In case there were lingering doubts about whether or not the Washington Nationals’ offense would produce, Jordan Zimmermann took matters into his own hands Thursday night, leading Washington to a 5-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.
Zimmermann’s two biggest mistakes – two sharply hit singles – came in the first inning. From there, he dominated, allowing the Nationals’ slow-to-awaken offense to come alive earlier than it has in recent outings.
After pulling off a 5-5 stretch on the road, the Nationals looked to carry momentum from Wednesday night’s extra-inning rally fueled by Ian Desmond’s 11th inning grand slam.
Who then should Washington look to start things off in the batting rotation?
Ian Desmond, of course.
In the bottom of the second inning, Desmond powered a third-pitch changeup over the left field wall to give Washington an early 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, the Nationals added a second run to the board via three singles – the last of which came off the bat of Kurt Suzuki to bring home Adam LaRoche.
By that point, Zimmermann (W, 10-3) had already tossed five strikeouts and allowed just three batters to reach base. His competition, former Phillie Roy Oswalt (L, 0-1), dealt a handful of freebies to the Nats but, by the end of the night, recorded 11 strikeouts in his return to the Majors.
As such, in the fifth and sixth innings, the Nationals did something they haven’t done enough of in recent weeks – came up with run support.
In the fifth, Denard Span doubled and Anthony Rendon singled, allowing LaRoche to bring them each home on his one-out triple to make it 4-0 Nationals. LaRoche went 3-for-4 on the night, marking his first three-hit night of the season.
In the sixth, to add icing to the cake, Zimmermann himself batted in a run on a sacrifice fly that scored Steve Lombardozzi. Lombardozzi had led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch by Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino.
The only instance resembling wear and tear for Zimmermann came in the eighth after Josh Rutledge walked. Tyler Colvin reached on a force attempt and throwing error by Rendon at second and Rutledge scored on a DJ LeMahieu single to end the shutout.
Nevertheless, when all was said and done, Zimmermann recorded an impressive final line: 8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K.
Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth to finish out the Nationals’ first win of the homestand.
THE GOOD: Coming off arguably his worst outing of the season, Jordan Zimmermann looked as impressive as ever Thursday night.
Perhaps of equal cause for celebration – Zimmermann had run support. In fact, four Nationals batters had a multi-hit night. Adam LaRoche went 3-for-4 with a triple, a run scored and two runs batted in. Denard Span went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, Lombardozzi went 2-for-4 with a run and Anthony Rendon did the same.
THE BAD: Jayson Werth wore the Golden Sombrero Thursday night, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. In total, the Nationals, as a team, struck out 14 times Thursday night.
THE UGLY: Given how little experience Anthony Rendon had at second base prior to…well… playing second base in the Majors, you’ve got to give him some leeway on botched throws and missed plays. Nevertheless, his error Thursday night cost Zimmermann the shutout.
THE STATS: 5 R, 11 H, 1 BB, 14 K, 3-for-9 RISP, 7 LOB
NEXT GAME: 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park – RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.33) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (3-6, 2.50)