July 24, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 13 Review: Zimmermann tosses another gem, Nats win late against Astros 3-2

Jordan Zimmermann might start taking it personally.

The Washington Nationals starting pitcher tossed another seven strong innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits, walking none and striking out three against the Houston Astros. Unfortunately, the Nats just can’t score runs when Zimmermann is on the hill. In fact, in his three starts this season, covering 21 innings, the Nats have scored exactly one run for him.

Once Zimmermann left the game, however, the Nationals pushed three across the plate, beating the Astros 3-2 and making a winner of reliever Ryan Mattheus. The win extends the Nats hot streak at the start of the season, and raises their record to 10-3, the first National League team to reach that lofty perch this season.

Zimmermann (0-1, 1.29) was in control the whole way. He faced the minimum number of batters through the third inning, courtesy of double plays in both the first and second innings. In the fourth, a bunt single, stolen base, and pair of ground outs to first base plated a run for Houston (4-8).

At the time, it looked like that might hold up, as Astros starter Lucas Harrell was having little trouble mowing down the Nats. Harrell gave up just two hits through six innings, and the Nats couldn’t take advantage of the three free passes he gave out. But in the seventh, they finally got him to crack, slightly. A two-out double by Roger Bernadina scored Rick Ankiel, who’d doubled with one out, to tie the game and get Zimmermann off the hook, as he’d been lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the frame.

Mattheus (2-0) came on for the eighth and was not particularly impressive, allowing a run on a two-out single by Jordan Schaefer. But these Nats seem to find a way to win every night, and last night they did so by showing patience against some very young relievers.

Danny Espinosa walked to lead off the eighth, and Ryan Zimmerman (who made two Gold Glove caliber plays in the top of the frame to limit the base runners against Mattheus) pushed a curveball into right field to move Espinosa up. Astros manager Brad Mills called on lefty Wesley Wright to face Adam LaRoche, and despite falling behind 0-2, LaRoche coaxed a free pass to load the bases.

Another pitching change brought on Rule 5 selection Rhiner Cruz, but a very patient Jayson Werth waited him out and drew another walk to bring home the tying run. After Rick Ankiel grounded into a force at home plate, Wilson Ramos lifted a long fly ball to center, deep enough to bring LaRoche home from third with what turned out to be the winning run.

All that was left was for Henry Rodriguez to come in an dominate three batters, which he did, and the Nats celebrated their tenth win of the season.

THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann. Another tremendous performance by a Nationals starter. We’re running out of superlatives.

THE BAD: Ian Desmond. 0-for-4, 3 LOB. Hit the ball hard his final time up but was run down at the warning track in straight-away center.

THE UGLY: Jason Maxwell. The Astros newest outfielder struck out looking in both his plate appearances, on sliders away. Ah, the more things change…

THE STATS: Five hits, seven walks, four strikeouts. 1-for-9 with RISP, eight LOB, one GIDP. No errors.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at 7:05 pm against the Astros. Edwin Jackson 91-0, 2.57) hosts Bud Norris (0-0, 3.46).

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