5. Zimmermann vs the Braves: Four of the six hits Washington Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann allowed last time out, against the Miami Marlins in Marlins Park, and both of the runs he surendered, came in a 23-pitch fifth.
Zimmermann started his fourth outing of the year with four scoreless innings on 48 pitches, but the Marlins finally got to him for the two of the three runs they scored in a 3-2 win for the home team.
"I don't know what happened," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the game, when asked about the rough sixth frame.
"They hit a couple of balls hard for outs in that inning too. He just elevated the baseball a little bit. The next inning he went back out and settled in and was good."
Zimmermann finished the start with an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth and was done after just 79 pitches overall.
He told reporters after the game it was an improvement on his previous outings.
"I'd say it was a little better," Zimmermann explained. "I obviously didn't walk anyone which is a big plus. Slider was probably my best pitch tonight. I just pounded the zone with the fastball and then threw the slider. Most of these guys have a rough time with the slider so I didn't have to throw any curveballs or any changeups. I just stuck with what was working and it was an okay night."
"I just felt a little better out there and even a little better than the time before," he said. "I just feel like I'm getting a little better each time out and it's a slow process, but I'm feeling better and the ball is coming out a little better."
Zimmermann, who struggled to get a feel for his slider early last season, said he adjusted on the mound to what was working and what was needed to retire the Marlins' hitters.
"Some days you have it, some days you don't," he said.
"And the days you don't have it you hope the curveball is there. So today [the slider] was good, so didn't really have to use the curveball. I probably should have a little more, but there's always the next start."
That "next start" took place in Atlanta in the series finale with the Braves in Turner Field. Zimmermann used his curveball tonight...
In 10 starts and 58 ⅓ IP against the Nats' NL East rivals before tonight, Zimmermann was (4-2) with a 2.93 ERA, 13 walks (2.01 BB/9), 58 Ks (8.59 K/9) and a .235/.283/.385 line against after he went (1-1) with a 2.50 ERA, two walks (1.00 BB/9) and 22 Ks (11.00 K/9) in 18 IP against the Braves last season over which he held Atlanta's hitters to a combined .243/.274/.357 line.
Nick Markakis singled to left on a 92 mph 1-1 fastball in the first at bat against Zimmermann, and one out later Freddie Freeman (8 for 12 in the series after the hit that follows) lined a double to right that sent Markakis around to third. A.J. Pierzynski stepped in with two on and drove them both in with a broken-bat single to center that made it 2-0 Atlanta.
Pierzynski forgot how many outs there were, however, and was doubled up on a fly to center by Chris Johnson in the next at bat. 12-pitch frame.
Zimmermann retired the Braves in order in the second, striking Eric Young, Jr. out with a 94 mph 1-2 heater to end another 12-pitch frame. 24 total after two.
Nick Markakis was 2 for 2 tonight after a single to center with one down in the third. He was forced out at second on a grounder to short by Andrelton Simmons in the next at bat, but a throwing error by Dan Uggla kept the Nats from turning a double play. Freddie Freeman stepped in next with a runner in scoring position and two out and lined an RBI single to center to make it 3-1 Braves. A groundout to second by A.J. Pierzynski ended an 18-pitch frame. 42 total after three.
After giving himself a 5-3 lead to work with, Zimmermann took the mound in the Braves' fourth and retired the first two batters he faced before a two-out infield single to short by Jace Peterson. Eric Young, Jr. stepped in with two out and battled for six pitches before Peterson was thrown out trying to steal second. 18-pitch frame, 60 total after four.
Eric Young, Jr. walked to start the Braves' fifth, and was running on an 0-2 pitch to pinch hitter Phil Gosselin, who lined a hit-and-run single to right. With runners on first and third, Nick Markakis hit into a 4-6-3 DP that brought the runner in from third. 5-4 Nats. 13-pitch frame for Zimmermann, 73 total after five.
Freddie Freeman popped out over the infield to start the Braves' sixth. A.J. Pierzynski grounded out to second. Chris Johnson was 0 for 3 tonight when he K'd swinging over an 0-2 curve in the dirt to end a 10-pitch frame that left Zimmermann at 83 pitches.
• Kelly Johnson singled to center to start the Braves' seventh. Jace Peterson went down swinging over a 78 mph 1-2 curve for out no.1 and Zimmermann's 6th K. Eric Young, Jr. K'd swing over an 0-2 bender. Alberto Callaspo lined out to a diving Bryce Harper down the line in right to end an 11-pitch seventh. 94 total.
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 94 P, 66 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
4. Wood vs the Nationals: Before taking the mound against the Nationals tonight in Turner Field, Braves' lefty Alex Wood had won all three of his starts against Washington in Atlanta in his career, and he was (3-1) against the Nats overall in six outings in which he put up a 1.49 ERA, nine walks and 44 Ks in 36 ⅓ IP over which he held Nats' hitters to a .237/.294/.366 line.
Wood, 24, was also on a streak of 15 consecutive starts in which he'd allowed three or fewer runs. Over that stretch, which went back to July 2014, he'd posted a 2.18 ERA in 99 IP.
In four starts this season, the 2012 Braves' second round pick was (1-0) with a 3.00 ERA, 10 walks (3.75 BB/9) and 12 Ks (4.50 K/9) in 24 IP.
A fly to center and two backwards Ks got Wood through a quick, 19-pitch, 1-2-3 first. Bryce Harper lined a single to right to start the second with the Nats' first hit, took second on a fly to deep center off Ryan Zimmerman's bat and scored on a single to center by Wilson Ramos to make it 2-1 Braves. Two swinging Ks later, Ramos was stranded at second. 21-pitch frame for Wood, 40 total after two.
A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 third left Wood at 54 pitches.
Bryce Harper was 2 for 2 tonight after he lined a one-out double to right off Wood in the top of the fourth, and Harper scored when Kelly Johnson misplayed a single to left by Ryan Zimmerman in the next at bat. Wilson Ramos K'd looking at a full-count curve for out no.2, but Danny Espinosa kept the inning alive with a two-out line drive to left and Dan Uggla walked to load them up for Jordan Zimmermann, who went to a 3-0 count, then a full count... and lined a base-clearing single to left-center to make it 5-3 Nationals. 33-pitch frame for Wood, 87 total after four.
A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left Wood at 100 pitches even.
• Alex Wood's Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 100 P, 63 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
3. Keep Grinding: Happy as he was with the Nationals' effort in last night's come-from-behind 13-12 win over the Braves, Nats' skipper Matt Williams took the same approach afterwards that he would after a loss.
Asked by a reporter if the win, which snapped a six-game losing streak, was important for the 8-13 Nats, Williams said that once it was over, it was over.
"It means nothing for tomorrow," he said. "We still have to play well tomorrow. But it's a nice win for the fellas. To come back like that offensively is important for us. That being said, it's a good win for us."
The win gave the Nationals eight wins in their last 13 games against the Braves.
An error in the third on what should have been an inning-ending double play put a runner on second with two outs.
Would the misplay cost the Nationals as it had in previous games? Freddie Freeman stepped in next, 8 for 12 so far this series, and lined a single to left to drive the runner in and make it 3-1 Braves.
The comeback kids weren't done, however, and the error and resultant runs didn't slow them down tonight as they rallied to take a 5-3 lead after four. 5-4 after five... 9-4 after six and a half... what is this? Two in a row?
2. Turning Point(s): A.J. Pierzynski's broken-bat, one-out, two-run single to center was the third hit off Jordan Zimmermann in the first, and it put the Braves up 2-0 early in the series finale in Turner Field, but the veteran catcher forgot how many outs there were and was running on a fly to center in the next at bat. He was easily doubled up for the final out of the frame. After the rally-killing mistake, the Nationals cut the Braves' lead in half in the top of the second with Bryce Harper singling and scoring one out later on a single to center by Wilson Ramos. 2-1 Atlanta.
Jordan Zimmermann gave up a one-out single by Braves' catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the third, but it was followed by a grounder to short by Andrelton Simmons that was slow but looked like it would result in a double play. Dan Uggla bounced the throw to first, however, and Ryan Zimmerman couldn't pick it, so Simmons took second on the error, and then scored on a two-out single to left by Freddie Freeman, 3-1 Braves.
Jordan Zimmermann started 3-0 in his bases-loaded, two-out at bat in the Nationals' fourth, went to a full count, then lined a base-clearing single to left-center field. 5-3 Nationals.
1. The Wrap-Up: Trevor Cahill took over for the Braves in the sixth and gave up a single to center by Wilson Ramos and a single to right by Danny Espinosa that put runners on the corners with one out. Dan Uggla stepped in next and hit a high-chopper to second that brought Ramos in, 6-4 Nationals after five and a half.
Denard Span singled off Cahill in the top of the seventh, took third on a wild pitch with Ian Desmond up and and scored on a single to left by Jayson Werth, 7-4. A bases-loaded, broken-bat single to center by Danny Espinosa drove in two more to make it 9-4.
Michael Kohn took over for the Braves in the eighth and issued back-to-back, two-out walks to Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth to put two on for Bryce Harper, who K'd swinging.
Matt Grace retired the Braves in order in a 14-pitch eighth.
Wilson Ramos walked and Danny Espinosa singled in the first two at bats of the ninth. Dan Uggla drove Ramos in with a line drive single to left to make it 10-4. Denard Span's second home run in two days was a three-run blast that made it 13-4 after eight and a half.
Aaron Barrett came on for the ninth and retired the Braves in order. Ballgame. 13-4 final.
Nationals now 9-13