Yesterday’s 6-2 Nationals loss was a bit of a sloppy affair. The Nats made a couple errors, lost a couple balls in the sun and struggled to do much of anything offensively against Brewers pitching.
Flip that script and you’ll get an idea how this afternoon’s series finale between the Nats and Brewers played out.
The Nats benefited from a fly ball which Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez lost in the sun, extending an inning and allowing five additional runs to score. They watched Milwaukee commit two errors and manage minimal offense against Jordan Zimmermann, who threw 6 2/3 fantastic innings against a team which has been nearly unstoppable the last month.
“You kind of expect it out of him,” manager Davey Johnson said of Zimmermann. “He threw the ball great. (Pitching coach Steve McCatty) was getting on him a little bit there. Early on, they were strictly fastballs. I mean, he had a live fastball, but didn’t really pitch. And then after about the second inning, the first time through the lineup, then he started using all his arsenal and really made it look kind of easy.”
The Brewers hit Zimmermann’s fastball pretty well the first couple innings, but barely touched him from the third inning on. The righty retired 14 of the final 17 hitters he faced, in large part due to an improved slider.
The Gomez play in the fourth inning, meanwhile, was fitting after what the Nats went through yesterday.
“Payback,” Johnson said. “It’s a tough sun. I mean, this time of year, that time of day. Everybody’s - (Mark) DeRosa and Bo (Porter) - were giving (advice). You got to look up every inning to see where the sun’s at so when you look up, boy, you put the glove right there. And that’s the only way you can have any chance.”
Ian Desmond had a rather nondescript day at the plate, walking twice, striking out twice and hitting into a double play. But he did steal his 20th base of the season, making him a 20-20 guy for the first time in his career.
“I think he’s just had a phenomenal year,” Johnson said. “He’s just establishing a benchmark for himself and what he’s capable of doing.”
Johnson wanted to get both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen into today’s game even though it was a blowout because neither guy had pitched in the last couple days. Despite the fact that Clippard allowed a run in the eighth, Johnson thought he saw improvements in Clippard’s location and stuff.
He did say, however, that Storen will be used in the ninth inning for the time being.
“Clip’s struggling a little bit,” Johnson said. “I have confidence in both of them. But right now I’m gonna go to Storen. But in Philadelphia, which is a lot of left-handed hitters in there, Clip’s always been very good there. You don’t have to put a name on it all the time. You guys always want to have a name on everything. The guy that goes out there is the closer that day. How’s that?”
With today’s win, the Nats’ lead over the Braves moves back to five games and their magic number drops to five. They’re getting closer to locking up that division title, and have a good shot to do it during their upcoming six-game road trip.
“My guys feel it,” Johnson said. “There’s no doubt about it. The ballclub, we ran into a hot club. They’re swinging the bats awfully good. And we needed to hold our own with them and we did. So it’s a good win to go on this road trip six days against a couple good ballclubs, too. I mean, they’re feeling it.”