Another fantastic pitching performance from Jordan Zimmermann, another homer from Bryce Harper and another save notched by Rafael Soriano.
The Nationals picked up a 3-1 win over the Tigers tonight, with Zimmermann leading the way yet again.
Despite pitching on six days’ rest and dealing with a 57-minute rain delay before first pitch, Zimmermann allowed just one run over seven innings against a Tigers team that came into today batting a robust .285.
“Well that was a good one,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Zim was spectacular, pitched a great ballgame. I was entertaining sending him back out there (for the eighth), but figured that one took a lot out of him. Extra day’s rest, you guys told me he’s not usually himself after too much rest, but a great ballgame. Great defense, timely hitting. That’s what it takes.”
Zimmermann has faced three of the toughest lineups in the majors his last three times out - the Reds, Braves and Tigers. In those outings, he’s gone 24 innings, allowed just one run and struck out 19.
“He didn’t change his gameplan, he just mixed his pitches up but he basically went right after them with the fastball,” Johnson said. “You could tell he was pumped up, I don’t think I’ve seen him throwing that hard all the way through to the seventh. He was getting it up there.
“When you have good pitching, you look a lot better. But the defense played pretty good. We got some timely hits and that was good, just a good ballgame.”
It’s getting to the point that seven innings of one-run ball against a tough lineup isn’t a great outing for Zimmermann anymore. It’s pretty much the norm for a guy who now has a 1.59 ERA over seven starts.
“He’s always had that attitude,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t show a lot of outward expression, but there’s a big fire burning there. He likes just about any challenge.
The Tigers brought the tying run to the plate with the middle of their order approaching with two outs in the seventh, but Johnson didn’t get anyone up in his bullpen. He trusted Zimmermann with Torii Hunter coming up and the fearsome Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder waiting in the wings.
“I just had total confidence in him,” Johnson said. “I think he hit 100 pitches, and I think he can go 110 pitches, 115 pitches. I didn’t see any dropoff in his stuff in the seventh inning. He’s pitched so well, I didn’t want to bring anybody in in the inning. He’s earned that right. So, no, I was confident.”
Ian Desmond’s defense to start the season was a bit shaky, but he’s looked a lot smoother of late. He was a part of two double plays tonight and made a couple nice plays on balls hit sharply up the middle.
“Yeah, he’s a gifted athlete, gifted shortstop,” Johnson said. “His motor’s running full-speed all the time. He’s one of the strongest shortstops I’ve ever been around, physically.”
The Nats have won five of their last six games, and are looking much more like the team many people expected they’d see this season. Adam LaRoche added two more hits today and the Nats strung together eight hits off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez, who had dominated them over the course of his career.
“Yeah, we’re not quite on all cylinders, but Rochie’s warming up,” Johnson said. “Need to get (Ryan Zimmerman) going. But I like where we’re going.”
Meanwhile, Johnson reported that Jayson Werth will get an MRI on his right hamstring tomorrow. Werth has missed the Nationals’ last four games, and while the Nats remain confident Werth won’t need to land on the disabled list, they feel that a stomach virus has been hindering Werth’s progress as he tries to get back on the field.
“When he gets dehydrated, then the muscles start spasming,” Johnson said. “When he ran today, he finished running, he started getting some muscle spasms, so he obviously was getting dehydrated. Tomorrow’s he’s gonna see an internist and also have his hamstring MRI’d. But I have a good feeling if they can get rid of the bug, he’ll be all right.”