Jayson Werth dropping a line drive to left that was hit right at him off Giancarlo Stanton's bat didn't help. The E:7 led, indirectly, to an early run scoring, but after the game both Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams and last night's starter, Jordan Zimmermann, said the bigger problem early was that Zimmermann wasn't particularly sharp.
Miami Marlins' third baseman Martin Prado singled to center, Werth dropped Stanton's line drive and with two on and one out, Fish center fielder Marcell Ozuna connected for a grounder up the middle that gave the visiting team a 1-0 lead after a half-inning in the series opener in the nation's capital.
After the shaky, 18-pitch first, however, Zimmermann came back strong, was efficient and ended up putting together a solid outing against the Nationals' NL East rivals.
"The first inning didn't exactly throw it where he wanted to," Williams said after what ended up a 6-4 Nats' win.
"But after that he settled in nicely. Had an opportunity there in the seventh so we had to go get him, but in a tight game like that we've got to try to generate some offense and score a run. But I thought he threw the ball really well."
"The first inning I was right over the middle with the fastball," Zimmermann told reporters, "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 gave up just two hits over the next five innings on the mound in Nationals Park, surrendering a leadoff single by Ichiro Suzuki in the Marlins' second, that he erased on a pickoff/rundown, and a one-out single by Adeiny Hechavarria in the fifth that he stranded.
With the game tied at 1-1 after six, however, Zimmermann gave up a leadoff home run to left by Justin Bour on a 3-2 fastball the Fish first baseman powered out to left for an opposite field blast.
Zimmermann said he wasn't too surprised that Bour hit the pitch out.
"He's a huge guy," Zimmermann said. "It's a fastball, 3-2, he knew I was coming with the fastball.
"If I throw any offspeed, I've probably got him, but I didn't want to walk the leadoff guy so I went with the fastball, and just didn't execute it, it was up a little and he got the barrel to it."
Zimmermann gave up a two-out single by Hechavarria in the top of the seventh, but struck opposing pitcher David Phelps out to end the frame at just 81 pitches overall.
With his spot in the order coming up second, Zimmermann was hit for in the home-half of the frame, and the pinch runner for his pinch hitter, who walked, eventually scored to tie it at 2-2.
Zimmermann explained that he obviously could have gone longer, but his night ended there, after seven innings of work in which he allowed six hits and two runs, one earned, striking out four and inducing nine groundouts and two fly ball outs from the 27 batters he faced.
"I was at 80 pitches or whatever it was," Zimmermann said, "so it's just the way it is though, we're down 2-1 and have to bring a pinch hitter in, that's just the way the game goes."
The two teams traded leads in the eighth with the Marlins scoring two in the top of the frame and the Nationals then rallying for four in the bottom of the inning, taking a 6-4 lead that held up.
Zimmermann said afterwards that he felt good on the mound in what was his third straight strong start and arguably his best outing thus far.
"It was a little hit and miss early in the season," he told reporters, "but I feel good now, fastball command is there and the breaking pitches are there, so I feel good."
The fastball command is there, but what about the velocity?
Zimmermann averaged 93.7 mph with his fastball last season and has averaged 93.5 mph with the heater over the course of his career, but he's sitting around 92.1 mph so far in 2015.
"Don't really care about velocity, as long as I make my pitch," Zimmermann said.
"You can throw 85 and make your pitch and get guys out up here as long as you execute and mix it up and I'm sure it will come back later in the season but just down a little bit right now."