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An emotionless D.C. finale for Zimmermann, Nats

Sep 25, 2015, 11:40 PM EDT

AP

Jordan Zimmermann and Matt Williams are many things, but sentimental men they most certainly are not. Both the Nationals right-hander and his manager care too much about the competition at hand to get caught up in emotions. So the fact neither made much of the manner in which Zimmermann departed Friday night’s 8-2 loss to the Phillies should come as no surprise.

That may not provide much solace to the crowd of 31,019 that gathered on South Capitol Street, first and foremost to watch their club try to win a ballgame but equally to offer thanks to the franchise’s most-successful pitcher during its decade-plus in the District on what likely was his final home start. But it’s the cold, hard truth.

When he sent Wilmer Difo to the plate to pinch-hit for Zimmermann in the bottom of the fifth in what at that point was a 6-1 game, Williams wasn’t concerned about manufacturing a sentimental exit for his right-hander.

“No,” he said. “We’ve got to try to get back in the game.”

Nor was Zimmermann upset that his manager didn’t give him an opportunity to walk off the mound to a standing ovation.

“I would’ve pulled me there, too,” he said. “I was giving up quite a few hits. I wasn’t really thinking about going out the next inning and walking off the mound or anything. It would’ve been nice, but at the end of the day, you have to pitch well if you want to get those things at the end of the game.”

Not that Zimmermann didn’t understand the situation. He knew he was making his final home start of the year, with free agency looming in a few weeks. He knew the likelihood of he and the Nationals striking a deal that would keep him here for many more years had dissipated long ago.

And he knew why many in the crowd that arrived before first pitch were standing and applauding as he made his way in from the right-field bullpen, not the kind of reception he typically gets.

“I heard it, for sure,” he said. “It was awesome. It means a lot to me. I just wish I could’ve given them something a little better tonight.”

Therein lies the real problem. Had Zimmermann simply pitched the way he has throughout the vast majority of his career, a situation suitable for a standing ovation might well have presented itself.

Instead, Williams was left to pull his starter after five ragged innings that featured three home runs, two of the conventional variety and one that occurred in a highly unconventional fashion.

With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the third, Phillies rookie Aaron Altherr sent a sinking line drive to shallow center field. Michael Taylor came charging in and attempted to make a backhanded, sliding catch.

How close did Taylor come to making the play? “It hit off the bottom of my glove,” he said.

Close wasn’t good enough. And when the ball continued past Taylor and kept rolling until it nearly reached the warning track, four Phillies players came roaring around the bases to score, with Altherr bringing up the rear as the owner of MLB’s first inside-the-park grand slam in 16 years.

“I felt like I had a good bead on the ball,” Taylor said. “I thought I had a chance on it. I know in that situation, you better catch the ball, and I wouldn’t have gone for it if I didn’t think I could. It’s still a bad play once I miss it, so, it’s a tough play. … That was a big play for us, and I felt like I let down the team and let down Jordan right there. It’s not a good play.”

“I mean, it wasn’t an easy play, by any stretch,” Zimmermann said. “I know he’s giving it all. That’s just the way it happens.”

Had Taylor made the catch, or had he pulled up and played the ball on a hop, the storyline to this game might have changed. Then again, Zimmermann inflicted plenty of damage to himself. He served up two more homers in the top of the fifth, with Altherr and Darin Ruf connecting for solo shots to blow the game open.

He walked off the mound at the end of that inning, his pitch count a mere 79 but his spot in the lineup due to arrive second, with his team now down 5 runs. Williams didn’t have to think twice about sending up a pinch-hitter. Zimmermann didn’t have to think twice about the decision. The crowd didn’t have a chance to formally say goodbye to the pitcher who has won more games, made more starts and struck out more batters than any other in club history.

It was an unfortunate way for an otherwise splendid, 7-year marriage to end.

“I feel like I took the ball every time they asked and did what I could,” Zimmermann said of his career in Washington. “Some days I didn’t have it. Some days I was good. I’m not saying this is my last start. You don’t know what’s going to happen this offseason. We’ll see what happens.”

  1. nats106 - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:58 PM

    Just got back from the game. Bowdenball, JD, I sincerely hope I’m wrong about prospects for 2016, but time wil bear this one out. I was accused of being like Jayb, who has had valid points, despite his vitriol.

    I see no reason for optimism unless there are big changes in the offing. I am back to where I was in 2008. Watch baseball,. have a good time, be satisfied that we at least have a good team.

    You guys clearly know baseball, life and winning more than I do.

  2. NatsLady - Sep 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM

    You can’t (or shouldn’t) force these things. There was plenty of applause before the game. If JZimm pitched well and came out after 6 or 7 or 8 innings with at the very least a Quality Start then the standing ovation would have flowed naturally from the situation.

    It was a genial Friday night crowd. Many came for the bobbleheads and others because the game is a place to go for a date. People brought their kids because it’s not a school night. After the “inside-the-park-grand-slam” no one expected to win, so no one was disappointed. Just time to wrap up the season and say your good-byes to the staff and the folks who sit near you.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:40 AM

      As noted in my disappearing comment at the start of the game thread, I was there to say goodbye to Jordan (and get my bobblehead, which pairs nicely with the P-Nats Souza figurine – niiice). We did give him a nice ovation as he came in from the ‘pen, so there’s that. Will be there for the remaining home games as well. Am hoping for a better showing, just because.

  3. nats106 - Sep 26, 2015 at 12:27 AM

    Oh and a final note to JayB. I’m not fine with losing as a fan. I sat in my seats too long while we were losing to be satisfied with losing. But I can’t play the games for them. That ain’t my job, baby. I don’t have to look in the mirror and ask why I didn’t stay a Cardinal fan. (I should, but I don’t) but this team will need to look in the mirror in about 10 days and ask “why are we not playing ball still.”

  4. JayB - Sep 26, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    Problem is this team and much of this fan base will look in the mirror and say without a second thought..oh well it was not our year and that is just baseball….nothing could be done differently and nobody is accountable. That is just wrong and loser talk. Things could and should have been done much much differently and those who refuse to talk responsiblitly for their play or their decisions in the game and the roster should be the first to go.

    Fire MW today and release all that dead weight on the roster today….that would send a message that the rest would understand…going to the park to play for Randy Knoor today and without Uggla and much of the bull pen would be great to see….then look at the line up and find Werth, Ian, Ramos, sitting for the rest of the year would also wake this team up….it is just baseball and if you suck you lose your job…..Finally a pregame press conferenece to announce the changes by Rizzo with a major attitude change….this year was unacceptable and preventable tone….I (rizzo) am responsible for much of it….I trusted the wrong people and I refused to see what many in baseball and in the clubhouse and in ownership saw…they were wright and I need to make changes in all aspect of the organization or I need to leave. I plan to make major changes starting today…no reason to wait.

    • wskyrnr21 - Sep 26, 2015 at 7:59 AM

      Agreed!

      As long as the players run this team we will continue to see the same results.

      Need a manager that is not afraid to sit guys when needed ( Escobar, Desmond, Harper etc).

      Next year lets keep SI predictions out of the picture and maybe we have a shot.

    • knoxvillenat - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:21 AM

      Why do you think Randy Knorr would be better than Williams? To my knowledge Knorr has no big league managerial experience other than filling in when a manager has been kicked out of a game or had to miss a game for illness or personal reasons. SSS at best. I’m not defending Williams as I think he needs to go also, I just want to know what or why you see Knorr as being a better choice for the manager’s position?

      • JayB - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:53 AM

        Randy is a stop gap at this point….we would know a lot more if Rizzo had the Nats to fire MW back in July like he should have but Randy has managed a lot more than MW has even today….Randy has proven he is fearless and pulled underachieving super millionaire closers and players for dogging it at the MLB level….I like that.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:55 AM

        I really think that Rizzo had good reasons for not hiring Randy in 2014.

        Slightly off topic, but Randy since was a catcher doesn’t it seem that our catchers should have had shown better fundamentals on receiving balls from the outfield?

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:58 AM

        edit: but since Randy was a catcher doesn’t it seem that our catchers should have shown better fundamentals on receiving balls from the OF?

  5. JayB - Sep 26, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    LAD cut Mat Latos this week…Nats can do that too….they need to cut head trainer and strength coach end of the season too

  6. Joe Seamhead - Sep 26, 2015 at 7:59 AM

    I missed going to last night’s game, as I have had a flu-like cold for over a week and couldn’t deal with the energy it would have taken to make the trip. Regardless, for the first time, I am ready for this Nats season to end. Though it has been a disappointing season for all of us, I don’t really get being so angry about it. And yes, I hate to lose, too, but I keep it in perspective regarding letting it affect me.

    This season started being a disappointment in April. Things weren’t clicking right out of the gate and the injuries were already taking their toll. I don’t blame Mike Rizzo as he assembled what looked like a good enough team to be favored by almost everybody to go far this year. One can fault the Clipper trade, but who foresaw Rendon going down, Werth needing shoulder surgery, McLouth not returning, RZim developing foot issues, DSpan going down 3 different times, and the devastating loss of Stammen? I didn’t like watching Clipp go, but Rizzo got a pretty fair return in Escobar, an everyday infielder, for a relief pitcher that would probably have walked at the end of the season. I’m sure every one of us can disagree with some moves Rizzo made. Me? I never liked Dan Uggla taking up a roster spot. There had to have been better options for the 25th man.

    As to Matt Williams? I don’t like calling the guy nasty names. I feel sure that he’s probably a nice guy. That said, I personally don’t find him to be a very inspiring manager as a fan watching the team. Nor do I think that he handles in-game moves very well. This team, even with all of the injuries, should have won the division. And the 2014 team should have gone deeper into the playoffs. Both teams had the horses to do it, but did not play up to the talent level that they possessed. When hired he promised better fundamental baseball from his players, but instead we have too often watched Homer and the boys. Bottom line, this manager was given a team that was still rich in talent, the manager was paid to lead them to go far into the playoffs, and he didn’t get the job done. Again.

    No, I don’t think Matt Williams has earned the manager’s job for 2016.

    As I said, I’m ready for this Nats season to end, and I think that it’s pretty obvious that the players feel the same way. I’m still looking forward to watching the playoffs. But after the final out of the World Series the long winter begins and I will be anxiously waiting for the start of spring training. I think there is still a great nucleus in this organization to have a positive outlook and I trust in Mike Rizzo to make some necessary tweaks to make 2016 successful.

    • veejh - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:27 AM

      +1 on the nucleus being intact. Fix the pen, fire MW, add a lefty bat to play LF and play the youth. Trade Esco while his stock is peaking. Play Rendon at his natural position, let Difo and Espi battle it out for 2nd base next season. Turner at SS. Voila! We compete again!

      • JayB - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:55 AM

        -1 ….bigger organizational changes needed…..Training staff needs to be wiped clean….so does coaching staff.

  7. bigcat492 - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    I remember I wen down to Potomac and watched Zim pitch way back when. I went down and stood along the bullpen fence and watched him warm up. Then sat in the box seats as he threw a 2 hit shutout with ex Met Duda catching. I am gonna miss Zim. He’s a true profesional.

  8. JayB - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    Agree with all that but tweaks…major change is needed and in all aspects of the organization. I am fine with Rizzo making them…but if he believes that he does not need to make these changes and he just needs to have the same approach and better luck then fire him now….that is just stupid and stubborn…..and we do not need anymore data to know that approach leads to losing.

  9. bigcat492 - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:29 AM

    Wow…..JayB…..I should buy you lunch somewhere. Dead weight, yes. Desi, Ramos, Werth, Uggla. Why is is that everytime it was a big game and we had a big rally going, it was Desi and Ramos coming up. Desi would almost ALWAYS K while Ramos would either K or hit a dribbler to second cause he’s too far from the plate. Did you ever look at the pitch track after a 6 pitch Desi K and say “my God, the pitcher didn’t throw one strike yet Desi struck out. And that has gone on ALL year. Desi and Ramos should be sent out of town as soon as the season is over. Good riddance. As for Werth, he talks a good game, but the truth is he will be 37 next year and is horrid in the outfield and can barely hit his weight. Uggla is a nice guy, good teammate etc etc etc. How could he keep going up there to PH. Doesn’t he have any pride? He should of stepped down months ago. And last….Get that big puss Gio outa here. He’s a gutless bastard that has failed in every big game he’s pitched in

    • veejh - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:36 AM

      You seem to forget Gio being our best pitcher for the 1st half. I’m not the biggest fan anymore, but serviceable lefties with a team friendly deal aren’t a dime a dozen.

      • veejh - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:37 AM

        2nd best pitcher. LOL

  10. JayB - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:57 AM

    Geo is gutless and will never have the nats to pitch well in a meaningful game…he must go with Storen types.

  11. Nats Fan Zee - Sep 26, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    Considering the Mets are likely to clinch today, time for some fun facts. Without going to the Internet, answer the following questions:

    The first year the Mets clinched anything was 1969. Name the players that would be future Mets who made the last out of the:

    Game the Mets clinched against the Cardinals?

    Game 5 (the deciding game) of the World Series?

    Hint – yes, there is a Nats tie in somewhere here ….

    • Candide - Sep 26, 2015 at 10:50 AM

      I’m guessing Davey Johnson is the answer to your second question, since the Mets played Baltimore in that World Series.

      • Nats Fan Zee - Sep 26, 2015 at 12:21 PM

        That would be correct … The other player is a bit more interesting choice …….

      • Nats Fan Zee - Sep 26, 2015 at 9:46 PM

        No other players …. Joe Torre made the last out for the Cards in 1969. As I am sure you know, both Davey & Torre would mange the Mets and win World series as managers … just Joe did it a few more times and with the Yankees

  12. edshelton2013 - Sep 26, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Seamhead:
    You said you’re still looking forward to watching the playoffs. You must have a second-favorite team to root for.
    I reluctantly pull for the underdog in the WS, whoever that might be. What’s your secret for giving a rat’s at this point? I need help in getting through the long drought till next spring.

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 26, 2015 at 2:46 PM

      Edshelton, first and foremost I love watching baseball. Of course I would enjoy the playoffs more if our lads were playing, but I haven’t not watched postseason baseball since 1960, except when a lot of the World Series games were played in the afternoons on week days. I went to a Catholic school, thought I was slick sneaking in with a hidden transistor radio, but Sister Frances Jean would come by and ask me what the score was.

  13. Candide - Sep 26, 2015 at 11:14 AM

    In a disappointing season, yet another letdown, heretofore unmentioned:

    I was in the men’s room during the pregame when I heard Charlie and Dave say the Penn State Nittany Lion was at the park, in conjunction with a Penn State organization’s having raised $13 million for childhood cancer research.

    “Hmm,” says I; “I foresee skulduggery involving the Nittany Lion during the presidents’ race.”

    No skulduggery. Despite my eager search, I did not see anything resembling a Penn State mascot.

    Too bad. Imagine the possibilities. Teddy, the noted hunter, could have shot the lion to win the race, then been frog-marched off the field by the DC police for having a firearm withing city limits without a permit…

    On the plus side of the ledger…

    I always grade the performance of The Star-Spangled Banner. You can lose points for a multitude of sins:

    1) Too slow.
    2) Can’t stay in tune.
    3) Can’t hit the top notes.
    4) Can’t hit the bottom notes.
    5) “Interpreting” it, a crime which can be committed a dozen different ways – note interpolations, adding grace notes (turning the initial “Oh” into a two or three syllable word), changing the melody entirely.
    6) Forgetting the words.
    7) Poor phrasing due to lack of breath control.
    8) Mispronouncing “perilous.”
    9) Uneven range – i.e., can sing the top and bottom notes in tune, but without as much strength as the rest.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever given an F; I give a fair number of As and A-minuses (Section 222’s group routinely get there – try to get to one of their games when he mentions they’ll be singing, just to support one of our guys).

    Yesterday was the first A+ I’ve ever given, to the Congressional Chorus.

    It was a beautiful arrangement – did a lot of the things I like in the harmonization; for example adding a seventh on the last note of the phrase, “land of the free,” which leads to a very nice harmonic descent to “home” and then again to “brave.” A ritard (slowing of the tempo) beginning with the second “Oh say…” was a lovely touch, and then a pause after “yet wave,” as if waiting for an answer to that question.

    And needless to say, they committed none of the crimes listed above. Goose bumps. A+

    (FWIW, the best solo singer I’ve heard is DC Washington, who is apparently a regular guest.)

    • Candide - Sep 26, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      So typing a close parenthesis after an 8 gives an emoticon with sunglasses…?

      • natsfan1a - Sep 26, 2015 at 11:23 AM

        Yes, to denote “cool,” as an emoji Luddite could have told you. šŸ˜‰

    • natsfan1a - Sep 26, 2015 at 11:23 AM

      Agreed on the chorus, and on DC Washington.

  14. Doc - Sep 26, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    Not quite the no-hitter that we had come to expect!

  15. bigcat492 - Sep 26, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    I too have railed for Randy Knoor as manager. I liked it when he yanked Soriano when he was messing up. Of course, I would like to know how much input Knoor has with Williams as far as in game player moves. Every time the camera shows them, it looks like don’t speak. Williams does seem like he could be a stubborn know it all

    • loudounhound - Sep 26, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      I have wondered the exact same thing, and raised the question a few weeks ago. I didn’t get too many comments then, and now your observation/question will be buried under a new post. Still, I’d love to know if Knorr ever gives MW advice, or whether he even bothers anymore because it’s never followed.

  16. idus1926 - Sep 26, 2015 at 7:20 PM

    Everybody is talking about firing MW as a panacea. Sure he has to go but the problem is Rizzo.
    1. Managers. Both his choices ultimately proved to be disastrous on a team that was considered the best in baseball for three years in a row.
    2. Trades. Overall, his trading record is excellent with one glaring exemption. He basically blew the 2015 season by trading Clippard and fielding a bullpen that regularly leaked in the 7th and 8th innings. ( Escobar, of course, was a great addition but the loss of Clippard simply blew up the bullpen.
    3. Free agents. He had two expensive signings. Soriano was a bust who almost never had a 1,2,3 save. Sending him in with a one run lead was always hair raising. Then came Scherzer and Harper’s ” where is my ring” comment. He was spectacular in the first half of the season and then….a 30 million a year Roark, an adequate fourth starter. (Probably this signing had a role in trading Clippard and his 9 million $ salary too.) the rest are forgettable, arguably veteran bodies without one find.
    4. Draft. Strasbourg and Harper simply don’t count. Even an 88 years old grandmother would have taken them. Storen’s draft as 10th overall is still unexplicable. (Especially considering that Trout was there and the Nats didn’t have a centre fielder.) Then came Rendon who fell because a lot of teams were concerned about his health. Last year it seemed that Rizzo was a genius and Rendon is certainly a top three pick if he is healthy, a bona fide, excellent major leaguer. This year proved the doubters so the jury is still out.
    5. The handling of the pending free agents was terrible. Both Desmond and Zimmerman told them that their offers were inadequate. Fine, then trade them. Get full value. Instead even now, without any chance of a post season, Desmond is on the field. Rizzo is stubborn and this is the worst attribute for a GM. Fire him and get a young, smart Epstein type. The team needs a complete remake and he is clearly not up to acknowledging his mistakes. His inactivity at this year’s trading deadline proved that point. Look at the Mets, Texas and the Blue Jays……

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