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Phillies 8, Nats 2: On cusp of elimination after ugly loss

Sep 25, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals already were moving ever closer to elimination when they took the field for the opener of a weekend series with the Phillies. The crowd of 31,019 that gathered on South Capitol Street did so knowing the outcome of the game would be secondary to the reception the man on the mound, Jordan Zimmermann, would receive in what everyone knew would be his final home appearance with the organization.

That crowd, though, never got the opportunity to shower the right-hander with gratitude for his seven seasons of service. Zimmermann was roughed up by the Phillies for six runs, four of them coming on Aaron Altherr’s inside-the-park grand slam past a diving Michael Taylor in shallow center field. Worse, he was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth, removed from the game out of sight from a fan base that simply wanted to thank him.

That’s the kind of night it was, with the Phillies’ unheralded lineup homering four times while the Nationals struck out 10 times in seven innings against rookie Jerad Eickhoff. All the while, the Mets were cruising in Cincinnati, determined to reduce their magic number to clinch the NL East title to 1.

The champagne will be on ice Saturday inside the visitors’ clubhouse at Great American Ball Park. It’s too late now for the Nationals to do anything to stop what most have accepted as inevitable for several weeks.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: It was news when Bryce Harper went hitless against the Orioles earlier this week, the first time he had gone three straight games without a hit this season. But at least he drew seven walks in the series. Tonight, the Phillies offered Harper no free passes and still lived to tell the story. Eickhoff struck him out three times, with Harper never looking comfortable at the plate against the rookie right-hander. This was only the fourth time a pitcher struck out the presumptive NL MVP three times in a game this year. The others: Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: This had the potential to be something special for Zimmermann and a ballpark full of fans wanting to show appreciation for his seven seasons in a Nats uniform. It wound up being the polar opposite of something special. Zimmermann gave up six runs in five innings (the fifth time he has allowed that many runs this season after going through all of 2014 without doing it once). To be fair, his final line might have read completely different if not for Taylor’s missed diving attempt on Altherr’s sinking liner to center, resulting in the inside-the-park grand slam. That said, Zimmermann still served up two more conventional homers. All of that probably would have been excused by the crowd, though, had Zimmermann been pulled from the game mid-inning, with a chance to walk off the mound to a standing ovation. Instead, Wilmer Difo was sent up to pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the fifth. A crowd that understood what was most significant about this game — Zimmermann received significant applause when he entered from the bullpen, not a common occurrence — never got its opportunity to say thank you to arguably the best pitcher who has called D.C. home in the last decade.

KEY STAT: Aaron Altherr’s inside-the-park grand slam was the first in the majors since Tampa Bay’s Randy Winn on Oct. 3, 1999.

UP NEXT: Stephen Strasburg (10-7, 3.81) looks to continue his late-season surge when he takes the mound at 4:05 p.m. Saturday. The Phillies give the ball to rookie right-hander Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.84).

  1. patrickthand - Sep 25, 2015 at 9:38 PM

    Now can we please see what Trea Turner can do at shortstop? We don’t need to see Ian Desmond anymore.

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:45 PM

      And now can we PLEASE stop pinch hitting Uggla already. Since July 1st Uggla is…and I am not kidding…2 for 40, with 16 Ks and ZERO extra base hits.

      • NatsLady - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:19 PM

        Never understood the Uggla thing. I think it tickled Rizzo that the Barves were paying for him. Should have kept him a couple months for laughs and then let him GO. He WAY outstayed his welcome.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:24 PM

        You might be right…and if so that helps prove my point about Rizzo needing adult supervision in the front office.

  2. natfan33 - Sep 25, 2015 at 9:57 PM

    I always get a kick when earlier in the season Williams and some of the players talked about the character the players show/have and they never give up. Well, what do you call this?

    • stoatva - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:42 PM

      I’m not sure what it takes some folks to acknowledge quit. Not showing up at the ballpark?

      Lack of intensity/focus is what quitting looks like at this point in the season.

    • wskyrnr21 - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:47 PM

      As Williams always says ” will have to get ready for tomorrow”.

      Suspect he should begin packing his bags today and Bring McCatty with him

  3. legnatsfan - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:43 PM

    I was one of those fans at the game tonight expecting to give JZ a standing ovation. It was very disappointing that it never happened.

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:48 PM

      We never really got the chance. Most fans were still filing in when he was announced to start the game, and it was a bit surprising when he got pulled for Difo to pinch hit in the 5th inning.

      I was at JZ’s first big league start as well as his no hitter, and so wish his Nats career could have ended on a high note.

      • nats106 - Sep 26, 2015 at 12:17 AM

        Yep. Best comment of the night.

  4. hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    The ownership really needs to understand how turned off the fan base is right now. Some huge changes are in order.

    M Williams – gone.

    Coaches – gone

    Rizzo – A forthright acknowledgement that he takes responsibility for much of this disaster and that he needs to do better. Firing him though I think would be a mistake

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:58 PM

      Hire an experienced executive to be President of Baseball Operations. Rizzo badly needs adult supervision, and that’s the only way he’s going to get it.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:02 PM

      Winning will cure everything. Fans will come if they win. They don’t care who’s wearing the laundry, by and large.

      • hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:12 PM

        They wont get there if they keep the same management team.

        Maybe K Kolchak is right – Rizzo’s instincts in terms of judgement of talent is superior, but for some of the other aspects of the GM job, not so much. The problem is that if the Lerner’s decide to implement a position that has oversight over Rizzo, he would probably leave the organization.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:17 PM

        Rizzo’s under contract–he isn’t going anywhere unless the Lerner’s agree to release him.

      • hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:27 PM

        Interesting point.

    • trfwans - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:16 PM

      There are two parts to the coaching staff. One part is guys who have served the organization well: McCatty, Schu, LeCroy, Henley and especially Knorr. The other part is Williams and his defensive “guru” Weidemeir. Fire MW and his guru, keep the other guys somewhere in the organization that they have served well. In particular, McCatty is not the problem with the pitching staff, Williams is. McCatty is doing his job well, which is to coach the pitchers, help them work their way through physical and mechanical issues. He doesn’t decide when to pull the starter or which reliever to warm up or bring in. That’s MW’s job. The pitching failures this year are all on him, not on McCatty.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:22 PM

        I wouldn’t say McCatty had a very good year. Every Nats pitcher except for Ross and Rivero pitched below expectations to a greater or lesser degree this season.

      • hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:29 PM

        I second KK’s point. Lots of mechanics issues with several of the main SPs including Scherzer and Fister, maybe even Roark. McCatty needs to do better.

      • trfwans - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:43 PM

        Unless you’re implying that McCatty somehow screwed those guys up (which I don’t think he did) I fail to see your point. McCatty is a coach, it’s up to the player to perform, not to the coach. The coach’s job is to help him out if he struggles, and that’s not always going to be a success. If you think it’s usage or roles that messed up a pitcher (e.g. Roark, Storen) that’s not on the coach, it’s on the manager. The manager determines the usage and roles, the coach then has to try to help them succeed in that. Success is not guaranteed, ultimately it’s up to the player.

      • hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:44 PM

        Of course its the pitching coaches job to spot mechanical issues. He’s not there to baby-sit.

      • trfwans - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:59 PM

        Spotting mechanical issues and fixing those issues are two very different things. Which mechanical issues with which pitcher did McCatty not spot? The whole season was spent working on mechanical issues with pitchers – Strasburg, Scherzer, the list goes on. Fixing such issues is not just flipping a switch. Surely you must realize that.

      • hersheyman - Sep 26, 2015 at 12:40 AM

        No doubt that its not necessarily an easy job. But the way things went this year with the pitching staff as a whole, M Williams’ lack of strategy notwithstanding, some responsibility lies with the pitching coach. But I could live with keeping McCatty as well as Knorr.

      • wskyrnr21 - Sep 26, 2015 at 7:46 AM

        Eckstein was released years ago because the hitters failed miserably. McCatty should be let go as the pitchers have failed miserably. To put all the failures on the players as under performing and letting the coaches off the hook is a sad misconception. Fundamentally this team is seriously flawed and an outright change needs to be made. Let the new manager bring in his boys.

  5. hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    Maybe keep Randy Knorr.

    • senators5 - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:58 PM

      IF and that’s a big IF, Williams is fired, the entire coaching staff should be released, even though they may not deserve firing. Being “released” is the way of life for pro players and coaches alike and often they are given second and third chances, For coaches being FIRED, not so much. And, of course, where does that leave Rizzo, the architect of this disaster? A new manager should be given the opportunity to hire his own staff to quell returning players’ feelings pro or con re: the coaching staff. There are a number of excellent young coaches in the Nats’ system who would do well, ie; Patrick Anderson, manager of the Hagerstown Suns.

      • hersheyman - Sep 26, 2015 at 12:42 AM

        Usually, when a new manager is hired, he picks his own staff. So, we might indeed see this happen this winter.

      • knoxvillenat - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:31 AM

        Hersheyman, in some organizations a new manager is allowed to bring in his own guys as coaches but I don’t think that is the way the Nationals do it. I’m pretty certain that the only coach Willams brought in was his defensive wizard (and how did that work out?) whereas the rest of the coaches were inherited from Davey Johnson. I suspect that Rizzo had much more influence on selecting coaches than MW.

  6. Karl Kolchak - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    Another example to add to the “Williams should be fired” file. In the fifth inning with Ramos on first Williams pinch hits for JZ even though he had thrown only 79 pitches. Worse yet he uses Difo–whose only hit this year came three months ago–who predictably nearly grounds into a double play, when JZ could have easily bunted Ramos to 2nd instead.

    Thus does Williams not only pinch hit for JZ early to no significant advantage, but he robs the fans of a chance to applaud him for the great work he did here in DC.

  7. hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 10:58 PM

    My last comment today hopefully: Do we really need to see Desmond remove the helmets of another hitter in the dugout anymore?????

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:05 PM

      I’m looking forward to a few more. YMMV.

      • hersheyman - Sep 25, 2015 at 11:07 PM

        lol. Drove me bananas every time I saw it.

      • natfan33 - Sep 26, 2015 at 9:50 AM

        Almost as bad as the dufus reliever we had who did the untuck.

  8. bigcat492 - Sep 26, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    Agree, lets see what Trea can do at short now that the fat lady is singing. Also, put Severino in a catcher. I have seen Desi and Ramos strlike out so much on pitches out of the zone I think I’m gonna vomit.

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