ST. LOUIS - As I try and move past the fact that someone asked Davey Johnson postgame whether Stephen Strasburg, who is not on the Nationals’ roster for this series, can “offer something” in Games 3 or 4 ...
The Nationals got hit around pretty hard today in St. Louis. They were touched up for 12 runs on 13 hits, seven of which went for extra-bases. Every starting Cardinals position player reached base, and all eight of them scored a run.
Yesterday, in a Game 1 win, the Nats saw a patient Cardinals offense that drew seven walks but had just three hits. Today, they saw an offense that was crushing any pitch left over the plate.
“I hope I never see this offense again,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said with a laugh. “Their numbers speak for themselves. They have got a fine hitting ball club, and good pitching will slow down good hitting, but you’ve got to make pitches, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Jordan Zimmermann worked a perfect first inning and looked to be locked in. He was pounding the zone with his fastball and appeared poised to have a solid outing against a team which has given him lots of trouble over his career. Then things turned for the worse in the second inning, when he gave up four runs on five hits, giving the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.
“That’s some of the youth in the pitching staff,” Johnson said. “He didn’t really make a lot of adjustments out there. He kind of stayed one way - hard away. A good fastball-hitting club, you have to use both sides of the plate, and he didn’t really use his slider much early on. Started going to it a little later. But that’s just a little inexperience. He’s got a very live fastball, but his game plan, basically, was stay away and pound the zone. They’re a good fastball-hitting club.”
Zimmermann now is 0-3 with a 9.73 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals, but far his worst numbers against any team.
“Hitters are smart and they see patterns - especially with all this technology, they look at every start, see how you pitch,” Johnson said. “And pitchers, you have to make adjustments. I think our guys have come a long way. I really like the progress they have made in a very short time to be where they are at.”
Down big in the middle innings, the Nats had a chance to rally in the seventh when Jayson Werth singled and Bryce Harper doubled to start the inning, putting two runners in scoring position. Ryan Zimmerman lined out to right, scoring Werth on a sac fly, but Harper scampered back to the bag and tried to move up after Matt Holliday’s throw went about 12 feet. He got thrown out at third by Daniel Descalso’s relay, bringing the rally to a halt.
“Well, that’s inexperience, too,” Johnson said. “Had a little rally going there and he was in scoring position and he tried to get to third, and that kind of killed the rally we had going. Again, that’s just a little inexperience. He’s overly aggressive there. He didn’t tag up. He had to go back and tag up, and that was right. But it was wrong to try to go to third.”
After back-to-back rough outings from their top two starting pitchers, the Nats will now turn to Edwin Jackson. The veteran righty enters the postseason after a fairly shaky final month of the regular season, but Johnson has faith Jackson will be able to curtail a dangerous Cardinals lineup that has given his team fits over the last couple weeks.
“No, Jackson’s got a lot of experience,” Johnson said. “He pitched a heck of a ballgame against them, one of the outings. He’s certainly up for it. But you know, you have to pitch; you can’t go out there and just throw against this ballclub. This is a good fastball hitting club. You have to make some good pitches.”