After the Nationals' win over the Giants yesterday, I gave you a chance to pick the player who you think should receive a Golden Goose this morning as yesterday's player of the game. And you were clear in your choice: It's Pudge.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez won in a landslide, collecting 68.1 percent of the vote after going 2-for-4, driving in a pair of runs with a single to right center in the eighth inning and throwing out Darren Ford stealing in the top of the eighth.
There's been plenty of talk about moving Rodriguez out of the way for Wilson Ramos this season, but there are a couple things to take into consideration about the 39-year-old catcher: First, while he understands his role, he's still very confident in his abilities. He's kept himself in impressive shape, and he walks purposefully through the Nationals clubhouse, believing he's got just as much to offer a team as he did six or seven years ago. And while that's not true at the plate, it probably is in the field; Rodriguez's legacy will be built on what he did as a catcher, not a hitter, and in throwing out Jose Reyes and Ford this week, he proved his arm is still a weapon.
"He's a very big part of this team," right fielder Jayson Werth told reporters after the game. "It's fun to watch him play when he comes to life. It reminds me of the young Pudge Rodriguez, when I used to watch him play back in the day. He's still got a lot to offer. He's an icon of the game, and it's a privilege to play with him."
On to the awards:
Rodriguez: His single in the eighth inning was a punch shot to right center, and when he's hitting well, that's where the catcher puts the ball. He won't pull many pitches for homers any more, but his ability to come up with a timely hit still makes him one of the better No. 2 catchers in the league. And his competitiveness was on full display after the hit, which ended with him getting thrown out trying to take an extra base. Rodriguez came off the field pumping his fist, and started high-fiving a raucous dugout.
Zimmermann: He got himself in some trouble early, allowing two runs in the second inning, but the right-hander settled down nicely. He only gave up two hits after that, working with a good slider that clocked in the mid-80s and broke to the outside edge of the plate on right-handers. And his 107 pitches were the most Zimmermann has thrown since coming back from Tommy John surgery. You'd like to see him get through more than six innings with 107 pitches, but after he'd thrown almost 50 in the first two innings, he did an excellent job putting his start back together.
Drew Storen: There was a three-way tie for third place in the vote, so I'm using my executive powers to break it (that's right, I'm both the president and vice president around here). Storen has saved five consecutive games, and he needed just two sliders to get through the ninth inning in four batters yesterday. The work he put in developing his fastball in spring training is really paying off.
Jerry Hairston Jr.: It's hard to find too many players who did anything wrong yesterday, and Hairston did drive in a run with a RBI groundout. But he went 0-for-4 in the leadoff spot, and a base hit in place of his groundout would have put the Nationals up two runs.
Ian Desmond: Though he was 1-for-4 with a run, the game was in doubt longer than it needed to be after Desmond came up empty in a couple big spots early in the game. He struck out with runners on first and second in the second inning, struck out with runners on second and third in the third inning and popped up to end the fifth inning with Jayson Werth on third.
In Case You Missed It:
* The Nationals had a hit-and-run in play with Rodriguez at the plate in the eighth, and Danny Espinosa broke from second to steal his first base of the year. But when he didn't get a good jump, Desmond did the right thing and went back to first as Eli Whiteside threw to third. Had Desmond gone, he might have been an easy target at second. But he waited, and stole second later in the at-bat. Both he and Espinosa scored on Rodriguez's single.
* Zimmermann looked to have beaten out his sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning, but was called out on a close plate at first base as first-base coach Dan Radison waved his arms wildly, signaling Zimmermann was safe. The pitcher could have been, if he hadn't looked back at the play while running down the first base line.
1. Let's say Rodriguez gets into a spot where he's playing two or three times a week. Do you think that kind of a role optimizes what he can bring to the Nationals, or would you still rather see Jesus Flores backing up Ramos?
2. Storen appears to be gaining a firmer grasp on the closer's job, despite manager Jim Riggleman still wanting to exercise some restraint in how much he uses the 23-year-old. Do you like the closer-by-committee approach, or should Storen be the guy in the ninth?
Leave your answers in the comments section. Thanks to all who voted in the poll -- we'll try to do that on a not-infrequent basis. Talk to you later today.