Bryce Harper returned after more than two months on the disabled list and singled, took an extra base, drove in a run, scored a run and made two aggressive, on-the-money throws.
Ryan Zimmerman went back to third base for the first time since April 12 and made a dynamite play on a line drive, turning it into a double play. He also went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
Ian Desmond, who has been scuffling offensively of late, got brought to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth after the Rockies intentionally walked Harper, and Desmond delivered a huge bases-clearing double that caused the 33,660 at Nats Park to go nuts.
Too bad nothing happened in tonight’s 7-3 Nationals win.
Harper, Zimmerman and Desmond were the headliners tonight, but the Nats got contributions from up and down their batting order. It was a team win that featured solid pitching from Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, Aaron Barrett and Jerry Blevins, strong defense, and a balanced offensive attack.
Here’s Matt Williams after the win:
On the sixth-inning explosion, which saw the Nats score six runs: “Zim got a good pitch to hit. Rifled a ball into the corner. Put some good at-bats together against a guy that, hadn’t seen him. Their starter, it’s difficult. He throws a changeup that looks like a fastball. Guys were a little out of the zone early but they were patient enough in that inning to get us some. And in that inning, Zim came up with the big hit.”
On Desmond coming through after Harper was intentionally walked in front of him: “Yeah, that’s the kind of decision-making and pressure we want to apply. Bryce is a very good hitter. He’d come through earlier in the game against a lefty for a base hit and an RBI. Those are the decisions that you have to make in that regard. Again, it takes Desi putting a good swing on it. When it works like that, it’s great for us. With that length in the lineup, then we have opportunity to do that sometimes.”
On Desmond’s success after having someone intentionally walked before him: “Well it was a first-pitch curveball. Wasn’t like it was a first-pitch heater in there. He was patient enough to get a ball up in the zone. The at-bat before, he’d swung at some balls down out of the zone. So first-pitch curveball, he laid it in there to get it over for a strike. When he hits a strike, it’s pretty special. Was a good night for him.”
On Desmond showing some emotion after the double: “Yeah, it’s a big moment for us, a big hit for us. The fact that he took advantage and stole third and then scored on an infield-in groundball - I’m more impressed with that than the hit and the three RBIs. I’m impressed that he had presence of mind on a contact play to make sure he was down there far enough on a ball that most guys don’t score on, he scored. That’s playing the game, that’s the way he can play it. It’s impressive.”
On Zimmerman’s stellar play to get the double play to end the seventh: “That’s kind of a soft liner off the end, and he ranged to his right to catch it and then really didn’t have time to get up. So he spun as he was getting up and threw it over there, on the money. It was a good play.”
On Harper twice catching everyone by surprise and nearly throwing out Justin Morneau at first and Troy Tulowitzki at second: “Well he got him. We had two of those tonight where ... that ball, there’s really nobody to back up third. Catcher has to honor, pitcher is backing up the plate in case the ball goes to the plate. He’s kind of floating on that side of the diamond, and the ball comes in ... it was a great throw. And we had him, but there’s nobody to back up Adam on that one. It’s one of those plays in baseball where you can’t practice it and if your right fielder can get there, that’s potentially one thing, but that’s a long way to go. So it’s one of those plays. But he threw a strike to first base, and we had him. It happened again. He threw a strike to second and we’re thinking, that ball off the wall, is a sure double, and the play, if anywhere, is going to third. But special talent with a special arm, and he read the ball off the wall and threw it to second. He doesn’t get too low anyway, but that’s pretty special stuff. That’s what he brings.”
On if Nats defenders have to be ready for plays like that with Harper out there: “Yeah, I mean most people don’t even try to do either one of those. But it takes a good read off the wall to try to make the throw to second base, it takes anticipation and vision for him to throw the ball to first. It’s special stuff.”
On home plate umpire calling a balk on Aaron Barrett, even though Barrett was just going through his normal motion: “Does it every time, yeah. I don’t know if Joe’s been on a crew where he’s pitched, but he does that every single time that he comes in to pitch. So I tried to explain to him that that’s his normal thing, and I asked Joe if he would call it again if he did it again. He said yes. I don’t have a response for that other than to say, ‘OK, then we’ll have to change it.’ But we’ve all seen him pitch a lot, and that’s kind of his normal set-up. Everybody has a different way of going about it, but Joe thought it was a balk, so we made the adjustment while he was out there.”
On how tough it was for Barrett to adjust on the fly: “Yeah, it’s rhythm, right? This game is all about rhythm. He had to adjust, and it gets in your mind a little bit, because you don’t want to balk again and send the guy to third base. But there’s no response. If he interprets that as a balk, then we’ll have to change. And that’s what we did.”