5. Zimmermann's Turn: Before he held the Miami Marlins to two runs, one earned, on six hits over seven innings last time out, at home in the nation's capital, Jordan Zimmermann beat the Atlanta Braves in a seven-inning start on the road in Turner Field. Zimmermann gave up eight hits and four runs, three earned, over seven innings, but received nine runs of support while he was on the mound in what ended up a 13-4 win.
Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams talked after the game in Atlanta about Zimmermann adjusting to what was working for him on the mound on any particular day when it comes to his breaking pitches.
"The good thing is he can feel it when he goes out there," Williams said. "So he understands what pitch he's got that night. If he's got both of them working, then it's really good. Tonight it was better feel for the curveball, and so he used it more. I think he tends to use it more against lefties anyway than the slider and they've got a bunch of lefties in their lineup, so he was able to command that one tonight."
In his start against the Marlins in the nation's capital this past Monday, Zimmermann started slow, giving up a run on two hits in an 18-pitch first before settling in. He said afterwards that he had both his slider and curve working.
"The first inning I was right over the middle with the fastball," Zimmermann said, "and I figured it was going to be a long day if I kept doing that, so I had to start working on the corners a little bit and the curveball and slider were both there today, so it was one of those days where I had all three pitches working and it was fun to be out there."
Zimmermann received no decision in the Nats' 6-5 over the Fish, so he was left (2-2) on the year after six starts with a 4.15 ERA, a 3.34 FIP, six walks (1.56 BB/9) and 22 Ks (5.71 K/9) in 34 ⅔ IP. Five of Zimmermann's six walks came in his first three outings, but over the last three, he walked just one in 20 IP (0.45 BB/9).
His start vs the Braves left the '07 2nd Round pick (5-2) with a 3.03 ERA, 14 walks (1.92 BB/9) and 65 Ks (9.95 K/9) in 11 starts and 65 ⅓ IP against the Nationals' NL East rivals in his career, over which he's held Atlanta's hitters to a combined .243/.288/.381 line.
The twelfth start of his career against the Braves, this afternoon in the nation's capital, began with back-to-back Ks from Nick Markakis (swinging) and Andrelton Simmons (looking), and a fly to center off Freddie Freeman's bat that fell to Denard Span in front of the track to end a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.
Alberto Callaspo took a six-pitch, one-out walk in the Braves' second, and Jace Peterson lined a 94 mph 3-1 fastball to left for a single in the next at bat. Christian Bethancourt lined a 2-2 heater to left for out no.2, but Cameron Maybin battled for eight pitches and lined an RBI single to center to cut into the Nats' lead, 3-1. Alex Wood helped his own cause too, sending a grounder to center to bring in the Braves' second run. 3-2 after one and a half. 31-pitch frame. 44 total for Zimmermann after two.
Freddie Freeman took another one-out walk from Zimmermann in the top of the third and Kelly Johnson lined a 93 mph 2-0 fastball to right to put two on. Alberto Callaspo grounded into a force at second for out no.2, but Braves' second baseman Jace Peterson battled for eight pitches and lined a 94 mph fastball to center for a game-tying single. 3-3. 24-pitch third for Zimmermann, 68 total after three.
Alex Wood singled for the second time today with one down in the Braves' fourth, but he was stranded at first two outs later. Nine-pitch frame, 77 total for Zimmermann after four.
Freddie Freeman hit his third double of the series to right on an 0-1 curve in the first at bat of the fifth, and took third two outs later on a lineout to right by Alberto Callaspo. Jace Peterson stepped in with the go-ahead run 90 ft from home and lined out to Dan Uggla at second to end a 12-pitch frame that left Zimmermann at 89 overall.
Alex Wood was 3 for 3 vs Zimmermann today after a two-out single to center in the sixth. Nick Markakis worked the count full, and took the third walk of the game from Zimmermann. Andrelton Simmons came up with two on and two out and sent a chopper toward third that Danny Espinosa handled. 18-pitch frame, 107 total.
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 Ks, 107 P, 65 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
4. Can Wood help avoid sweep?: The Nationals handed Braves' lefty Alex Wood his first loss of the season when they connected for six hits and five runs over five innings in the April 29th matchup between the NL East rivals in Turner Field. Wood threw 100 pitches in his time on the mound, striking out eight batters before he was lifted.
The outing left the 24-year-old, 2012 2nd Round pick (3-2) in seven career starts vs the Nationals with a 2.40 ERA, 10 walks (2.18 BB/9) and 52 Ks (11.32 K/9) in 41 ⅓ IP over which he held Nats' hitters to a combined .243/.297/.362 line.
His second start against Washington in the last three outings, took place this afternoon in Nationals Park, where the southpaw was (0-1) with a 1.54 ERA and a .227/.255/.295 line against in two starts and 11 ⅔ IP before taking the mound in the series finale of the three-game set in D.C.
The Nationals entered the game with a .242/.322/.412 line vs left-handers this season, good for 11th/7th/3rd overall among National League teams.
Wood got off to a rough start today, giving up a single to center by Yunel Escobar on the first pitch he threw, and a two-out double to center by Bryce Harper that fell just short of the 22-year-old slugger's 12th home run. RBI two-bagger though, and 1-0 Nats. Ryan Zimmerman stepped in with two down and connected for the second straight two-base hit. 2-0 when Harper scored. 3-0 when Wilson Ramos singled to center to bring Zimmerman in. 24-pitch first.
The Nationals went down in order in a 16-pitch second that left Wood at 40 pitches overall. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth both K'd looking in the first two at bats in the Nats' third, and Bryce Harper lined out to right to end a 14-pitch frame that pushed Wood up to 54 pitches.
Danny Espinosa singled up the middle with two down in the Nationals' fourth, but Michael Taylor K'd swinging at a diving 2-2 curve for out no.3 and Wood's seventh K. 16-pitch frame, 70 total after four.
Dan Uggla, who came on for Yunel Escobar in the fourth, worked back from down 0-2 and took the first free pass of the game from Wood with one down in the Nats' fifth. Ian Desmond sent a screamer back to the mound and off Wood's right/plant foot for an infield single in the next at bat. Jayson Werth stepped in with two on and one out and popped out to left. With Bryce Harper up, Uggla got picked off second for the final out of the frame. 14-pitch fifth for Wood, 84 total after five.
Bryce Harper lined a single to right on an 0-1 fastball from Wood in the first at bat of the Nats' sixth inning, but Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 4-6-3 in the next AB. Wilson Ramos sent a fly to right for out no.3 of a seven-pitch sixth by the Braves' lefty. 91 total.
After further review: Jace ➡️ Simba ➡️ Freddie = Double play!— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) May 10, 2015
Wood came back out for the Nationals' seventh and gave up a one-out single through the left side by Michael Taylor. Clint Robinson stepped in for a lefty vs lefty pinch hit at bat and popped out to short. That was it for Wood...
• Alex Wood's Line: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 97 P, 64 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
3. Clicking: Matt Williams was asked yesterday, after Bryce Harper's walk-off homer in the win over the Braves, what he thought was clicking for the Nats over the last few weeks as they've won eight of their last 10 games and charged up the standings in the NL East.
"I think that guys are getting healthy," Williams said. "I think that, for the most part, our bullpen has stepped up. Some guys in some different roles are getting comfortable in those roles. And, of course, the offense has really picked up.
"Today we had a chance to get [Jose Lobaton] in there because he has good success against [Julio] Teheran, and he answered with a two-run homer and a single. The guys that don't play everyday are getting a chance to play. [Dan Uggla] stepped up there -- although they cut Michael [Taylor] down at the plate --- got a base hit in a crucial situation for us and of course, Bryce. But all of those things need to happen if you're going to be competitive day in and day out. So, we're happy about that one, that one is over, move on to tomorrow."
In the series finale with the Braves today, Williams' Nationals had a chance for a series sweep after taking the first two games of the three-game set.
Saturday's win left them 4-1 against Atlanta this season and 36-30 at home in Nationals Park against their divisional rivals since the ballpark opened in 2008.
The Nationals jumped out to a 3-0 lead early, but it was close after two, at 3-2 and tied after three, 3-3.
The Braves took a 4-3 lead in the seventh, but couldn't hold on as the Nationals rallied to take a 5-4 lead with a two-run eighth and swept the three-game set.
2. Turning Point(s): The Nationals rallied with two down in the bottom of the first inning, with Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman hitting RBI doubles and Wilson Ramos driving Zimmerman in with a single to right, but the Braves came right back in the top of the second, scoring two on RBI singles by Cameron Maybin and Alex Wood.
After a one-out walk came around to score in the second, Zimmermann issued another free pass with one down in the third, putting Freddie Freeman on only to have him come around to score the tying run on a two-out single to center by Braves' second baseman Jace Peterson, 3-3.
Dan Uggla walked with one out in the Nationals' fifth and took second on an infield single by Ian Desmond, but with two down and Bryce Harper at the plate, the Nats' second baseman got picked off second base on a quick throw by Wood and a nice play by Andrelton Simmons to block the bag and apply the tag.
Freddie Freeman was 13 for 24 vs the Nationals this season after a leadoff single in the seventh, and he took third base on a fly to right by Jonny Gomes that Bryce Harper lost in the sun. A bloop single to right by Alberto Callaspo brought Freeman in and the Braves took a 4-3 lead.
Ian Desmond singled and Jayson Werth walked in a big at bat in the Nats' eighth, and one out later, after Bryce Harper popout, Ryan Zimmerman singled to center to bring Desmond in. 4-4. Wilson Ramos doubled to right in the next at bat and the Nats took a 5-4 lead.
1. The Wrap-Up: Matt Grace took over on the mound for the Nationals in the top of the seventh. Freddie Freeman lined a leadoff single to left-center. Jonny Gomes sent a fly to right in the next at bat that Bryce Harper lost in the sun, and let fall on the track. A bloop single to right by Alberto Callaspo brought the go-ahead run in, 4-3. Jace Peterson lined into a double play when Dan Uggla made a diving play and toss to second and Christian Bethancourt grounded out to third to end the inning.
Brandon Cunniff inherited a runner on first from Alex Wood when he came on with two out in the Nationals' seventh to face Dan Uggla, who popped out to the infield to end the seventh.
Sammy Solis came on for the Nationals in the top of the eighth gave up a two-out single to left by Nick Markakis but nothing else in a 13-pitch frame.
Cody Martin came on for the Braves in the bottom of the eighth inning and gave up a leadoff single to center on a first-pitch slider to Ian Desmond. Jayson Werth worked the count full and walked.
Bryce Harper stepped in with two on and no one out against the pitcher he walked off on yesterday and popped out to short. Ryan Zimmerman stepped in next and sent a single to center to tie things up at 4-4. WIlson Ramos doubled to right in the next at bat to bring Zimmerman in and make it 5-4 Nationals.
Drew Storen retired the Braves in order for the save and the three-game sweep.
Nationals now 17-15