Jun 2, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT
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.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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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.
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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