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Nats 2, Blue Jays 0: Zimmermann cruises in twinbill opener

Jun 2, 2015, 3:24 PM EST

USA Today Sports Images

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After a rain-soaked Monday night, the Nationals and Blue Jays were back at the ballpark early Tuesday, hoping to squeeze two games in despite another ominous forecast. The rain held off enough, though, to get the afternoon opener in without delay. A well-pitched, fast-paced game by Jordan Zimmermann and R.A. Dickey didn’t hurt, either.

Zimmermann and Dickey went toe-to-toe, matching zeroes for four innings before the Nationals finally broke through in the fifth. They did so thanks to an RBI single from Bryce Harper (who had looked awful in his first two at-bats vs. the knuckleballer) and a Ryan Zimmerman sac fly. Those two runs held up quite nicely, because Zimmermann was in a groove from the get-go.

The right-hander tossed eight scoreless innings, scattering six singles and two walks along the way to continue his upward trend over the last month. At 105 pitches, he might have been able to go the distance, but manager Matt Williams decided not to push it and turned to Drew Storen for the ninth. The Nats closer finished it off to notch his league-leading 17th save in 18 tries and secure the opener of this day-night doubleheader.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: How bad did Harper look in his first two at-bats against Dickey? He looked like he wished Aroldis Chapman and his 102-mph fastball was on the mound instead. But ever the quick study, Harper stepped up to the plate for his third at-bat and figured out the knuckleball. With runners on second and third and one out, the Blue Jays could have intentionally walked Harper, but they instead elected to pitch to him. So Harper, who took some mighty hacks earlier in the game, calmly sent a single up the middle, driving in the day’s first run.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Given Max Scherzer’s utter dominance to date, Zimmermann has been overlooked a bit. That could be in part because of an ERA that was heftier than normal after a disastrous, 8-run outing in Boston in early April. Since then, though, Zimmermann has been brilliant. With his eight scoreless innings today, he now sports a 2.09 ERA over his last nine starts. And that season ERA has dropped to 2.88. Don’t forget about this guy, folks. He remains one of the game’s best starters.

KEY STAT: Zimmermann now has 10 quality starts in 11 outings this season. Stephen Strasburg has only one in 10 starts.

UP NEXT: Don’t go anywhere, because the nightcap of this doubleheader is on the way. Max Scherzer faces Marco Estrada at 7:05 p.m. … if the weather cooperates.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:28 PM

    Headlines: JZim saves the bullpen!!!

  2. alexva6 - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:29 PM

    “Zimmermann now has 10 quality starts in 11 outings this season. Stephen Strasburg has only one in 10 starts.”

    relevance, your honor?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:53 PM

      Provides meaningful context. I’m far from a Stephen Strasburg hater — and I’ve defended him here against those who want to label him a mental case or weak-willed or what have you — but his performance this season has been notably poor (whatever the reason) and it’s a fair point of comparison among the various SPs.

      • alexva6 - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:13 PM

        had he provided stats on Gio or Fister or any other number of starting pitchers around the league I would consider it meaningful context.

        in this manner it seems to be a shot at Strasburg, well deserved or not.

    • ITGSOT - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:53 PM

      Every QS that JZ gets and SS doesn’t increases the probability that JZ will be the career Nat, not Strasburg.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:29 PM

    “KEY STAT: Zimmermann now has 10 quality starts in 11 outings this season. Stephen Strasburg has only one in 10 starts.”

    Oh and Ow.

  4. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:30 PM

    Shoot, they have enough time to get another game in, in between these two.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:31 PM

      They do.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:35 PM

        “Let’s play three!”

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:31 PM

    Key play was smart ball with Desi hunting and executing to get JZim and Esco to 3rd and 2nd for Harp and RZim.

    Finally MW!!!!

  6. tcostant - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    Never heard, who did the Nats call up as the 26th man for the DH?

    • natsfan1a - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:39 PM

      Maybe they were waiting to see what happened in the first game.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:41 PM

        Oh, here it is:

        Dan Kolko ‏@masnKolko 1m1 minute ago

        Nats adding Matt den Dekker as 26th man for game two of doubleheader.

      • tcostant - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:44 PM

        Makes sense with Span hurt. Thx

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:46 PM

        Den Dekker? That’s as if they have a short bench. Span still isn’t sure he can go according to MW.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:54 PM

        So do they only get to add the 26th player for one of the two games in a DH?

      • natsfan1a - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:58 PM

        I believe only for the second.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:00 PM

        No, wait. The player can only be there until after the second game. Eh, I dunno.

      • ITGSOT - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:56 PM

        They can add the 26th guy for both games. Same guy of course. But seeing as how this DH wasn’t scheduled til last night, it would have been hard to get someone here for a 1:00 start.

  7. David Proctor - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    That was pretty much a perfect scenario for the first game of a DH. Zimmermann went deep and Storen threw so few pitches that he could pitch again tonight if necessary.

    And we have Max going tonight.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:40 PM

      I wouldn’t pitch Storen tonight but MW probably will and I just hope the Nats blow the Blue Jays out so there’s no need to push it.

  8. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:34 PM

    Don’t forget about this guy, folks. He remains one of the game’s best starters.

    ====

    I haven’t… I said it in the game thread. Hoping that Rizzo finds a way to sign him to a long term deal…

    • natsfan1a - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:38 PM

      I was just about to comment that we haven’t, but you beat me to it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:38 PM

      +27 MrsB

    • jd - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:00 PM

      I agree but I am afraid that that ship has sailed.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:38 PM

    I liked Storen’s “no time for BS” save. 1-2-3 see you later.

  10. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    I kinda think they should sit Span tonight too… With the wet grass, dont want to further injure it…

  11. TimDz - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    I just hope that, after going against a knuckleballer, the players don’t encounter any difficulty against a conventional picther. Some ball player once noted that, after batting against a knuckeballer, there can be issues….

  12. donkort - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:50 PM

    In the old days, Harper would have continued to whiff, instead of using his wiles, because the knuckler seems like a beach ball to the uninitiated.

  13. nattygoats - Jun 2, 2015 at 3:52 PM

    JZ was great. Sign that guy. Storen was great. The hitting worries me. Except for running into one now and then MAT is a strikeout machine.

    • rlndtln - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:10 PM

      Imagine if Stras was the old Stras.

      • masterfishkeeper - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:19 PM

        Maybe he will be later this year. Then we’ll really have something. And if Fister reverts to his form of the last 3 years. . .

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:32 PM

        Apocryphal Einstein to Apocryphal Mamie Van Doren: “Yes, but what if it has your brains and my looks?”

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:01 PM

        Sigh.

        JZimm deserves the compliments. Can’t folks just stop there, and leave Stras out of it?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:47 PM

        No, HH. He needs to be ritually humiliated continually until he regains his confidence.

  14. thecynicin408 - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    Back in the office after a very quick and efficient game. Even Metro worked great.

    I’m usually not in the “Lerners are cheap” contingent and their personnel moves should largely dispel that notion. However, I believe that when you are open and taking money from paying customers, you should be fully open. Today’s “game day” experience deserves a failing grade, at least if you were in the gallery or upper gallery. The escalator was not working, most (nearly all) the concession stands were closed, and the ones which were open were not properly staffed. And they shut down early; having paid for the souvenir size soda, I didn’t expect to be told “we’re closed” when I stopped by for a refill in the 8th inning. Fortunately, someone had the sense of customer service to fill it for me.

    After the game, while still waiting to see if there might be an on-field interview, the ushers came around and rushed everyone out of the section. Of course, the game had gone quite quickly and they had to have planned for possibly doing the turn around in significantly less time.

    And another thing, they could have easily proffered the invitation to move down to the lower bowl a couple of innings earlier.

    So in summary, this plan holder was very pleased with the game and not at all pleased with the service.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:36 PM

      I’m not sure, but I think the vendors are on their own. Can’t help you with the rest of it.

    • TimDz - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:38 PM

      This game was not planned. I would guess that the folks that work the games (at least a good portion of them) probably have day jobs, so they were short staffed (given the short notice). As for getting ushered out early, I would guess that the ones that were working there may be working both games and would have a chance to take a short break between games, since the first game was done earlier than expected.

      Then again, I am not a plan holder, so, what do I know?

    • Dave - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:53 PM

      I don’t usually count on concession stands after the eighth inning is underway.

  15. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 2, 2015 at 4:38 PM

    Uh oh. The comment I was replying to just disappeared for no reason I can think of. Maybe another inadvertent whistle.
    Sure wish they could move that “REPORT COMMENT” button.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:45 PM

      OK. Now it’s back. As you were.

  16. micksback1 - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:04 PM

    very impressive job by Zim. I hope we can signed him long term.

    • jd - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:14 PM

      Mick,

      If we could have signed JZim we would have done so in the off season and we wouldn’t have signed Scherzer. Like I said I think that ship has sailed.

      • rlndtln - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:35 PM

        This is how you eliminate the 8th inning problem.

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