"Well there was a lot going on in that one," manager Davey Johnson told reporters as he started his nightly post game press conference following the Washington Nationals' 3-2 series-clinching win over the NL West's first place Arizona Diamondbacks.
"If you could have heard me thinking in that ballgame," Johnson said somewhat synesthetically, "you'd hear wood burning."
Johnson's starter wasn't what had the wood burning, it was a decision about his defense late in the game, which he came back to later in his talk with the press. Nats' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann earned the win Wednesday night, his eleventh of 2013, and extended his unbeaten streak at home to twenty straight starts going back to last May 17th's loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the nation's capital.
Over that stretch, the Nats' 27-year-old, '07 2nd Round pick out of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has gone (12-0) with the Nationals (17-3) when their hard-throwing pitcher has taken the mound in Nationals Park. Zimmermann was asked about his sustained success at home after he threw 102 pitches and gave up just three hits, two walks and two runs in seven innings against the D-Backs.
"Hopefully you didn't jinx me," Zimmermann joked with the reporter. "But, I like pitching here, and the fans are great and I don't know what the deal is, but I just enjoy pitching here."
"Zim pitched a great ballgame," Davey Johnson said. The Nationals' manager went to the bullpen after Zimmermann finished the D-Backs off in the seventh, retiring ten batters in a row to end his outing. "His previous start he threw about 112 pitches, and then today he threw a lot of pitches in the first inning and I had a fairly fresh [Tyler] Clippard, I didn't want to take a chance and run [Zimmermann] back out there. But, outstanding game."
After a 28-pitch first in which the Diamondbacks got a one-out walk, RBI double and two-out RBI single, Zimmermann threw an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 second, a quick, nine-pitch third, a 17-pitch fourth, 10-pitch fifth, 12-pitch sixth and 15-pitch seventh that pushed him just over a hundred pitches for the second straight start.
"He had a real tough at bat with [Aaron] Hill," Johnson said, referring to the Arizona infielder's 12-pitch AB in the top of the first which led to the D-Backs scoring the first of their two runs, "but, he misses so many bats and he just kind of settled down and he used all his pitches again and got some easy innings, but still, what did he end up with? 102, 103 something like that? If he hadn't have gone as many pitches as he did last time out, I would have gone with him again, stayed with him [in the eighth]."
Johnson went with Tyler Clippard instead, and the right-handed reliever hit one batter but retired the side to preserve the Nats' one-run lead. Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth looking for his 21st save and gave up a one-out single and two-out walk before ending the inning on a pop to second by D-Backs' outfielder A.J. Pollock.
All that went well, the Nats set themselves up for a chance at a sweep and a three-game winning streak to end their seven-game homestand, but after the win, Johnson was still bothered by a defensive substitution he thought he got wrong at the end of the game.
"The wood burning was in the eighth inning," Johnson said, running through his thought process for getting Roger Bernadina into the one-run game for his defense in place of either Tyler Moore in left or Jayson Werth in right.
"I didn't check with [Jayson]," Johnson explained, "I didn't know who -- I wanted to send [Bernadina] in in the eighth, and I said, well there was going to be left-handed hitters, I'll wait and see how my right fielder's feeling before I send Bernie into right or left, and Werth said he was fine, he said, 'It would be better if you put [Bernadina] in left,' so had I known that earlier... I should have asked [Werth] in the seventh and put Bernie out there in the eighth. But that was the boo-boo."
Johnson brought Bernadina in for the top of the ninth instead, leaving Moore out in left field for an extra inning on defense when he wasn't likely to come up in the home-half of the eighth. Nothing was hit to left that Moore couldn't get and Bernadina might have, but in a close game with the Nationals fighting to get back above .500, Johnson didn't want to have a good night of pitching blown because he waited too long to go with his best defensive outfield.
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