Jordan Zimmermann rocked in possible last home start

In what might be his final home start at Nationals Park, Jordan Zimmermann didn’t receive the friendliest going away present from the Phillies. Zimmermann surrendered three homers - including a rare inside-the-park grand slam - as the Nationals fell 8-2.

“Obviously, I’m a little upset,” Zimmermann said. “We didn’t get the win and I didn’t pitch very good. That’s what my job is, to go out there and keep the team in the ballgame. I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”

With the Nats leading 1-0 in the third, Zimmermann loaded the bases. Aaron Altherr then ripped a sinking liner to center. Michael A. Taylor made a diving headfirst attempt but the ball dropped and skipped past him. As Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Taylor all chased after the ball, Altherr raced around the bases, scoring his first career inside-the-park grand slam.

“I thought he had a chance,” Zimmermann said. “I’m expecting him to make a spectacular play. It gets past him, goes to the wall and that’s the way baseball is. I mean, it wasn’t an easy play by any stretch. I know he’s giving it all. That’s just the way it happens.”

Altherr did more damage in the fifth, launching a solo homer to left. Moments later, Darrin Ruf demolished Zimmermann’s 93 mph heater, sending it flying over the Phillies bullpen in left-center for another solo home run.

Zimmermann has now allowed a career-worst 24 homers this year, his highest total by five in a season.

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In the bottom of the frame, Nationals manager Matt Williams sent rookie Wilmer Difo to the plate to pinch-hit for Zimmermann, thus preventing the crowd from showing their appreciation for the seven-year veteran pitcher.

Williams was questioned after loss whether he thought about leaving Zimmermann in considering the moment.

“No,” he said bluntly. “We’ve gotta try to get back in the game.”

Zimmermann agreed with his manager.

“I would’ve pulled me there, too,” Zimmermann said. “I was giving up quite a few hits. I wasn’t really thinking about going out the next inning and walking off the mound or anything. It would’ve been nice, but at the end of the day, you have to pitch well if you want to get those things at the end of the game.”

Zimmermann becomes a free agent at the end of the season and is expected to sign elsewhere after spending his entire career in D.C. since the Nationals selected him in the second round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

“I feel like I took the ball every time they asked and did what I could,” said Zimmermann, reflecting on his time in Washington. “Some days I didn’t have it. Some days I was good. I’m not saying this is my last start. You don’t know what’s going to happen this offseason. We’ll see what happens.”

Zimmermann was pressed further on if he thinks a chance remains of him returning to the Nationals next year.

“I don’t know that answer,” he said. “We’ll see what this offseason brings. I’ve enjoyed my time here. We’ll see after the season.”

Before the rough outing, the crowd of 31,019 rose to its feet, applauding Zimmermann as he made his way from bullpen to the Nationals dugout.

“I heard it, for sure,” Zimmermann acknowledged. “It was awesome. It means a lot to me. I just wish I could’ve given them something a little better tonight.”

Meanwhile, Phillies rookie right-hander Jerad Eickhoff struck out 10 and allowed only two runs over seven innings in just his seventh big league start.

The Mets dumped the Reds 12-5, dropping their magic number to one game for eliminating the Nationals from the playoffs.

Williams was asked after the Nationals suffered their fourth straight loss how he’s feeling in this dire situation.

“Like we need to win tomorrow,” he said.

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