Dusty Baker talked before tonight's game about Jordan Zimmermann returning to the nation's capital for the series finale between the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers.
Zimmermann, 29, returned to the face the Nationals for the first time after signing a 5-year/$110M free agent deal with the Tigers following seven seasons in D.C. after the Nats drafted him in the second round of the 2007 Draft.
Though Baker never managed Zimmerman, he did face him when he was the Cincinnati Reds' skipper.
"He comes at you," Baker said when asked what he remembered about the right-hander, who took the mound opposite former Tigers' starter Max Scherzer, (5-1) on the year with a 1.10 ERA, a 3.09 FIP, eight walks (1.76 BB/9), 25 Ks (5.46 K/9) and a .224/.262/.301 line against in 41 innings.
"If you're waiting on him to run from you, you're waiting on the wrong guy. So he's going to come at you, he's a pretty good hitter, pretty good fielder."
Baker took the opportunity of facing Zimmermann to switch things around in the middle of the Nats' order, with Daniel Murphy hitting behind Bryce Harper tonight after Ryan Zimmerman struggled in the clean-up spot recently as teams started walking Harper more frequently.
"He's going to pitch probably deep into the game, which is another reason why I wasn't opposed to having two lefties back-to-back, because if he pitches a normal game they'll probably get three at bats a piece, versus the other guys, they were probably five or six [inning] guys."
Max Scherzer was facing his former team as well, of course, for the first time since he left the Tigers and signed a 7-year/$210M deal with the Nationals in the winter of 2014-15.
Scherzer tossed a scoreless first, striking out two batters in a 13-pitch frame and by the time he took the mound again he had a 1-0 lead courtesy of an RBI single to left-center by Murphy, who drove Anthony Rendon in from third after Rendon doubled with one down and moved up on a line drive single by Bryce Harper.
Scherzer struck out five of the first seven batters he faced, but the home run ball hurt him again when Jose Iglesias hit a first-pitch fastball out to left in the first at bat of the third, 1-1. He did, however, add three more Ks for eight total from the first eleven batters.
After he added two Ks in a 13-pitch sixth, Scherzer was up to 13 strikeouts total from 20 batters faced and up to just 77 pitches overall, 62 of them strikes.
It was still tied at 1-1 in the sixth when Rendon singled and Harper walked to put two on in front of Murphy again and the clean-up hitter got the job done, lining an RBI single to left though he was tagged out in a rundown between first and second base. 2-1 Nationals after six.
Given a one-run lead to work with, Scherzer and gave up back-to-back, one-out hits, a single by Victor Martinez and a double to center by Justin Upton. He threw an 0-2 fastball by James McCann for out No. 2 and K No. 14, and threw a 2-2 change by Anthony Gose for out No. 3 and K No. 15 on 93 pitches.
One out into the Nationals' half of the seventh, it was a 3-1 game after Danny Espinosa hit a 1-0 fastball out to center and over the GEICO wall for his third home run of the season.
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 106 P, 70 S, 4/5 GO/FO.
Scherzer collected Ks No. 16 and 17 from the first two batters in the eighth and got up 0-2 on Ian Kinsler and got him looking for No.18. 18?
Scherzer came back out for the ninth and gave up a home run to left-center on the first pitch of the inning. 3-2 Nats. He got Miguel Cabrera swinging for No. 19, got Justin Upton with a two-strike slider for K No. 20, tying the MLB record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. 3-2 final.
Nationals now 21-13
• NATS NOTES:
- Detroit's win last night snapped a seven-game losing streak and left them 4-6 all-time against Washington in the nation's capital.
- Victor Martinez's four-hit game last night was his second of the season and the 17th of his career.
- In today's Tigers-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Martinez is hitting .407 (24 for 59) with six doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs... over his last 15 games.
- Miguel Cabrera started play tonight 119 for 329 (.362 AVG) vs the Nationals in his career with 18 doubles, 21 home runs and 80 RBIs in 90 career games vs Washington, with a 13-game hit streak going against the Nats.
- According to Elias Sports Bureau (via the Nationals), tonight's matchup between Jordan Zimmermann and Max Scherzer is "the first time two pitchers with at least 70 wins for the opposing team have faced off since Roy Oswalt ad Brett Myers did so on September 12, 2011."
- Ryan Zimmerman's two-home run game last night was the 15th multi-homer game of his career.
- Daniel Murphy's 17 multi-hit games in his first 32 games with the Nationals are the most in the majors so far this season. He singled in a run in the sixth for his second hit of the night and 18 multi-hit games in his first 33 with the Nats.
- Murphy started the night leading the majors with a .398 AVG and was ranked third in OPS (1.090), 4th in OBP (.439) and tied for 6th with 12 doubles.
- Murphy had also hit safely in 27 of 32 games played before tonight.
- Washington's pitchers, as a group, started the night ranked third in the majors with a combined 2.90 ERA.
- Max Scherzer struck out James McCann in the first at bat of the 5th, giving him 37 career starts with 10 or more Ks. He picked up No. 11 in the next at bat....and was up to 18 Ks and 106 pitches after eight.
Nationals now 20-13