5. Zimmermann vs the Rays: Jordan Zimmermann started the month of June with eight scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, but in two outings since, the Nationals' right-hander has struggled in back-to-back losses to the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Washington's 29-year-old right-hander allowed 19 hits and 10 runs, all earned in just 8 ⅓ in those starts, with a brief outing in his home state of Wisconsin last time out in which he lasted just 3 ⅓, giving up nine hits, a walk and six earned runs before he was lifted, having thrown 88 pitches overall.
"I think his location was off," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said, after what ended up an 8-4 loss for the Nationals and their Auburndale, WI-born starter.
"Couldn't command much tonight. Balls middle of the plate and up. We had an opportunity to turn two in the first inning, that didn't happen and then a couple of base hits and we're down two. But from then on he just wasn't commanding as well as he normally does."
"We'll have to make some adjustments and get him ready for his next turn. We'll start tomorrow hopefully, getting the ball down in the zone a little bit, collecting some runs ourselves."
"Everything was over the middle," Zimmermann told reporters, including Washington Post writer James Wagner:
"I was falling behind guys, and then I [was coming] after them and leaving stuff over the middle. . . . It’s just one of those nights that nothing was working for me."
The rough outings left Zimmermann (5-4) on the year after 13 starts, with a 3.74 ERA and a 3.04 FIP in 77 IP, over which opposing hitters had a combined .287/.322/.362 line.
At home in the nation's capital this season, Zimmermann was (3-2) in seven starts before tonight's with a 2.58 ERA (vs 5.40 on the road), a 2.97 FIP (vs 3.14) and a .249/.296/.310 line against in 45 ⅓ (vs a .339/.381/.431 in 31 ⅔ IP outside of D.C.).
In his second career start vs the Rays, who he faced as a rookie in 2009, Zimmermann started things off with a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 first in which he recorded two Ks, one looking and one swinging.
Zimmermann dropped a backdoor 1-2 curve in on David DeJesus for a backwards K and the first out of the top of the second and got a fly to right on a first-pitch fastball to Logan Forsythe for out no.2. Steven Souza sent a 1-0 fastball through the left side for a two-out single and Tampa Bay's first hit, but Asdrubal Cabrera stepped in with a runner on, and sent a fly to center that Michael Taylor caught to end a scoreless 11-pitch frame that left Zimmermann at 24 total after two.
Rays' catcher Curt Casali singled to start the third, but was doubled up on a 4-6-3 DP off Brandon Guyer's bat. Kevin Kiermaier stepped in with two out and went down swinging at a 2-2 slider. Nine-pitch frame, 33 total.
Jake Elmore reached with a leadoff single on a low liner to right that Bryce Harper scooped up but didn't catch, but three batters and outs later he was left on base and Zimmermann was through four scoreless on 45 pitches after a 12-pitch inning.
Steven Souza got hold of a 1-1 slider in his second at bat of the night in the top of the fourth and sent a towering fly to left field that landed in the back of the visiting team's bullpen to make it 1-0 Rays. One out later it was 2-0 after Curt Casali hit a 3-1 fastball over the left field bullpen for his first major league home run. 22-pitch frame, 67 total after five.
Evan Longoria singled to center with one down in the Rays' sixth and went first-to-third on a single to right by David DeJesus in the next at bat. Zimmermann looked like he'd get out of the first and third, one-out jam, however, when Logan Forsythe sent a potential DP grounder to short, but Ian Desmond bobbled it, E:6, and Longoria scored on the error to make it 3-0 over the Nats after five and a half. 14-pitch frame, 81 total.
Zimmermann gave up a one-out walk to Curt Casali in the top of the seventh, and the Rays' catcher moved to second on a groundout by pinch hitter Nick Franklin and third on a two-out single to center by Kevin Kiermaier, but he was stranded there when Jake Elmore K'd swinging to end a 24-pitch inning that left Zimmermann at 105.
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 2 HRs, 105 P, 71 S, 7/3 GO/FO.
4. Bullpen start: The Tampa Bay Rays originally had 25-year-old right-hander Matt Andriese listed as the starter for tonight's game with the Nats in Nationals Park, but this afternoon they announced a change of plans after they informed their pitchers.
#Rays Geltz said he got word he was starting after boarding the plane after last night's game— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 17, 2015
Instead of Andriese, Tampa Bay Times writer Marc Topkin reported, the Rays were going with "a bullpen day", meaning a start by committee.
Meanwhile #Rays Andriese had flown up commercially ahead of team to be rested, got 11 am call from Cash with news he wasn't starting— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 17, 2015
"This is similar strategy to what they did in Miami earlier this season," Topkin wrote, "starting a reliever with the idea they can use NL rules in their favor by pinch-hitting early.
"So they call it a 'bullpen day' but the idea is reliever works the first couple innings then they react to game situation."
Andriese was still expected to pitch, but getting the ball in the first for the Rays was 27-year-old right-hander Steve Geltz, who was making his second start and 29th appearance of the 2015 campaign, after going (1-2) with two saves in 27 ⅓ IP before tonight, over which the right-hander had a 2.63 ERA, a 3.29 FIP, 12 walks (3.95 BB/9), 30 Ks (9.88 K.9) and a .149/.255/.247 line against.
Geltz got off to a good start with a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first and followed that up with a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 second that ended with Steven Souza making a sliding catch right in front of the foul territory down the right field line. 19 pitches after two scoreless.
Andriese came on for the home-half of the third inning, and retired the side in order in a nine-pitch frame. He got the first two outs of the fourth, but Bryce Harper lined a 94 mph 2-2 fastball to left-center for a two-out hit. Clint Robinson stepped in with a runner on and two down and grounded out to first to end a 16-pitch frame that left Andriese at 25 total after two.
Ian Desmond hustled down the line on relatively weak grounder to short with one out in the bottom of the fifth and reached base safely with an infield single, but after he moved up on a groundout to first by Jose Lobaton, Andriese walked Michael Taylor to get to Jordan Zimmermann, and got an inning-ending groundout to end a 13-pitch fifth that left him at 42 pitches after three scoreless.
An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Andriese at 53 pitches in four scoreless frames. 3-0 Rays.
Game Buffalo Notes: Matt Williams, who's in his second year as a manager after a 17-year career as a player and several seasons as a coach in Arizona, was asked last night if he'd ever seen two position players pitch in one game like the Rays' Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin did last night in the Nationals' 16-4 win at Tropicana Field?
"No, I've never seen that," Williams said.
How about one player homering off two separate position player/pitchers? Williams, 49, wasn't even alive the last time it happened.
According to the Nationals, citing an Elias Sports' notation, "Ramos is the first player in the expansion era (since 1961) to hit home runs off two players in the same game who were 'not normally pitchers.'"
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote today that Ramos, "... is the first player to even go deep twice against position players in the same season since 1983, when Mickey Klutts of the Blue Jays hit two in one game (June 26) off Manny Castillo of the Mariners, and, in fact, "... no team had ever hit home runs off two different position players in the same game, let alone two by the same guy, according to Elias."
And further, Stark writes, "Among all players who debuted in the expansion era, you know how many had ever homered against two different position players at any point in their careers?"
The answer? "That would be zero," Stark noted. "And then Wilson Ramos did it on the same night. In back-to-back innings."
Ramos got the night off tonight, however, after a long, late flight from Tampa to D.C. last night.
• Nomentum: "We talk about momentum all the time," Matt Williams told reporters when asked last night if the Nats' 23-hit, 16-run explosion could jumpstart the Nationals' till-then struggling offense.
"There's momentum within a game, but game-to-game it doesn't matter. So, tonight we were patient when we knew we had to be and we got in situations and delivered, so that's good, we need to continue to do that."
Through six innings tonight, he was right, as the Nationals were shut out by two Rays' relievers and limited to just two hits.
2. Turning Point(s): With no score after four, Steven Souza stepped in against friend and beneficiary of his no-hitter saving catch last September, Jordan Zimmermann and hit a 1-1 slider out to left field for his 13th home run of 2015. One out later, Rays' catcher Curt Casali hit his first major league home over the visitor's bullpen for a second solo shot and a 2-0 lead over the Nationals in the 5th.
• Ian Desmond was waiting for Logan Forsythe's one-out grounder up the middle, perfectly positioned to start what could have been an inning-ending DP, but a bad hop caused him to misplay it for his 15th error of the season. Evan Longoria scored from third on the play and the Rays took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
1. The Wrap-Up: Rays' right-hander Kevin Jepsen took over on the mound in the Nationals' half of the seventh inning and retired the Nationals in order to keep the bullpen shutout going.
Blake Treinen gave up a one-out single by David DeJesus in the eighth, and one out later, after fielding a bunt by Steven Souza, the Nats' right-hander sailed a throw to first, allowing DeJesus to score, and Bryce Harper charged in and tried to throw Souza out at home only to commit the second error on the play. E:1, E:9, 5-0.
As they headed to the bottom of the eighth, the rain finally became to heavy to continue and they brought out the tarp and went into a rain delay... at 9:46 PM the game resumes after a 27-minute rain delay.
Ronald Belisario took over on the mound for the Rays and walked Michael Taylor with one down in the eighth. Matt den Dekker got a pinch hit opportunity with one on and one out, but grounded into a force at second for out no.2 and Yunel Escobar grounded out to third to end the Nats' half of the inning. Still 5-0 Rays.
Casey Janssen gave up leadoff and one-out singles, but struck Evan Longoria out to end the top of the ninth. Still 5-0 Rays.
Belisario came back out to try to end it and retired the Nationals in order. 5-0 final.
Nationals now 34-32