The game gets sloppy, Zimmermann gets in his work (Nats win 16-15)

NATIONALS QUICK WRAP

SCORE: Nationals 16, Braves 15

Recap: Jordan Zimmermann threw two scoreless innings in the blink of an eye, and then everything fell apart for both teams. The Nats and Braves combined to record 37 hits. They had 14 total walks. They made six errors between them. At least this game is finally over.

Need to know: Thank goodness for Luis Ayala. If not for him working out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth without allowing the tying run, these teams might still be playing. This is a game both sides would like to forget.

On deck: Sunday, home vs. Marlins, 1:05 p.m.

VIERA, Fla. - This game has gotten ugly in a hurry.

The Nationals and Braves have combined for 20 runs over the last 2 1/2 innings. The Nats have made four errors in that span.

Second baseman Mike Fontenot and outfielder Michael Taylor accounted for three of them, all in the fifth inning. Taylor's two errors both came on the same play.

Here's how the Braves' nine-run fifth inning went down: E-4, strikeout, double, single, single, single (plus two E-9s), groundout to second, double, single, single, single, flyout to center. It's 14-6 Braves.

A bunch of fans here at Space Coast Stadium gave a standing ovation as the Nats ran off after finally recording the third out.

Ah, spring training.

One of the two elevators here at Space Coast Stadium wasn't working when reporters were trying to make it down to talk to Jordan Zimmermann a bit ago, and there are no stairs down to the clubhouse, so Zimmermann was waiting for us at his locker when we made our way in.

One reporter joked that our journey to get to Zimmermann was longer than the amount of time he was actually in today's game.

Zimmermann was done with his two innings of work less than 25 minutes after he threw the game's first pitch, as he needed just 20 pitches to get through the second frame and wrap up his outing.

He allowed just an infield single, struck out one and got four groundball outs. He continued to work on his changeup, a pitch that has been a work in progress for the last couple of years, especially in spring.

"Felt good," Zimmermann said. "Threw strikes, bottom of the zone, therefore, I got a lot of ground balls, which is good. Threw some good changeups. Threw a couple to (Freddie) Freeman. One was 3-2. I threw one 1-0 to him and he kinda looked at me like, 'Really? We're starting this already?' So it was good. Got to 3-2 and I figured that was the last thing he was looking for. Threw a pretty good one. It was up a little bit, but he rolled it over and got a ground ball, so it was good.

"(The changeup) feels good right now. Hopefully this is the way it feels all year, but it's still early. Didn't want to show them too much. Pretty much stuck with the fastball/changeup. One or two sliders and my day was done before I knew it."

Despite the brief amount of time on the mound, Zimmermann still felt like he accomplished all that he needed to today.

"It was just going out there on the mound for the first time and facing the other team," Zimmermann said. "Just basically trying to throw strikes and keep the ball down and whatever happened was gonna happen. First guy gets a hit and I was able to get a ground ball and get a double play. It was quick, but I got a lot of work in. ...

"Getting fly balls and base hits, the ball is usually up. But when the ball is down, you usually get a lot more ground balls and that's what you guys saw today."

Zimmermann says his focus this spring is to continue working on the changeup and getting it to a point where he feels comfortable throwing it in more counts. Entering his sixth big league season, he knows how he should feel at each step along the way and knows when to ramp it up.

"I'm right where I need to be," Zimmermann said. "I feel great, the arm feels good and probably throw three or four the next time out, slowly creep up with the pitches and slowly be ready to go for the first game of the season."

Update: The Nats scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth on four walks, an error and a double.

It's now 14-11 Braves. After five innings. On March 1. And we've played just five innings in more than 2 1/2 hours.

That's about all I have for you for right now.

Update II: Clay Hensley just put up a zero in the top of the seventh for the Nats. That marks the first time we've had a scoreless half-inning since the bottom of the second.

Yeah. This game has been wacky.

A dude named Wirfin Obispo came out to pitch the sixth for the Braves, and good old Wirfy (I just made up that nickname myself) didn't fare too well.

He faced five batters and walked four of them before being pulled. Mike Fontenot then ripped a bases-clearing double to left-center, tying the game at 15-15. Matt Skole followed by ripping an RBI single through the minor leaguer the Braves have playing second base, giving the Nats a 16-15 lead.

We've had 32 hits, five errors made and a number of other miscues. Time of game so far, as we enter the bottom of the seventh: 3 hours, 25 minutes. Doesn't feel like it's been a second over 3 hours, 24 minutes.

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