Nothing went as planned for Jordan Zimmermann on Friday night in the nation's capital in what could end up being his final start in Washington, D.C. in a Nationals uniform.
The 29-year-old, 2007 Nats' second round draft pick out of Auburndale, Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point made his 94th career start in his adopted home in the series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies, and had a 1-0 lead after one, and two scoreless on twenty-one pitches to start the outing, but things went all pear-shaped after that.
A leadoff walk to Phillies' right fielder Brian Bogusevic, a single by catcher Cameron Rupp and a late throw to third on a sac bunt attempt by Phillies' starter Jerad Eickhoff loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the third.
One out later, with the bases still loaded after a fly to short-center that was too shallow to score a run, rookie Phillies' outfielder Aaron Altherr lined a belt-high, 94 mph, 1-1 fastball to center for what ended up being an inside-the-park grand slam when Nationals' center fielder Michael Taylor made an ill-advised attempt at a diving play and came up empty.
All four runners scored as the ball rolled to the warning track and the Nationals suddenly found themselves behind, 4-1.
Things got worse in the top of the fifth.
Zimmermann gave up more traditional fly ball home runs by Altherr again and Darin Ruf that put the Nationals behind, 6-1, and in the bottom of the inning, Nats' skipper Matt Williams pinch hit for Zimmermann with Wilmer Difo.
The decision to pull the right-hander for a pinch hitter, in some fans' minds, robbed them of an opportunity to give the right-hander the ovation/cathartic moment they thought he deserved.
The reaction to Williams' decision to hit for Zimmermann, on social media, and Twitter in particular, was decidedly NSFW, but check it out if you're so inclined.
After the Phillies took the series opener, leaving the Nationals one loss or one more New York Mets' win from elimination from postseason contention, both Williams and Zimmermann were asked for their thoughts on how what could be the right-hander's final start in D.C. as a National ended.
Did Williams consider leaving Zimmermann in to hit in the fifth or think about sending him back out in the sixth so he could get an ovation?
"No," Williams said. "We've got to try to get back in the game."
"I would have pulled me there too," Zimmermann told reporters.
"I was giving up quite a few hits. I wasn't really thinking about going out next inning and walking off the mound or anything.
"It would have been nice, but at the end of the day, you have to pitch well and you can get those things at the end of the game."
Zimmermann did actually receive an ovation on his way from the bullpen to the dugout before the start even began, and it was something he acknowledged he heard and appreciated.
"Yeah, I heard it for sure," he said.
"It was awesome. It means a lot to me, just wish I could have given them something a little better tonight."
"The couple homers he gave up in his last inning the ball was just up in the strike zone," Williams said in assessing Zimmermann's outing.
"And [Michael Taylor] laid out for that ball. By the time he got to it he had already committed so he dove for it and just missed it."
"I saw that he thought he had a chance and I'm expecting him to make a spectacular play and it gets past him, goes to the wall, and that's the way baseball is," Zimmermann said.
"I mean, it wasn't an easy play by any stretch and I know he's giving it his all, that's just the way it happens."
More than a lack of closure or missing out on a show of appreciation, Zimmermann said he was just disappointed with the results he got in what might be his last start as part of the Nationals' rotation.
"Obviously I'm a little upset we didn't get the win and I didn't pitch very good. That's what my job is, to go out there and keep the team in the ballgame, I wasn't able to do that tonight."
Asked to sum up his time in the nation's capital, Zimmermann talked about the workmanlike approach he's taken to each and every start he's made with the Nats.
"I feel like I took the ball every time they asked and did what I could," he said.
"Some days I didn't have it, some days I was good and I'm not saying this is my last start. You don't know what's going to happen this offseason, so we'll see what happens."
He was asked if he thought he would be back with the Nationals next season?
"I don't know that answer," Zimmermann said. "We'll see what this offseason brings. I enjoyed my time here, so we'll see after this season."