Jordan Zimmermann Appreciation Society Meeting Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: The Washington Nationals sent nine runners to the plate in the top of the first against Atlanta Braves' right-hander Ervin Santana, with RBI singles by Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos driving in runs and a sac fly by Asdrubal Cabrera capping off the scoring in a four-run, 22-pitch first by the Braves starter in the second game of three in Washington, D.C.
Jayson Werth walked with two down in the Nats' second, took third on a two-base error on an errant pickoff throw by Braves' catcher Christian Bethancourt and scored on Adam LaRoche's second RBI single of the game, 5-0 Nats.
The Braves scored two runs in the fourth, the first coming in when the Nationals failed to turn a double play on a Jason Heyward grounder to first with runners on the corners and one out. Phil Gosselin scored on the fielder's choice + E6, and Heyward scored on an RBI single by Chris Johnson in the next at bat. 5-2 Nats.
Anthony Rendon, who walked more than he K'd in college, walked with one down in the fourth and scored when Jayson Werth doubled to left in the next at bat, 6-2 Nats.
Danny Espinosa replaced Ian Desmond at short in the top of the sixth, and threw away the first ball hit his way, sending one first wide of the first base bag. Phil Gosselin reached on the error and scored one out later when Justin Upton hit a 1-2 fastball into the left field bullpen for his 27th HR of the season. 6-4 Nationals.
4. Zimmermann vs the Braves: In nine second-half outings, 28-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is (4-0) with the Nationals 8-1 in his starts. Washington's 2007 2nd Round pick has put up a 2.75 ERA, a 2.76 FIP and a .229/.259/.361 line against in 59 IP so far in the second half of his sixth major league season.
In his last three outings, after a four-hit, three-run, three-walk start against the Arizona D-Backs on August 18th, the right-hander has been particularly dominant against the Giants, Mariners and Dodgers, putting up a 2.66 ERA and a .234/.263/.364 line against in 20 ⅓ IP. So what has he been doing right?
"I just think it's strike one," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters before Zimmermann took the mound tonight against the Atlanta Braves in the nation's capital.
"We saw it a lot in the last three or four starts where he's been able to get strike one or strike two and then elevate and get guys to swing at balls up here. And that stems from strike one and getting ahead in the count and I think that, for everybody that's important, but especially when you have a power fastball and you can climb the ladder late, it's really important to get ahead."
Zimmermann has faced the Braves twice already this season, holding them to four hits, a walk and one earned run in five innings in his first start of the season. He struck out nine in a 2-1 loss that day.
In a June 19th outing in the nation's capital, the righty walked one, struck out six and allowed six hits and two earned runs in seven innings of a 3-0 loss.
Over the course of his career, the Nationals' starter has gone (3-2) in nine against the Braves before tonight's start, with a 2.92 ERA, 13 walks (2.24 BB/9) and 51 Ks (8.77 K/9) in 52 ⅓ IP over which he's held Atlanta's hitters to a combined .234/.286/.376 line.
Zimmermann's third start against the Braves this year and the tenth start against Atlanta in his career began with a swinging K...
1st: Zimmermann threw a 2-2 fastball by Emilio Bonifacio up high for the first of the Braves' first. Second baseman Phil Gosselin stepped in and popped up to short center for out no.2. Freddie Freeman took a 2-0 fastball through the right side for a two-out single. Justin Upton fell behind 0-2, but Freeman was caught stealing before a 1-2 pitch to Upton ended the top of the first after 15 pitches.
2nd: Given a 4-0 lead to work with, Zimmermann struck Justin Upton out to start the top of the second, but Jason Heyward doubled to right on a first-pitch fastball in the next at bat, bouncing one off the track and into the bullpen. Chris Johnson grounded out to third for out no.2. Christian Bethancourt started down 0-2 and sent a fly ball to the track in center to end a nine-pitch frame by the Nats' starter, who was up to 24 pitches after two.
3rd: Andrelton Simmons K'd swinging through an 0-2 fastball upstairs. A 93 mph 1-2 heater sent Ervin Santana back to the third base dugout. Emilio Bonifacio worked the count full in his two-out at bat and battled for 13 pitches before he grounded out to second to end a 21-pitch frame that left Zimmermann at 45 pitches total after three.
4th: Phil Gosselin bounced a 3-2 fastball off the base of the left field wall for a leadoff double in the top of the fourth. Freddie Freeman lined a 2-1 change outside to left for a single that put runners on the corners with no one out. Justin Upton stepped in next and went down swinging at an 88 mph 2-2 slider. Jason Heyward sent a broken-bat grounder to first, but the Nats only got the force at second when Ian Desmond threw wide of first after the 3-6 throw. 5-1 Nats. Chris Johnson singled to right in the next at bat, bringing Heyward in from second after the error. 5-2. Christian Bethancourt lined out to left with Bryce Harper making a sliding catch to end a 20-pitch frame by Zimmermann, who was up to 65 pitches overall after four.
5th: Andrelton Simmons popped up a bunt attempt that a sliding Anthony Rendon caught. Ervin Santana K'd swinging at an 0-2 fastball. Emilio Bonifacio K'd looking at a 2-2 slider outside. 13-pitch fifth, 78 total.
6th: Danny Espinosa took over for Ian Desmond at short in the sixth, so of course the ball found him on the first grounder of the inning hit by Phil Gosselin and Espinosa sailed a throw wide of first base. E:6. Freddie Freeman lined out to right on a 94 mph 2-2 fastball for the first out of the inning. Justin Upton sent a 93 mph 1-2 fastball into the left field bullpen for a two-run blast that made it 6-4 Nats. Jason Heyward sent a fly to center for out no.2. Chris Johnson lined out to right to end a 27-pitch frame by Zimmermann which left the Nats' starter at 105 pitches overall.
The line on Jordan Zimmermann tonight: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 7 K -- 105 pitches, 75 strikes. pic.twitter.com/tt83RWGRd7— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 10, 2014
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 105 P, 75 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
3. Santana in D.C.: In ten second-half starts, including one against the Nationals, Braves' right-hander Ervin Santana is (7-1) with Atlanta 8-2 when he's taken the mound.
In 64 ⅓ IP since the All-Star Break, the veteran right-hander has put up a 2.94 ERA, a 3.38 FIP and a .247/.323/.359 line against.
When the 31-year-old, ten-year veteran faced the Nationals on August 8th in Turner Field, he gave up four hits, two walks and four runs, all earned in six innings of work in a 7-6 win.
It was Santana's second start of the year against the Braves' NL East rivals and the current division leaders.
In a June 22nd start in the nation's capital, where he faced the Nationals again tonight, Santana gave up six hits, a walk and three earned runs in six innings, over which he struck out nine.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked before today's game what made Santana so difficult to face?
"Changeup," he said, summing it up in word and one pitch. "Changeup is really, really good. It neutralizes lefties. He can reach back for 96 [mph] when he needs it, yet he pitches low '90s with some really good movement and breaking ball for strikes any time he wants it. But I think his biggest pitch, for me, is his changeup. Very deceptive, good arm action, a lot off his fastball and it's really tough to stay back knowing he can reach back and get 95-96 when he wants to. He's a good pitcher."
Soriano's third start against the Nationals in his first season with the Braves began with a double to right field by Denard Span. Anthony Rendon bunted Span over to third in the next at bat. Jayson Werth started up 3-0 and walked to put runners on the corners for Adam LaRoche, whose RBI single to center brought Span in for a 1-0 lead. Ian Desmond took a 2-1 slider to left in the next at bat to drive Jayson Werth in, 2-0, and the Nats loaded the bases when Bryce Harper singled to center in front of a diving Emilio Bonifacio. The umpires decided to review the close play at second on Bonifacio's throw in, but stuck with the original call. Bases loaded. 3-0 on a single to right by Wilson Ramos. 4-0 on a sac fly by Asdrubal Cabrera. 22-pitch frame for Santana.
Jayson Werth walked with two down in the second and took two bases on an errant pick attempt by Braves' catcher Christian Bethancourt. Adam LaRoche's second RBI single of the night drove Werth in to make it 5-0 Nationals. 41 pitches for Santana after two.
Wilson Ramos singled to center with one out in the Nats' third, taking a 3-2 slider back up the middle, but he was stranded at first two outs later at the end of a 17-pitch third by Santana, which pushed him up to 58 pitches.
Anthony Rendon walked with one down in the fifth and scored from first on a line drive double to left by Jayson Werth, arriving at home ahead of a strong relayed throw in from Justin Upton to Andrelton Simmons and Christian Bethancourt at home. The Braves walked Adam LaRoche intentionally to get to Ian Desmond, but a wild pitch by Santana moved Werth and LaRoche up a base each to second and third. Desmond K'd swinging at a 94 mph 2-2 fastball. Bryce Harper stepped up with two on and two out and popped out to second. 28-pitch frame by Santana, 86 pitches overall.
A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Santana at 99 pitches total.
• Ervin Santana's Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 99 P, 58 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
2. Nats Park Atmosphere: There were "only" an estimated 20,000+ fans in Nationals Park last night for the series opener with the Atlanta Braves, with an announced crowd of 25,448, but they were into the game, cheering wildly when Matt Williams left Doug Fister in to finish the seventh and when Drew Storen closed out the win in the ninth.
So is it good preparation for a potential postseason atmosphere? How are the Nats' first-year manager and his players dealing with it, blocking it out and remaining focused?
"The game remains the same," Williams said today. "So regardless of who we're playing or where or what time of year, it's about execution and if we execute then we have a chance and that starts with our guy that holds the ball in the first inning and it goes through everybody that plays the game that particular day until the last out is made. And if we can execute then we have a chance to win. That's the same with everybody. It's not rocket science by any stretch, but that's the bottom line for us.
"So pitch-by-pitch, and inning-by-inning and situation-by-situation, I think these guys do a good job of approaching the game that way and understanding what is needed at that time and what we must to do to push a run across or stop somebody from scoring. Pretty simple stuff, but I think if you keep it simple it helps us."
29,233 fans turned out for the second game of the three-game set with the Braves, and the Nationals executed at the plate and for the most part in the field in a 6-4 win.
1. The Wrap-Up: Anthony Varvaro took over on the mound for the Braves in the sixth and retired the Nats in order in an 18-pitch frame.
Aaron Barrett took the mound for the Nationals in the seventh and retired the side in order in a seven-pitch frame.
Luis Avilan gave up a two-out double by Danny Espinosa, but completed a scoreless eight-pitch frame.
Barrett came back out for the top of the eighth inning and gave up a leadoff double to center by Emilio Bonifacio. A groundout to short by Phil Gosselin ended Barrett's outing. Ross Detwiler came out and threw a nasty 0-2 bender by Freddie Freeman for a swinging strike three. Craig Stammen came on to face Justin Upton, got up 0-2 and threw a 1-2 fastball by him inside for a swinging strike three.
Avilan completed a scoreless bottom of the eighth.
STORENWARNING!!! Nats' closer Drew Storen took the mound in the ninth looking for his third save in three days with a two-run lead. The crowd started "Droooo"-ing as soon as he left the bullpen and headed for the mound. Jason Heyward grounded out to second. ONE! Chris Johnson fouled a 1-2 fastball into Wilson Ramos' mitt. Christian Bethancourt sent a fly to left to end it. Ballgame. 6-4 final.
Nationals now 82-61