5. Zimmermann vs the Red Sox: Jordan Zimmermann held the New York Mets to one run on five hits in six innings of work in his first start or 2015 last Wednesday night in Washington. The 28-year-old, Nationals' '07 2nd Round pick threw a total of 91 pitches, striking out four and walking no one in what ended up a 2-1 Nats' win.
"He was good," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the game. "Got out of one issue, one jam, made a nice pitch to [Curtis] Granderson to get out of it. He'd been 85 pitches in his last Spring Training start, and we didn't want push him too much beyond that, so got him out of there and set up the bullpen for the rest of the game.
"He pitched really well."
"Fastball was pretty good," Zimmermann said, when asked about the outing.
"I just got behind in the second inning on a few guys and they made some solid contact and then a couple little slow-rollers that guys got on and I was able to work out of it, so it was good."
Four of the five hits Zimmermann allowed overall came in that second inning when the Mets' only run scored.
Zimmermann said afterward that he noticed his pitch count after the second and realized he better get more efficient if he wanted to stay on the mound.
"I saw I had 40 pitches after two and I better try getting some quick outs and not mess around," Zimmermann sort-of joked.
"So I started throwing more strikes and going right after guys instead of nibbling."
After throwing 42 pitches in the first two frames, Zimmerman threw a total of 49 over the next four frames to finish at 91 pitches.
Zimmermann's second start of the season, this afternoon in Fenway Park, began with a four-pitch walk to Red Sox' leadoff man Mookie Betts. The speedy Sox' outfielder stole second one out later, and with the Nationals in a defensive shift against David Ortiz, Betts realized that no one was covering third, so he popped up quickly and took an extra bag, sliding in safe at third ahead of the covering pitcher. The Nats challenged the play, but it stood and Betts scored when David Ortiz lined one over Jayson Werth's head in left, 1-0 Red Sox.
Pablo Sandoval improved to 7 for 17 career vs Zimmermann with a two-out single to right that moved Sox' left fielder Hanley Ramirez around to third, but Zimmermann popped Mike Napoli up to end a 22-pitch opening frame.
An E:6 on a Xander Bogaerts grounder to short and a one-out single to center by Sandy Leon put two runners on in front of Mookie Betts in the Sox' second, and Boston's center fielder took Jordan Zimmermann deep to left field and over the Green Monster for a 3-run blast and a 4-0 lead. 19-pitch frame, 41 total.
Jordan Zimmermann hit Hanley Ramirez in the numbers with a full-count fastball in the first at bat of the Red Sox' third, then hit a none-too-happy Pablo Sandoval in the hip with a 2-2 slider in the next AB.
Michael Taylor and Jayson Werth converged on a fly to left field by Mike Napoli and watched it fall onto the track in front of the Monster. Zimmermann popped Shane Victorino up to second for the first out of the frame, but Xander Bogaerts went with a slider outside and dumped an RBI single into right, 5-0. Sandy Leon sent a fly to right-center in the next at bat and both Bryce Harper and Michael Taylor let it fall in for an RBI single that made it 6-0. A grounder toward the hole at short got by Yunel Escobar and Ian Desmond had no play. 7-0 Red Sox. That was it for Jordan Zimmermann...
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 2.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 HR, 70 P, 40 S, 4/1 GO/FO.
4. Sweep Avoided, Now Sox: After the Nationals 4-3 extra innings win over the Phillies on Sunday, Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked to reporters about avoiding a sweep in Philadelphia and heading off to Boston for the start of Washington's three-game set with the Red Sox on a good note after dropping the first two games in Citizens Bank Park.
A tenth-inning rally started with a Yunel Escobar double. Bryce Harper grounded out to the right side of the infield -- after trying and failing to get a bunt down -- moving Escobar to third, and a wild pitch brought the Nationals' third baseman in, 3-2. Clint Robinson followed with a double of his own, then scored on an RBI single by Wilson Ramos, 4-2.
"Yeah, it's a big win for us," Williams admitted, even though it was just the sixth game of the season. "Max [Scherzer] pitched really well again and it's good for us to come through late. Clint's ball had a chance to leave the ballpark, but a nice piece of hitting by Wilson to get that second run in that inning for us, but yeah, it's a big win for us."
As he stated often last season and has once again early in the first week-plus of the 2015 campaign, Williams stressed the need to keep creating opportunities even though the Nationals' hitters weren't necessarily cashing them in over the first few games.
"It's important for us to create those opportunities and we know that it will dictate that we're going to come through on occasion in those situations too," he said. "So, happy about that. Good couple of at bats. Bryce looking to lay the bunt down against a tough lefty and got to two strikes and got the job done. And that's a big one for us."
This afternoon in Boston, the Nationals were facing another tough starter in Sox' right-hander Rick Porcello, who held them scoreless through three (with help from his center fielder).
The Nats finally got on the board in the fifth with Ryan Zimmerman taking a 1-2 fastball from Porcello deep to center field for a leadoff home run. Clint Robinson tripled in the next at bat and scored on a groundout by Danny Espinosa, 8-2 Red Sox after four and a half.
Ryan Zimmerman reached on an error and scored in the seventh to make it 9-3 Red Sox. Danny Espinosa hit a solo home run in the eighth to make it 9-4. Porcello was done for the day after eight innings in which he gave up four hits and four runs, three earned, while striking out six.
3. Harper in Boston: Bryce Harper told reporters before this afternoon's game that he was excited for the opportunity to once again play in Fenway Park, in the 2015 home opener in the Boston Red Sox' 102-year-old home, for the first time since 2012, when the then-19-year-old, 2010 no.1 overall pick went 3 for 8 with a double and a home run in three games against the Sox (which the Nationals swept):
Bryce Harper: "I got really excited when I woke up this morning knowing that I was going to Fenway Park to play baseball." #Nats— Chris Johnson (@masnCJ) April 13, 2015
On his way to Fenway today, Harper shared his enthusiasm with a few Red Sox fans:
Once he got to the park, Harper, now 22, proceeded to crush a first-pitch fastball from Rick Porcello, hitting a long fly ball to right-center field in Fenway that Red Sox' center fielder Mookie Betts pulled back into play, robbing Harper of a potential two-run blast...
Harper ended the day 0 for 4 with two Ks.
2. Turning Point(s): The first turning point of today's game came early this morning when the Washington Nationals made an announcement on Twitter. Jayson Werth was back!
The 35-year-old outfielder, who took a little longer to recover from offseason shoulder surgery than expected, returned to the lineup this afternoon for the first game of the Nats' three-game set with the Red Sox.
Werth's first at bat came with two down and one on in the first. He K'd swinging to end a 15-pitch frame by Red Sox' starter Rick Porcello.
Ian Desmond's fifth error in seven games hurt the Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann in the second inning.
What would have been out no.2 was followed by a single to center by former Nats' catcher Sandy Leon, and Mookie Betts made it even worse with a three-run blast that made it 4-0 after two.
The third... yeah, quite a turning point. [ed. note - "See above..."]
1. The Wrap-Up: Tanner Roark took over for Zimmermann in the third and a sac fly by Dustin Pedroia made it 8-0 before the Nationals were out of the inning. Roark retired the Red Sox in order in the fourth, and worked around back-to-back one-out singles in a scoreless fifth.
David Ortiz took Roark deep in the sixth for a solo home run that made it 9-2 Red Sox, but Ryan Zimmerman reached on an error by Pablo Sandoval in the seventh, took second on the E, third on a groundout and scored on a grounder to short by Ian Desmond, 9-3.
Aaron Barrett worked around a leadoff walk for a scoreless seventh.
Danny Espinosa made it a 9-4 game with a solo home run in the top of the eighth.
That's how it ended.
Nationals now 2-5