May 20, 2015, 9:48 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals don’t seem to know how to play a boring ballgame right now, and Wednesday night’s wild affair with the Yankees was only the latest example of that, with the third-inning ejections of Bryce Harper and Matt Williams stealing the spotlight from what already was going to be a compelling contest.
Both Harper and Williams were ejected by plate umpire Marvin Hudson, who appeared to be upset Harper wasn’t in the batter’s box while Williams was arguing a low strike one call from the dugout. Harper, who had been in the box right after the strike was called, reacted toward Hudson and was rung up by the ump, who moments later sent Williams packing as well when the manager stood up for his star slugger.
It was the second time both Harper an Williams were ejected in the last week. And just as they did last Wednesday in Arizona, the Nationals rallied to bail out their tossed mates. Jordan Zimmermann overcame a shaky first inning to toss seven strong frames. Tyler Moore tied the game with a solo homer in the fourth. And then Denard Span drove in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded single in the seventh, giving the Nats their first lead of the night.
Rookie Matt Grace impressed again with a scoreless eighth, setting up Drew Storen to strike out Alex Rodriguez in the ninth and secure the Nationals’ 17th win in their last 21 games. And with the Mets getting blown out by the Cardinals, the Nats were in position to take over sole possession of first place in the NL East for the first time in 2015 by night’s end.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: You know who has been really important to the Nationals’ sustained hot streak over the last 3-plus weeks? Span. This run has directly coincided with the leadoff man’s resurgence, and it continued Wednesday. Span’s RBI single through the left side of the infield in the bottom of the seventh gave the Nats the lead and it continued Span’s impressive run. He’s now hitting .384 since April 28, with seven multi-hit games the last eight times he’s played.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Two batters in, Zimmermann appeared to be in trouble. He gave up a game-opening single to Brett Gardner, then an RBI double to Carlos Beltran (who later scored on a sac fly). But the right-hander quickly composed himself and wound up pitching a gem. Zimmermann went seven innings, never giving up another run along the way and keeping his pitch count at a mere 88. This was an important start for him during what has been a slow-to-progress season. Zimmermann now has several strong outings to build off as he rounds into his form from the last few years.
KEY STAT: Wilson Ramos’ 19-game hitting streak (longest in the majors this season) ended after an 0-for-4 night. (He did reach on a fielding error.)
UP NEXT: The Nationals get a rare second day off in a week Thursday, then return Friday to host the Phillies in a weekend series. Max Scherzer (4-3, 1.75) and Sean O’Sullivan (1-2, 3.68) meet for the third time this season. (The Nats won each of the previous two encounters.)
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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