With the game tied 1-1 after six innings and Ross Detwiler done for the day after a stellar outing in the biggest game of his life, Nationals manager Davey Johnson has made an interesting decision.
Instead of going to his bullpen and calling on Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen or one of his other right-handed relievers to work the seventh, Johnson is going to Jordan Zimmmermann, his Game 2 starter.
Today is Zimmermann's throw day, and Johnson said he wouldn't hesitate to use him if Detwiler got into trouble in the early innings.
But Detwiler got the Nats through six, and instead of turning things over to his proven relievers, Johnson is going to a guy who has never pitched in relief in his life before today.
Zimmermann didn't exactly dominate the Cardinals' hitters during his Game 2 start, either. He got touched up for five runs on seven hits over three innings.
This is an interesting call, to say the least.
Update: Johnson looks like a genius right now. Again.
Zimmermann came out of the 'pen juiced up, firing his fastball in at 97 mph and spotting a 91 mph slider on the corners. He was throwing absolute gas and the Cardinals' hitters simply couldn't touch him.
The righty struck out the side on 12 pitches, finishing off the inning by getting Jon Jay on a 97 mph heater on the outside corner. The crowd went nuts as Zimmermann casually strolled off the mound.
We go to the bottom of the seventh.
Update II: That's it for Zimmermann, who goes just the one inning. With the game still tied 1-1, Johnson is going to Tyler Clippard for the eighth.
Tough call again here by Johnson given how dominant Zimmermann was in that inning and how shaky Clippard was down the stretch. But the Nats' slipper sure has been through this before.
That's six strikeouts over two relief innings for the Nats' bullpen today. Now, about that offense ...
Update IV: Make that three fantastic innings by the Nats' bullpen. Drew Storen worked a scoreless ninth, striking out two, to give the Nats a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
Ian Desmond's lunging back-to-the-infield catch provided the final out of the top of the ninth, and might've been a game-saver. Pete Kozma was running from first on the 3-2 pitch to pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter, and likely would have scored if the ball dropped. Instead, Desmond ranged deep behind third base and make a very tough play to end the inning.
Werth, Harper and Zimmerman are due up for the Nats in the bottom of the ninth.
Update V: Jayson Werth battled for 13 pitches. He fouled off six pitches with two strikes. Then he crushed a walk-off homer to left field, giving the Nats a 2-1 win and sending them to a decisive Game 5.
The Nats got barely any offense for eight innings. Then they got all they needed in the ninth to give them new life.