on Tuesday night in Detroit, but a sixth inning grand slam by Alex Avila blew a 1-1 game wide open and gave the home team all they would need to support Anibal Sanchez, who once again dominated the Nats in a 4-1 Tigers' win. Wednesday in Comerica Park, Gio Gonzalez got hit hard, giving up 11 hits and 10 runs, all earned, in 3 1/3 IP in an 11-1 Nats' loss.
"[Gonzalez] didn't have a feel for his curve ball," Davey Johnson said after the loss, "and any time a good-hitting ballclub, or any club, if you're 2-0, you're going to get hit and that's what it was." Gio Gonzalez told reporters the same. "Didn't feel comfortable on the mound," the 27-year-old left-hander said, "I was just trying to find my arm slot. But there's no excuses. You've got to go out there and attack the strike zone. You can't make mistake pitches to a good-hitting team."
"You've got to learn how to attack the strike zone," Gonzalez explained when asked if there was any lesson he could take from the abbreviated outing. "Especially if your curve ball and your fastball are not on command, you've got to go out there and keep pounding. I know it's a lot easier said than done. If it came in a box everybody would do it."
After Gonzalez struggled on the mound yesterday, the Nationals brought Ross Ohlendorf out of the bullpen. He lasted all of 11 pitches. Ohlendorf's velocity was noticeably down and he was out of the game quickly, though Davey Johnson said he was just stiff and there was no sign of an injury. "He had five days," Johnson said, "but he was a little sore coming out of his last start and didn't recover. So he should be all right. Doctor examined him, didn't look like there was any damage or anything." Johnson said he thought Ohlendorf would be fine and didn't anticipate having to make any moves to replace him.
Having dropped two straight with their 1-2 starters on the hill, the Nationals now turn to Jordan Zimmermann again Friday night in Milwaukee. Then it's Dan Haren, who's (1-7) with a 4.99 ERA on the road this season on Saturday in Miller Park and Taylor Jordan in the Sunday series finale.
It will be one of Jordan's last few starts of the season, though the Nationals' GM, Mike Rizzo, on 106.7 the FAN In D.C. on Wednesday, wasn't willing to say exactly when Jordan will be shut down in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. "He'll be shut down at some time," he explained, "when we feel it's prudent to shut him down via our protocol. We've got a pretty good idea of when it's going to be, we just don't want to make that public right now." Rizzo did, however, talk about some September call-ups and potential replacements for Jordan when he is eventually shut down.
The Nats' general manager pointed to Ross Detwiler eventually coming back from the DL after he gets by the back issues which landed him on the disabled list. "He's not going to pitch for four weeks with the back issue and then after four weeks we'll see where he stands and where his health is and get him cranked up to see if he can help us out at the end of the season."
Asked for some names from the system who might be ones to watch going forward, Rizzo mentioned several starters with the Harrisburg Senators. "We're extremely proud of our young starting pitchers that are now at the Double-A level," the GM said. "When you look at a guy like Robbie Ray at 21 years old, A.J. Cole at 21 years old. Nathan Karns. Sam Solis. These guys are guys that you're going to be hearing about a lot in the very, very near future and it's just part of that what we've been calling the "Next Wave" of good prospects on their way to the big leagues."
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