Two years ago, right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and catcher Jesus Flores founds themselves sidelined due to injury. Since then, Zimmermann has returned to the Nationals’ clubhouse after successful Tommy John surgery and Flores has regained his spot behind the plate which makes them regular fixtures in Washington’s 2011 25-man roster.
Flores, although he fills a current slot on manager Davey Johnson’s lineup card due to Ivan Rodriguez being placed on the disabled list, is a player Johnson is proud of this season. He is also the reason the Nationals scored their first run in Thursday night’s 3-1 victory versus the Cincinnati Reds while Zimmermann got the necessary work done on the mound. It was Flores’ first homerun – a solo shot – since May 8, 2009.
The 26-year-old catcher has since recovered from a torn labrum, an injury that cost him almost two seasons. Thursday’s starting pitcher Zimmermann spent time with Flores in Viera, Fla. during their recovery time together forging bonds that made Thursday’s 3-1 victory a special success for Nationals.
Zimmermann‘s record does not demonstrate the consistency and grandeur of his work for Washington in 2011. He is 7-10 with a 3.23 ERA and although he did give up six hits last Thursday night, he did not manage to give up any runs in 5 2/3 innings of work. Johnson acknowledged in his post-game discussion that he feels Zimmermann is arguably the team’s best pitcher all year long. His two walks, one strikeout and six hits over 102 pitches (64 strikes) spoke to Johnson’s beliefs.
2011 addition Jonny Gomes also had a standout night against his former team. Gomes was acquired from the Reds on July 26 for outfielder Bill Rhinehart and left-handed pitcher Chris Manno. Gomes hit a two-RBI single with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth inning to add a few security runs to Zimmermann’s shutout.
Washington did not hold on to that shutout, though.
The hard throwing reliever, right-handed Henry Rodriguez, continued his streak of being fast but erratic from the mound during the seventh. After a throwing error by shortstop Ian Desmond, which allowed the leadoff batter from the Reds to reach first, Rodriguez served up a wild pitch. Then a passed ball got behind Flores at the plate to move pinch hitter Fred Lewis to third base. Reds’ leadoff man Brandon Phillips then hit for a groundout but not before the RBI reached home.
Drew Storen recorded his 33 save this season after giving up two hits in the ninth. Brian Bixler, part of a double switch in that inning, played a mean left field to assist in that save effort. Had his feet not labored as swiftly as they did, the Reds might have come back, but Bixler was too quick for pinch hitter Ramon Hernandez and robbed him of a potential extra-base hit.
Washington took 2-of-3 games versus Cincinnati this week to win the series.