The worst part of today's 4-3 loss to the Rockies from Davey Johnson's perspective was that it wasted a fantastic outing from starter Jordan Zimmermann, who allowed just one run over seven innings.
Zimmermann lowered his ERA to 2.61 on the season, the ninth-lowest total in the majors among pitchers with at least 15 starts. Despite that low ERA and the fact that Zimmerman has gone at least six innings in all 17 outings, the righty goes into the All-Star break with just five wins.
His shot at his sixth victory was spoiled by the three runs allowed by the Nationals' bullpen over the final two innings of today's game, turning a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 loss.
"I really hate for it to come on Zim," Johnson said. "Zim pitched a gem. It was hot out there and he gave a jewel out there, a heck of a game. It was one of the few times the bullpen hadn't done a good job.
"We had our opportunities, but it was a great first half and I'm proud of the guys. We battled them. I feel real bad on that one from Zim because his record is not indicative of what kind of first half he's had. He's been outstanding. I just feel bad we didn't pull it out for him."
Despite the fact that Zimmerman was cruising through his seven innings, Johnson didn't think about leaving him in for the eighth. Zimmermann was at 95 pitches through seven, and factoring in the conditions and the way his bullpen has pitched this season, Johnson opted to turn things over to Sean Burnett to start the eighth.
"No, no possibility. I was going hitter by hitter in the seventh and it was such a good game and so hot out there I wasn't going to give him any chance to lose," Johnson said. "That's why I had (Craig) Stammen warming up. But what a great effort, it's just a shame we wasted it for him."
The Rockies go into the break with second-worst record in baseball, yet they won their season series with the Nats, taking four of the seven games between the teams. To put it in other terms, the Rockies have a .571 winning percentage against the Nationals and a .371 winning percentage against everyone else.
"They got a great offense and those guys pitched good against us," Johnson said. "I felt like we had the right guys in the right spots we just didn't get it done."
Other than Zimmermann's effort, one of the main bright spots on the day for the Nationals was Ian Desmond, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. He goes into the first half with a .285 average, a team-leading 17 homers and 51 RBIs.
"He knows what he's about," Johnson said. "He's just expressing that talent. He's getting more selective, getting more quality at-bats. It's just part of his growth as a player. He's looking to hit the ball hard where it's pitched and he's doing a good job."
Now comes the All-Star break and four days off.
"I think everyone feels good and they're looking forward to the break," Johnson said. "They battled hard and we've had a lot of close games. Everybody on the ballclub from the offense to the bullpen and the starting pitching has been outstanding. It's time for a break and come back in our division looking forward to the second half."