We thought we might get a pitchers' duel today. That's exactly what we got.
Jordan Zimmermann and Jake Arrieta each went six innings and combined to allow just one run, a run that was scored three batters into the Nationals' half of the first inning. It then became a bullpen game, and while the Cubs tied things up in the seventh, the Nationals struck right back in the eighth.
Ryan Zimmerman's two-out single through the left side scored Denard Span with the go-ahead run, and Rafael Soriano worked a 1-2-3 ninth to lock down his 21st save and a 2-1 Nats win.
Here's manager Matt Williams after the victory:
On the pitching battle: "As advertised from both guys. Jordan's pitch count got way up there. He got into trouble and wiggled out all day, but he made pitches when he had to. The other guy is pretty good. We were able to scratch one in the first and that held up for most of the game. But he's tough."
On the eighth-inning run, which came around after Span doubled leading off the frame: "You want to start the inning right, so I think the most important at-bat is the first at-bat. The fact that he broke out of the box hard and thought two from the beginning of it was key for us. Anthony put a good swing on the ball, did exactly what he was supposed to do, but we ended up getting a great at-bat out of Zim. He hit a breaking ball to left and scored the run. But the first at-bat's the most important."
On if Span should have tagged up from second on Anthony Rendon's fly ball to right: "Maybe. We didn't execute very well today. Against a guy like that, we have to make sure we do that."
On if Adam LaRoche should have stopped at second on Zimmerman's run-scoring single: "I don't know if they've got a serious chance to throw him out. But it's aggressive baseball. We want to make sure we score that run. We feel good about Sori. All those things going into it there. So against a guy like that, we have to make sure we execute."
On why he didn't replace Zimmerman for defense in the ninth today, like he did the other day: "No difference. His arm feels really good and he feels good. So without getting into too much detail about the other day, there's no difference."
On being back within a half-game of the Braves: "Well, we have to, I think, worry about our own games. We can't do anything about what they're doing or how they're playing or any of that. We just need to make sure we play our games until we get a chance to face them. We can't have any impact on what they do. All we can do is try and win ours."
On Tyler Clippard striking out Welington Castillo with runners at second and third in the eighth: "It's big. We have infield in there coming off the bench, and certainly has a chance to punch him out there. And if we end up walking him there and try to go for a double play with a guy who runs pretty well, no margin for error there. So we chose to go after Castillo. He put a nice at-bat on him. Started him off with a changeup, threw a couple high fastballs and ended up getting him. It's great pitching."
On why Scott Hairston was brought in to pinch-hit against a righty in the seventh: "If we get Wilson (Ramos) on second base, we're going to run Nate (McLouth). So that's the reason. I didn't want to burn Nate."
On the Nats' missed opportunities today: "We had first and second, nobody out, Jordan up there and he bunted a couple balls foul. Certainly opens up that inning there, potentially, if we can get that done. They work hard on it every day. But two nights ago, today, we didn't quite execute as well as we wanted to. We'll put some emphasis on that and make sure that we're doing that."
On Zimmermann not getting the bunt down: "It's not easy. Guy's out there crossfiring at 95 mph and you're trying to bunt it to third. It's not easy. But what we can do is control our work and control how we go about it. They bunt every day. But it's important in games like this to be able to do it. So they'll continue to work on it."