5. Zimmermann out of Fenway Park: Washington Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann went six strong in his 2015 debut against the New York Mets, giving up five hits and one earned run in a 2-1 win, but he lasted just 2 ⅓ innings last time out against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park.
The 28-year-old right-hander surrendered nine hits and eight runs, seven earned in his afternoon start in the Sox' 102-year-old home.
After the game, an error and misplay-filled affair, Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked about the right-hander struggling on the mound, but also not receiving any help.
"He had trouble gripping the baseball a little bit today," Williams said. "Felt dry out there.
"Other than that, we just didn't help him out. We can't push him. He's throwing 20-plus pitches an inning and the last one was 30+ and we're not going to stretch him that far. Tanner [Roark] came in and did a nice job. Unfortunately we had to get to that point. But, we've got to catch it behind him. That helps him get through innings and helps him go deeper in games."
"I just didn’t have a feel for the ball," Zimmermann told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, "and really had no clue where it was going all day."
This afternoon, Zimmermann was back in the nation's capital, taking on the Philadelphia Phillies, against whom he was (6-6) overall before taking the mound, with a 3.48 ERA, 17 walks (1.97 BB/9) and 55 Ks (6.37 K/9) in 13 career starts and 77 ⅔ IP, over which Philly hitters put a combined .277/.332/.409 line against him.
However, four of Zimmermann's six wins against the Nationals' NL East rivals came in his last five outings against the Phillies, with the veteran of six-plus major league seasons (4-1) over that stretch with a 2.23 ERA, four walks (1.11 BB/9) and 29 Ks (8.07 K/9) in 32 ⅓ IP.
Zimmermann's fourteenth career start against the Phillies began with a quick, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 first. Jeff Francoeur walked to start the Phillies' second, and took second on a fly to left field that Cliff Robinson caught for out no.2. Ryan Howard stepped in with a runner in scoring position and two out and battled for six pitches before striking out on a high 93 mph fastball to end Zimmermann' second scoreless. 17-pitch frame. 25 total after two.
Aaron Harang reached on an error by Ian Desmond with one out in the third, and the slow-footed pitcher took third base on a line drive double to left by Odubel Herrera before scoring on a single to right by Freddy Galvis, 1-1.
Chase Utley sent a tailor-made double play grounder to second in the next at bat, but Ian Desmond dropped it on the exchange. 4-6 fielder's choice. 2-1 Phillies when Herrera scores. 10-pitch third for Zimmermann, 35 total after three.
Cody Asche doubled to center on a 92 mph 1-2 heater in the first at bat of the fourth, but he was thrown out at third on a pitch in the dirt when Jose Lobaton recovered it quickly and threw to third where Danny Espinosa blocked the bag with his knee. Two quick outs later, Zimmermann was through a 12-pitch frame at 47 overall.
Odubel Herrera worked the count full after starting down 0-2 in his two-out at bat in the Phillies' fifth, and he walked at the end of an eight-pitch battle before stealing second on the first pitch from Zimmermann to Freddy Galvis. A broken-bat single to left by Galvis then brought Herrera in. 3-2 Phillies. The 21-pitch fifth left Zimmermann at 68 overall.
After Bryce Harper tied things back up with a solo blast in the bottom of the fifth, Zimmermann walked Jeff Francoeur in the first at bat of the Phillies' sixth, but Ryan Zimmerman stabbed a low liner off Cody Asche's bat and walked over to first to double up the runner and Zimmermann struck Darin Ruf out to end a 19-pitch frame. 87 overall.
Zimmermann came back out for the top of the seventh and issued another leadoff walk, to Ryan Howard this time. Ben Revere came on to run at first base and stole second with Cameron Rupp at the plate before taking third on a fly right by Rupp. 14 pitches into the frame, Zimmermann was lifted... [ed. note - Action picks up in no.1."]
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 101 P, 61 S, 6/4 GO/FO.
The line on Jordan Zimmermann today: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R (2 ER), 4 BB, 3 K -- 101 pitches, 61 strikes. pic.twitter.com/9PvPtbikA9— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 18, 2015
4. Harangutan: Bryce Harper talked last season about why Aaron Harang, who was with Atlanta at the time, was a difficult pitcher for him and his teammates to face.
"He's just a good pitcher," Harper said. "He goes out there with 88-89, touching 91, he just pitches.
"He uses all of his pitches every count, he flips the count sometimes where it's 1-2 he throws a heater right down the middle and he gets you. Sometimes you get a little frustrated against a guy like that."
Harper, who entered the game 7 for 17 vs the righty in his career, wasn't the only Nationals' hitter to have issues with Harang last season.
The veteran right-hander was (2-1) in four starts the NL East division winners, with a 1.33 ERA and a .228/.264/.327 line against in 27 IP, leaving him (3-5) with a 3.05 ERA and a .280/.330/.453 line against vs the Nats in 13 starts in his 13+ major league seasons.
Harang signed a 1-year/$5M deal with the Phillies this winter, joining his eighth major league team. In two starts for Philadelphia before today, he was (1-1) with a 0.73 ERA and a .140/.196/.209 line against in 12 ⅓ IP.
This afternoon in Nationals Park, the first two Nationals Aaron Harang faced reached base with Michael Taylor lining a single to left and Ian Desmond bunting for a hit. Desmond was forced out at second on a grounder to first by Bryce Harper, but Michael Taylor moved up to third on the play and then scored on a broken bat grounder to first by Ryan Zimmerman in the next at bat, 1-0 Nats. 12-pitch first for Harang.
After a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 second, Harang gave up a two-out single to center by Ian Desmond, who took third on a single to center by Bryce Harper, but the Philly starter stranded both runners by striking Ryan Zimmerman out to end a 20-pitch frame. 42 total after three.
The Nationals tied things up in the fourth when Jose Lobaton drove Dan Uggla in with a one-out single, 2-2.
Harang stranded two runners, however, when he caught Michael Taylor looking with a 2-2 slider to end a 21-pitch frame at 63 overall.
After the Phillies took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth, Bryce Harper got hold of a 3-1 fastball from Harang in the Nats' half of the inning and hit one out to center field, over the fence and off the big green wall to the right of the Red Porch. 450 ft? 461 ft. apparently. Good lord. 3-3 game.
• Aaron Harang's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 91 P, 60 S, 6/2 GO/FO.
3. "Left Side" Danny Espinosa: With a 1 for 3 game against the Phillies last night in which he homered to center off right-hander Sean O'Sullivan from the left side of the plate, Danny Espinosa improved to 4 for 14 (.286/.444/.786) so far this season with a double and two home runs in five games.
Nationals' skipper Matt Williams said after the Nationals' 7-2 win that he's been impressed with Espinosa's work at the plate thus far after a few rough seasons for the 27-year-old switch-hitting infielder who contemplated and worked at giving up hitting from both sides this Spring.
"I just think he's smooth," Williams said. "I think he's recognizing pitches. I think he's got a good approach at the plate. His BPs have been good from both sides really. It's quiet and it's compact. That's what he can do when it's right. He's got power, from both sides of the plate, so it's special talent when it's right and when he's easy with it. He's got plenty. I like where he's at."
Asked if he was surprised to see Espinosa hitting the way he has so far this season, Williams reluctantly said that he was, actually.
"Yea -- well...? I mean... yeah. He's swinging really good," the former major league slugger said.
"It's short and it's quiet and he's recognizing and he's waiting for the ball to get to him and simply laying the head of the bat on it. And he can do that. When he does that properly the results are there, so I really like where he's at right now."
With Yunel Escobar (groin) sidelined for now and headed for an MRI, Espinosa got the start at third base this afternoon in the third game of four with the Phillies.
Espinosa showed off some put his knee in front of a sliding Cody Asche to get an out at third when Asche tried to take a base on a wild after doubling, then he walked in his second at bat in the third, putting Dan Uggla in scoring position so Jose Lobaton could drive him in and tie things up at 2-2 in the fourth.
With a single off right-hander Ken Giles in the eighth, Espinosa ended the day 1 for 3 with walk.
2. Turning Point(s): With one down in the Philly third, Jordan Zimmermann got a weak grounder to short out of Aaron Harang, but Ian Desmond bobbled the ball, rushed the throw and though the slow-footed pitcher was originally called out, upon review he was ruled safe and Desmond was charged with his 8th error of the season.
A double by Odrubel Herrera sent Harang around to third, and the pitcher scored on a single by Freddy Galvis.
Chase Utley sent a grounder to second in the at bat that followed, for what should have been an inning-ending DP, but Desmond dropped the ball on the exchange and the Phillies' second run of the game came in, 2-1.
• After the Phillies went up 3-2 in the top of the fifth, Bryce Harper unloaded on a 3-1 fastball from Harang and hit a tape-measure blast off the high green wall beyond the center field fence to tie things back up with a 461 ft blast.
Bryce Harper’s 5th inning HR traveled 452 feet, longest home run of his career. Tied for 5th longest HR at Nationals Park in last 5 seasons.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 18, 2015
Jordan Zimmermann walked the leadoff batters in the sixth and seventh innings. Ryan Zimmerman helped him out with a double play in the sixth, but the runner Zimmermann put on in the seventh (or his pinch runner, actually) came around to score as the Phillies took a 4-3 lead that held up.
1. The Wrap-Up: With Ben Revere on third after he took over for Ryan Howard following a leadoff walk in the seventh and a stolen base off Jordan Zimmermann and Jose Lobaton, Matt Thornton took over on the mound against pinch hitter Grady Sizemore. With the infield in, Sizemore hit a sharp grounder to first. Ryan Zimmerman came home with the throw, but there was no way they were getting Revere. 4-3 Phillies.
Luis Garcia took over for the Phillies in the bottom of the seventh. Ian Desmond (3 for 4) singled with two down, and took second on a wild pitch. Ryne Sandberg decided to walk Bryce Harper in front of Ryan Zimmerman with two on and two out, and it paid off when Chase Utley dove for a sharp grounder and threw to first for out no.3.
Aaron Barrett took the mound in the top of the eighth and retired the Phillies in order in an 11-pitch frame.
Ken Giles gave up a two-out single by Danny Espinosa, but completed a scoreless eighth. Still 4-3 Phillies.
Blake Treinen gave up a leadoff double to right-center by Ben Revere. Two outs later, Revere scored from third on a single to center by, of course, Odubel Herrera. 5-3 Phillies.
Jonathan Papelbon came on in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Nationals in order. 5-3 final.
Nationals now 5-7