Jordan Zimmermann tied a career-high for earned runs allowed last time out against the Cubs in Chicago's Wrigley Field, giving up eight runs and three home runs in the so-called friendly confines.
Zimmermann had trouble keeping the ball down and both he and his manager acknowledged that it was the wrong park for that particular issue. The 27-year-old right-hander took the mound in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri tonight and bounced back from that rough outing with 7 2/3 innings of work in which he threw 114 pitches and gave up eight hits, one walk and two runs, both earned, while striking out seven and inducing seven ground ball outs.
"Zim pitched a heck of a ballgame," Davey Johnson told reporters after the win. "Unbelievable. Really saved the bullpen. It was a sterling effort and he was about out of gas at the end." Zimmermann started the eighth at 96 pitches, and was 18 pitches into the inning having given up a one-out walk and two-out single when the Nationals' skipper went to his bullpen for left-hander Fernando Abad. Abad gave up an RBI single by Moustakas that drove in the runner Zimmermann put on. Abad then walked Justin Maxwell to load the bases before getting David Lough swinging to end the inning.
"Abad got a big out," Johnson said. Tyler Clippard came on for the bottom of the ninth and retired the Royals in order to give the Nationals five straight wins and 11 of their last 15.
"I wasn't taking any chances. I was bringing in Clipp," the Nationals' 70-year-old skipper said after a few interesting bullpen adventures over the last couple of days. "I wanted to make sure that we iced that one down. Strange things can happen in this game."
"You can't leave any stone unturned and never take nothing for granted," Johnson said when asked about continuing to play like they have postseason aspirations. "That's a losing attitude and that was a big win and we just need to keep it going tomorrow."
Zimmermann put together a strong start and the Nationals had another good night at the plate. They've now scored 38 runs in the last five games. The Nats' starter had a five run lead early and had good stuff tonight, as Johnson explained when asked what was different from Zimmermann's outing in the Windy City. "I'll tell you what he had going today, not only was he really making good pitches with his fastball, he had a good slider. He wasn't flying open and he really used his changeup better than I've seen him use it all year. He probably threw 12-15 changeups, oustanding changeups, to the left-handers, so it was a great effort."
Bryce Harper drove in the Nationals' first run with the third of three singles that started the game. With the score tied at 1-1 after three, Harper singled to send Ryan Zimmerman around to third after a leadoff walk and Wilson Ramos hit a sac fly to bring Zimmerman in and make it 2-1. One out later, the Royals' Wade Davis walked Adam LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore and the Nats' right-handed hitting slugger, who was 0 for 1 tonight and 9 for 18 since coming back to the majors before that at bat, doubled to left on a 1-1 curve both he and the opposing pitcher seemed to think was headed out. It fell in for an RBI double instead and gave the Nats a 3-1 lead before Chad Tracy's bloop single drove in two more.
Moore, Davey Johnson said, is hitting a lot better after spending time at Triple-A and finding his swing after struggling in a bench role early this season. "He's had some regular playing time," Johnson said, "Now he's coming in and we have spots available for him to play. And he's just in a good spot. When [we] started the year, when you have a youngster on the bench and then you don't play for ten days, and then you have to start playing, it's hard to make adjustments, but he's feeling real good and his timing is real good right now, so that's good."
And there should be more at bats coming with Jayson Werth dealing with an infected foot and both Denard Span and Adam LaRoche struggling to hit lefties. "Now we've got Jayson Werth is kind of out, and we have the DH here, so I don't know what Jayson's situation is tomorrow, but Moore will probably be in the lineup again tomorrow," the Nationals' manager said. "[Moore] got a big hit. Walking [LaRoche in front of him]? That will teach them. That was a big hit."
• AUDIO: Nats Nightly w/ FBB's Doghouse tonight:
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