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Nats 7, Orioles 4: Homers, bullpen produce big win

Jul 11, 2015, 10:21 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Another sellout crowd at Camden Yards — this one with noticeably more red sprinkled among the orange — was treated to another taut ballgame and another compelling chapter in this budding rivalry. And this time the Nationals emerged victorious, thanks to big blasts from their two biggest home-run hitters this season: One expected, one unexpected.

Bryce Harper delivered the first blow, a laser beam of a homer to right-center to lead off the sixth and bring the Nationals within a run. Shortly after, Danny Espinosa launched a 3-run homer down the right-field line, giving the Nats the lead and eliciting a loud roar from the sizable gathering of D.C. fans in attendance.

Jordan Zimmermann, back to pitch about 36 hours after his wife gave birth to the couple’s second child, labored through five innings but benefited from that sixth-inning rally to earn the win. Blake Treinen delivered five key outs in relief, with Felipe Rivero then finishing off the seventh. Casey Janssen retired the side in the eighth, striking out a pair. And then Drew Storen finished it off, notching his 26th save in 28 tries, and setting up a big rubber game in the series Sunday afternoon before everyone heads out on the All-Star break.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Here’s a statement nobody predicted on Opening Day: Where would the Nationals be without Danny Espinosa this season? After two straight years of disastrous results at the plate, he has become a godsend for this team. Thanks to a calmer, more-repeatable stroke from the left side of the plate, he has become an offensive force again. And with a bullet of a 3-run homer to right in the bottom of the sixth, he not only gave the Nationals the lead. He also took over the lead in home runs among all NL second basemen this season with 10. Who saw any of this coming?

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: It was Zimmermann’s decision to return to pitch only one day after his wife gave birth to the couple’s second child, and who are we to question his decision-making when it comes to family and work? Who knows if it had any effect on his performance or not, but this much is certain: Zimmermann was not particularly sharp in this game, certainly not up to his usual standards. Two batters into the game, the Orioles already had two hits. He later grooved a 2-1 fastball to Caleb Joseph, who sent it flying to left for a 2-run homer. Two innings later, Steve Pearce hammered a hanging breaking ball to left for another homer. With his pitch count at 95, Zimmermann was pulled after five innings. The Nats’ rally in the top of the sixth put him in line for the win, but he certainly has pitched better plenty of times this season.

KEY STAT: Harper’s sixth-inning homer left his bat at 115.4 mph, according to ESPN, the second-fastest of his career. He hit one at 117.1 mph in 2013.

UP NEXT: The series (and the unofficial first half of the season) wraps up at 1:35 p.m. Sunday when Max Scherzer takes the mound (and makes himself ineligible for the All-Star Game) against lefty Wei-Yin Chen.

  1. unterp - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:26 PM

    let’s go Nats…

  2. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:27 PM

    I wonder if Jordan is comfy pitching in CY…. I think he got hit good last year… I cant remember the year before…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:30 PM

      He does not pitch well there. He’s a pitch to contact pitcher and the ball carries there. Funny that he gets the W on one of his so-so starts.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:04 PM

        Which speaks to the value of a pitcher’s W.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:06 PM

        Its worth little in my book which is why I would pull a pitcher at 4 1/3 innings. Team W’s matter.

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:14 PM

      As FP said, JZ was pitching on zero days rest, given the birth of his daughter. Give him a break. He chiefed it out and the Nats got the W.

    • virginiascopist - Jul 12, 2015 at 7:38 AM

      In 2013 (May 29), he was on the mound with a good lead and imploded in the 7th inning. Memorable game — Ryan Zimmerman hit three home runs and we ended up losing 9-6.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 12, 2015 at 8:27 AM

        I thought that was what happened last year. Thanks for the confirmation.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    Nats are guaranteed to go into the All Star break in 1st Place.

    • rmoore446 - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:36 PM

      Yep Ghost,first place. I worried that they might be swept and go in tied with the Mets. Now that won’t happen.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:39 PM

        I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind after last night’s failure.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:39 PM

        By the way, big add-on run by the Nats in the 9th.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:16 PM

        Good call on the insurance run, Ghost.

  4. TimDz - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    Not sure if it was noted in the game thread, but Thorne’s call on Harper’s HR was hilarious:
    “Harper hit the ball to right center…it’s playable….and….it’s a homerun!”
    If he was calling a game in a ballpark of which he was unfamiliar, it’d be forgiveable….

    • stoatva - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:39 PM

      115.4 mph helps explain.

  5. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:41 PM

    Btw – I am totally fine and glad that Max is not pitching in the AS game… totally fine with it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:49 PM

      I hope Clayton Kershaw takes his place in the All Star roster.

  6. rlndtln - Jul 11, 2015 at 10:51 PM

    great if Greinke and Kershaw pitch we would miss one of them.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:06 PM

      I think they both deserve at least 3 innings in the ASG. Heck, let ’em split the game and each go 4.

    • therealjohnc - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:07 PM

      Not really. Greinke pitched last on Thursday. He essentially gets a break before treating the ASG as a throw day. Only pitches an inning or two, comes back and pitches on Saturday with Kershaw going on Sunday. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:08 PM

      Would hope but still no guarantee.

  7. Jfmii - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:11 PM

    Rosenthal just blew a save I think in Pittsburgh

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:20 PM

      Not a Blown Save technically as he was the pitcher of record when they took the lead but yeah, he blew his W.

  8. therealjohnc - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:16 PM

    Jason Grilli tore his achilles tendon in Colorado. Sad for him, and really bad for the Braves because there’s been a lot of chatter that they were going to flip him for some prospects soon. That’s the risk of holding out for a better deal.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:22 PM

      The market just got better for Clippard. Papelbon and Chapman are the other 2 closers on that closer market.

      More closers could become available by Aug 31.

      • virginiascopist - Jul 12, 2015 at 7:41 AM

        I think K-Rod will be one of the other closers who will be available.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 12, 2015 at 7:49 AM

        You’re correct. He’s now considered the 4th best closer available.

  9. ArVAFan - Jul 11, 2015 at 11:41 PM

    Sat behind the dugout. Lots of red shirts in that section. Bryce and others looked up and acknowledged the crowd when returning to the dugout. JZimm not among them–he came in head down.

    No problems with the O’s fans.

    Brother and I agreed that this would be an annual event.

  10. adcwonk - Jul 12, 2015 at 12:34 AM

    Just saw the replay of Espi’s HR — a guy in a red shirt caught it!

    http://m.mlb.com/video/v252195283/wshbal-espinosa-hammers-goahead-threerun-shot/?game_pk=414972

    • ArVAFan - Jul 12, 2015 at 7:21 AM

      Thanks for posting that. Obviously, they don’t show that type of replay in the park!

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