A hot offense served up right-handed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang’s second victory since his return to Major League Baseball on Tuesday night when the Washington Nationals topped the Cincinnati Reds 6-4 to kickoff this week’s homestand. It was Wang’s first time facing the National League Central club managed by Dusty Baker.
Wang pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up 7 hits, 4 earned runs and 1 walk over 78 pitches (51 for strikes). It was his longest start since June 10, 2008 when he went 7 1/3 innings. The first inning, however, continues to be a struggle for Wang. Last night there were no ground outs for Wang during the first and four balls hit into the air.
Nationals Manager Davey Johnson was pleased with the outing despite a rocky first where Cincinnati tallied three of their base hits for the night as well as Wang’s only walk of the game. Washington answered back with a leadoff single from centerfielder Rick Ankiel, who scored off a double from Michael Morse to start the inning’s three run rally. At the close of the first, Nats were up 3-2 and hung onto the lead from that point forward.
Between the second through the fifth inning, Wang retired 12 consecutive batters while the Nationals offense continued to get their respective job done. Both Morse and Ryan Zimmerman crushed solo homeruns; Morse doing so in the third and Zimmerman in the fifth. Johnson said Zimmerman even called the shot in the dugout before the at-bat versus the Reds’ right-handed starter Mike Leake.
Zimmerman said he would hit a bomb and that’s exactly what he did, all the way to left field near the concourse. Zimmerman has seen an abbreviated season due to abdominal surgery before the All-Star break, but he continues to be a valuable piece of the Nationals lineup since his return.
Morse is also the most consistent slugger on the team in 2011, however, he may not stay at first base forever. Johnson did mention in his post-game press conference that he’d like to get Morse some time back in left field since Adam LaRoche will resume his role at first base upon his inevitable return from the disabled list. It was also mentioned that a September call-up is likely to see some time at first which will also give Morse some time to get his bearings back in the outfield.
Washington went on to win the game 6-4 while Drew Storen collected his 32nd save of the season. Storen has joined Chad Cordero (47 in 2005, 37 in 2007) as the second Nationals closer to reach the 30-save mark with the team.