PHILADELPHIA - Roy Halladay had gone 11-0 in his last 13 starts against the Nationals/Expos prior to tonight. Jordan Zimmermann entered tonight 0-3 in four career outings against the Phillies.
Those scripts got flipped.
Davey Johnson likes the line he got from Zimmermann tonight - six innings, seven hits, one run, two walks and two strikeouts - but he doesn’t like how much of an effort it took the righty to get there.
Zimmermann needed 98 pitches to get through five innings and he finished with 107 pitches in his six frames. That marks the fourth start in a row Nationals starters have failed to work into the seventh inning, leaving the bullpen to pick up the rest of the slack.
“He pitched good, but again it’s too many pitches in a short amount of time,” Johnson said. “He was right at 20 pitches an inning, and that’s not him. But our pitchers have been doing that lately. I’m not real happy with it.”
Zimmermann said he was pleased with his slider tonight, and made an adjustment to how he approached the Phillies’ hitters from his last start against them on May 6.
“I was just going after them, attacking them tonight, throwing the ball inside a little bit more,” Zimmermann said. “The first time I faced them, I was pretty much staying away with everything. I went inside and it changes the whole game when you establish the inside fastball.”
The Nats made a conscious decision to attack Halladay early in at-bats, and it paid off, as they smacked him around to the tune of nine hits and five runs (second-most off the righty this season) over six innings.
“Anytime you’re facing a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher that doesn’t make many mistakes when he pitches, you better be aggressive, especially early in the count,” Johnson said. “Because he’s going to be hitting corners, down and up and in. He uses the whole strike zone with a variety of pitches. So you better be up there swinging, and if there’s one you think you can hit, hit it.”
While most Nats hitters wanted to take an aggressive approach against Halladay, Ian Desmond said he went into his first at-bat planning to keep the bat on his shoulder until he got two strikes. With Halladay being a thinking-man’s pitcher, Desmond said, he figured the veteran righty would know Desmond is super aggressive and would be hacking early in the at-bat.
Desmond’s patient plan didn’t last long, however.
“I swung at the second pitch,” the shortstop said. “I couldn’t help myself.”
Desmond followed that second-inning at-bat, which resulted in a pop-up, by blasting a solo homer to left in the third, giving the Nats a 4-1 lead. He also walked in the fifth inning and stole a base, finishing 1-for-3 on the day.
“I was actually more impressed with the walk than the homer,” Desmond said. “I think I’ve got seven walks, eight home runs.”
He’s right. The eight home runs now leads the team. The seven walks, not so much.