Coming into this evening’s game against the Mets the Nats heart of the order had been struggling, but Zimmerman and LaRoche hadn’t done much of anything over about a two week period and Michael Morse was still freshly added to a line-up he had been missing from all season. The lack of production from the heart of the order was one of the reasons the Nats were 2-4 in their most recent six game stretch, and were struggling to find ways to score.
Tonight the Nats made it simple as Harper reached on a Daniel Murphy error and Zimmerman walked ahead of an Adam LaRoche homer. LaRoche got off to an unusual hot start to the season but over the last week LaRoche had just one walk and no hits in 14 plate appearances. LaRoche wasn’t the only middle of the order bat to find himself struggling over the most recent stretch as Zimmerman was just 2 for 14 over the last seven days with no walks and both hits being singles.
It is tough to win ballgames when the heart of the order is struggling no matter how good the pitching is, but in tonight’s contest the Nats big bats reached base 8 times in 12 plate appearances and had all five RBI on the evening. The Nats didn’t need to find a way to score runs in this game as they did it in a much more conventional manner with big hits at big times from the 3-4-5 hitters.
It wouldn’t be a Nats game if there also wasn’t good starting pitching and Edwin Jackson, who had just one win on the season and the team two when he took the mound, was stellar. Jackson pitched seven three hit innings giving up three runs while walking four and striking out six.
Having a starting pitcher go seven innings allows for a manager to use the dream formula of handing the ballgame over to his set-up man and closer as soon as the starter exits and that is exactly what Davey Johnson was able to do tonight. The only flaw tonight for Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard was a lead-off walk in the top of the ninth to Lucas Duda.
The Nats won this game in the most formulaic of fashions with good pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting. The Mets lost this game because they were lacking a few of those components. Only one of the Mets three runs was scored via a hit as David Wright scored on a ground out in the fourth inning after he singled the other way and then advanced to third on a failed pick-off by Edwin Jackson. The second Mets run to score via an out was in the seventh inning when Ike David hit a lead-off double and then came around to score on a pair of ground outs.
The other aspect of the game the Mets didn’t do well on was defense as Daniel Murphy had two errors at second base. The only position that Daniel Murphy has a positive defensive rating at is first base, but with Ike Davis there the Mets are forced to play him at second and it cost them in this game as his error in the first inning led to an unearned run and LaRoche’s homer being of the three run variety opposed to the two. It is also unknown how the effect of having two outs in the inning and no runners on instead of one out and a runner on second would have changed how Hefner approached Zimmerman. Without the error by Murphy the inning may not even make it to LaRoche.
Baseball is a game where everything affect everything and that was on full display tonight. The Nats won their second in a row against the Mets and are now 3-1 on the current homestand and will be going for their second sweep on the season in their 12th attempt. The good news is with the Marlins losing tonight and the Nats winning they were able to build a bit of a division lead which could be helpful as interleague against the AL East begins this weekend with a trip to Fenway.