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Nats 2, Braves 1 (11): Desmond saves day with sac fly

Jun 24, 2015, 10:16 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: There was just something about this matchup — Jordan Zimmermann vs. Shelby Miller — that seemed to foretell a compelling pitchers’ duel at Nationals Park on Wednesday night. Sure enough, a boisterous crowd of 36,141 was treated to a humdinger of a ballgame, with the two right-handers posting matching zeroes into the seventh … only to watch as the game was left in the hands of both bullpen in extra innings.

Miller was more dominant than Zimmermann, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and facing the minimum through six innings. But Zimmermann made big pitches when he needed to, stranding runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and sixth innings. Somebody had to break through eventually, and that somebody proved to be the Nationals, who pieced together the night’s first run in the bottom of the seventh. With runners on the corners and one out, Bryce Harper took an inside pitch from Miller and got just enough on it to send a soft looper over a diving Jace Peterson in shallow right field.

But Drew Storen couldn’t preserve a 1-0 lead in the ninth. He allowed a pair of singles to Nick Markakis and A.J. Pierzysnki, setting the stage for Kelly Johnson’s game-tying sacrifice fly, and Storen’s first blown save in more than two months.

Never fear, though, because the Nationals put together the necessary rally in the bottom of the 11th to win it. Harper got things started with a 1-out double to right-center. After the Braves intentionally walked Wilson Ramos, Clint Robinson drew a tough conventional walk to load the bases for Ian Desmond. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez countered with David Aardsma, but Desmond connected with the right-hander’s first pitch, sending a fly ball deep enough to left field to bring Harper home with the run that gave the Nationals their fifth straight victory.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: They struggled all night to figure out Miller, but finally in the seventh inning they took care of business. Denard Span got the rally started by drawing a leadoff walk. Anthony Rendon then singled to left, putting the Nats in business. Yunel Escobar nearly hit into his fourth double play in seven at-bats in the series, but by hustling down the line to beat it out, he ensured first base wouldn’t be left open, inviting the Braves to intentionally walk Harper. That proved very significant, because Harper was able to muscle Miller’s inside pitch over Peterson’s head at second base to drive home the night’s first run.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: You think these starters feed off each other? It sure looks that way. Zimmermann took the mound Wednesday on the heels of four straight dominant pitching performances, which had produced a total of 26 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings by starting pitchers. And all the right-hander did was keep that streak alive. Zimmermann did put a bunch of men on base (six hits in his first six innings) but he never let the Braves string together anything. He also didn’t walk a batter, helping his cause. And he closed out his night in style, retiring the final eight batters he faced to cap off yet another brilliant performance and extend the Nationals starters’ streak to 34 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, a new club record.

KEY STAT: The Nationals currently rank seventh in the majors in average attendance at 33,747. The only clubs that rank higher are either from New York or Los Angeles or won the World Series within the last four years.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up with a 4:05 p.m. Thursday matinee. Doug Fister (2-3, 4.80) looks to build off his first start back from the DL, facing Braves rookie right-hander Matt Wisler (1-0, 1.13).

  1. thewerthwhisperer - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:19 PM

    Was it just me, or was anyone else worried about the runner on 2nd getting doubled up before Harper limped home?

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:20 PM

      Just you. Sorry.

      • thewerthwhisperer - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:22 PM

        Ah, you’re right, but Wouldn’t it have been the icing on the cake for it to happen to Desi?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:28 PM

        Lesson from Scherzer: Do not waste energy or time on negative thoughts.

        I should have it tattooed on the back of my wrist, where I can see it all day.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:41 PM

        Good point Sec 3

    • adcwonk - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:22 PM

      Charlie and Dave were worrying about it out loud as it was happening.

      • thewerthwhisperer - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:23 PM

        Aha! I was watching while I should have been listening to Dave and Charlie!

      • adcwonk - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:24 PM

        I was in the car (with the Wonkling!)

    • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:35 PM

      He tagged up, but still — what was he doing? where was he going?

      • thewerthwhisperer - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:17 PM

        My point exactly

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:53 AM

        And a good point it is, on reflection (and second viewing). WTH *was* Ramos doing??

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:46 PM

      Actually not just you. Charlie and Dave after the game wondered what Ramos was doing taking third there. Said that if he’d been doubled off before Bryce scored they would have had to replace the Nook Logan sound clip.

    • Jfmii - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:12 AM

      I cringed and hope he knows now.

    • peewilly - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:28 AM

      Exactly my thought while watching Harper tough home plate. In that situation with 1 out the other base runners always stay put, don’t leave the bag. Absolutely no reason to. Only bad things can happen.

  2. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:21 PM

    Ian Desmond’s first mention in the Kolko interview was … Randy Knorr.

    The guy’s a mensch.

  3. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:22 PM

    I’m happy as fudge for Desi… seriously, I am…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:42 PM

      “of Steve M. – Jun 24, 2015 at 10:15 PM
      Ian Desmond can either shut up his haters for a while with a long fly here or just add to the fodder.

      Please Baseball Gods, Ian Desmond deserves your help here.”

      Prayers answered. This guy deserved it! I thought it was a wall buster off the bat but a Sac Fly worked. #Clutch

  4. Hiram Hover - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:23 PM

    I do hope Harper is ok. I know he waved them off, but he’s the kind of guy who would hate to come out (even if it’s the right call).

  5. Candide - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:23 PM

    The last time a Nats starter gave up a run was last Friday – Joe Ross in the 2nd inning.

    I was there.

    I have not been to a game since.

    Tomorrow is a 4:05 start.

    I’m thinking of going.

    Of course, I could be persuaded to stay home, if the money is right.

    I take cash or Paypal.

    Your call.

    • ArVAFan - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:28 PM

      Hah. I will be there in 313 last row (this semi-retirement gig is working out nicely). Come by and say hello, unless someone takes you up on your offer.

    • kirbs3256 - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:28 PM

      I got a one up on you. I’m on vacation and haven’t seen a game. Were 5-0 in that time….and there was a no-no I missed…..

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:30 PM

      Hahahaha.. you should do it just from the kindness in your heart
      .. 😆😆😆

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:30 PM

        I think it’s called “taking one for the team”!

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:36 PM

        Yes HH… that too!

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:30 PM

      Nah, s’OK. Ross won that game.

      Maybe I’ll see you there.

    • stoatva - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:31 PM

      I’m 9-4 on the season. Three game winning streak. Yay, me.

    • scnatsfan - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:31 PM

      That’s why Ross got sent down lol

  6. Section 222 - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:30 PM

    Harper did not look ok running home. What was he going to do, sprint and injure himself even worse in order to win the game? I’m sure glad Desi’s flyout was as deep as it was. I’m surprised Bryce could convince MW that he was ok to stay in.

    Boy did he scorch that hit though. How many balls hit the ground in the infield and make it all the way to the wall? Incredible.

    Great win, and good for Desi for bringing in the winning run. Maybe that will give him some confidence to break out of his funk. And by the way, FP was totally full of it early in the game talking about how Desi must be thinking of his own stats in his contract year and that’s why he’s not hitting. Total speculative baloney. And he even admitted it was .

    Very nice work also by Felipe. That guy is nasty, especially against lefties. Wow.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:32 PM

      Yeah, I was wondering that myself about FP. Surprising for such a “players’ announcer.”

      I wonder if Ray will call him out?

      • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:34 PM

        He might have, but Phil Wood won’t.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:35 PM

        What I’m really wondering about is, how many baseball gods, and how badly, did Shelby Miller piss off? Gracious.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:40 PM

        Wife says she was thinking, when FP said he was just speculating, doesn’t have any inside information, but … “Then STFU, FP.”

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:06 AM

      I was at the game, so I didn’t hear what FP said. But if he was speculating that perhaps the contract thing is weighing on Desmond this year, he’s spot on. How could it not be? Desmond of course would never admit it if asked. But check with him after he retires, or after he secures whatever FA contract he is able to get after this year, and I bet he will admit that the contract thing affected his performance in this, his walk year.

      And as for FP saying something, what’s wrong with that? He’s just putting a voice to what thousands of fans are already thinking.

      • Section 222 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        You didn’t hear what FP said, and I’m not inclined to take the time to explain it to you, But it wasn’t that.

  7. Danny - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    Bryce did look pretty gimpy trotting home 😦 early game tomorrow.

    Guy on 2nd should not have been tagging ha.

  8. Hiram Hover - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:33 PM

    Maybe just me, but JZim’s accent sounded stronger than usual in that post-game interview.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:36 PM

      I noticed that, too. He didn’t seemed thrilled with the exercise while Rivero got “his” win, either.

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:13 AM

      Again, I was at the game so I didn’t hear JZ’s comments. But several callers to the postgame radio show were asking “When will MW allow JZ to finish a game?” They have a point. Byron Kerr argued that MW had to pinch hit for JZ to go for an insurance run. But that’s a bogus argument. One out, runner on second, JZ due up. No need to pinch hit there. JZ could sacrifice, or even hit in that situation. If JZ ends up signing elsewhere after the season, MW’s continued displays of lack of confidence in him could have a lot to do with that decision.

  9. stoatva - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:34 PM

    Interesting (and touching) to hear how effusive Desi was in praise of Randy Knorr.

    • stoatva - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:44 PM

      Oh jeez. I forgot about his wife’s recent passing.

      There seems to be something in my eye. BRB.

    • ogremj - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:46 PM

      Pretty close to tears when asked about in the locker room interview.

      • stoatva - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:47 PM

        Me, too.

    • npb99 - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:47 PM

      Yes, despite his struggles and impending exit, let’s not forget he’s been one of the key voices and leaders of the team the last years.

  10. scnatsfan - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    If you’ve strained your hammy I don’t know how long you sit to let it heal but give Harp all the time he needs even if he doesnt want it

    • stoatva - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:45 PM

      Day game after night game with series in hand, rest seems like a no-brained.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:47 PM

        They’re in Philly Friday night, which is no gimme but with Scherzer going, it’s a bit less intimidating than Miller tonight. Give him a day or two if he needs it.

      • stoatva - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:49 PM

        -er. No brainer. Thanks a pantload, spell check.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:31 PM

      This is the other leg and Bryce says it was a cramp.

  11. David Proctor - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:45 PM

    I suspect Harper will sit tomorrow. Series has been won. Day game. Season-high 3.5 games up. He limped home. Maybe it’s just a cramp, but maybe not. There’s no need to risk it.

    If they’re actually 100% sure it was a cramp, then I guess that’s one thing, but I’m skeptical. He didn’t look right.

    • Section 222 - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:50 PM

      Agreed. No way he plays tomorrow.

      That was a tough interview for Ian. I was glad someone asked the Knorr question to get the topic away from how Ian has struggled and whether he’s contributing to the team. But that wasn’t an easy topic to talk about either. He’s a classy guy.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:30 PM

        Don’t ever count Bryce out, but a rest day would make sense. On the radio they said it was the other hamstring and was just a cramp.

  12. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:49 PM

    Fister going tomorrow. It just occurs to me that he must be aware that the last starter who gave up a run just got sent to Syracuse. But no pressure.

    • adcwonk - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:28 PM

      😉

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:29 PM

      LMAO, this is true.

  13. scmargenau - Jun 24, 2015 at 10:49 PM

    Did we ever hear the cause of Mrs Knorr’s tragic death? I’m so sad for their family…and very happy to see all the prayers extended in the thread….

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:09 PM

      No. The family is apparently keeping their privacy.

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:28 PM

    Tonight accentuated why I want Aroldis Chapman and not because Storen doesn’t do a good job but because Storen does not match up as well against lefties in 1 run games, and I would do closer by matchups in the best way you can predict the matchups but tonight you knew that JZim was getting pulled after the 8th and knew who the batters were for the 9th with Markakis the lefty leading off.

    If you have Aroldis and Storen, tonight you go with Aroldis. Tomorrow you might go with Storen. It’s a good problem to have. Markakis is now 4 for 5 against Storen and if you don’t have Chapman and this was a critical game I’d hope MW would go with Rivero to start the 9th and get the lefties then go to Storen.

    Some say getting Aroldis would be over-kill. I say you get him and after 2016 you QO him and get a top Draft Pick back. So while it would cost you salary and player(s) in trade, it’s still worthwhile to kick the tires and see what magic Rizzo can work to finalize this.

  15. adcwonk - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:33 PM

    So . . . . 3.5 games ahead of the Mets, and 4 games ahead of the Braves. Not bad, not bad at all . . .

    (and only a half-game behind the Dodgers, for whatever that’s worth)

  16. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:33 PM

    With some who are jumping to assumptions, this is what was said:

    “He just said it was a cramp when he went into second. Standing there, it got a little bit better,” Williams said. “He told me he could score if there was a base hit, so it subsided a little bit. We’ll see how it acts when he gets up in the morning. The doc will take a look at him, the trainers will take a look at him when we get back in there and we’ll see what we’ve got.”

  17. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2015 at 11:35 PM

    From MLBTR:

    The Nationals have agreed to terms with their first overall pick, second-rounder Andrew Stevenson, on a below-slot $750K bonus, James Wager of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. Stevenson, an outfielder out of LSU, was taken with the 58th overall choice ($1,058,100 slot value), which was awarded to the Nats for failing to ink last year’s second-rounder. MLB.com was higher on Stevenson than other outlets, ranking him the 79th-best player available and calling him “the best defensive center fielder in college baseball.”

    Per that review, Stevenson has a useful, if unexciting, offensive profile. Overall, the Nats have racked up quite a bit of savings on those players they have inked to date: $786,800 by my count. Only third-rounder Rhett Wiseman (who is playing for Vanderbilt in the College World Series as we speak) and eighth-round choice Koda Glover (a senior from Oklahoma State) have yet to sign from the first ten rounds, and it’s not immediately clear how (if at all) the team will utilize its extra bonus availability

  18. Dorothy LaRussoi - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    What a pitching duel! Why did Jordan not pitch the. 9th? He had 100 pitches at the end of the 8 th. Storen has been shakey lately.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:06 AM

      Because Jordan Zimmermann’s lineup spot came up in the bottom of the 8th when they were trying to tack on an insurance run. The chance at a run being too good to pass up, they pinch hit for JZim and thus he wasn’t available for the 9th.

      Storen had converted 17 straight save chances going into last night’s game (and in 12 of his last 19 appearances with the game on a line, in 12 of them he didn’t allow a baserunner). He has “been shaky” lately because he isn’t striking everyone out his two appearances against the Braves. But part of that is that the 2015 Braves are a very tough team to strike out. They’ve remade themselves from the freeswinging strikeout kings of the past couple of seasons into a pesky high contact group; they are last in the NL in strikeouts, 27th in MLB even without the DH. And even weak contact will occasionally find holes. Storen gave up a humpback Texas Leaguer to Markakis and a ground ball to A.J. Pierzynski. Both found holes. It happens. Storen did a good job (with an assist from a brain cramp by Terdoslavich) getting out holding the damage to the single run.

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