It wasn’t Jordan Zimmermann’s night tonight, but it ended up not mattering. The Nationals’ pre-season ace was haggard tonight in just 1 2/3 innings pitched, surrendering 5 runs on 7 hits and a pair of walks. The outing was definitely the worst Zimmermann’s career, and from the start he just didn’t look fresh. Perhaps it was the aftermath of his flu from the previous week, perhaps it was just a rare off night, but manager Matt Williams was quick with the hook and turned to his long man.
Craig Stammen for 3 1/3 innings of solid work scattering a pair of hits and a walk. Ross Detwiler skated through the sixth with ease, giving the Nats’ offense a chance to make their mark. They would begin their comeback on a Bryce Harper home run – a long overdue towering blast that landed eight rows back in the upper deck over the Robinson sign. Though the call was reviewed, it hooked clearly around the foul pole, moving the Nats to within 2. Anthony Rendon started the fifth with a leadoff triple, and came in on a 6-3 groundout off the bat of Jayson Werth shortly thereafter. In the sixth, the Nationals would give Ross Detwiler a lead, making the Marlins’ pen pay for some critical mistakes including a rather embarrassing fielding error by Dan Jennings. The Nationals would send eight men to the plate in the sixth, combining small ball tactics and some good luck into a pair of runs and their first lead of the night.
The joy would be short-lived in Natstown, though, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia would start the seventh inning with a moonshot of his own off Drew Storen, tying the game at 6. Christian Yelich, who went 3-4 with a pair of walks, would score the go-ahead run for the Fish in the top of the 8th. Both Storen and Clippard were vulnerable tonight, each giving up an earned run in an inning apiece, despite 4Ks in 9 batters. With most of the bullpen used today, the Nationals will be relying on Stephen Strasburg to go deep into the game tomorrow afternoon. But we’re not there yet. No, this story has had a number of twists and turns so far, but the best is yet to come.
Down 7-6 as the bottom of the 8th inning came around, the Marlins decided to turn tonight’s game from merely a dumpster fire into a full-on rolling dumpster fire, and sent beleaguered yet somehow continually employed Carlos Marmol to the mound. While he managed to retire Jose Lobaton, he would plunk pinch-hitter Nate McLouth on the foot, give up a single and an error to Denard Span, and then inexplicably walk Anthony Rendon to load the bases for Jayson Werth.
I can’t imagine why anyone would look at the Nationals lineup and say, “you know, I think the numbers look good here. Let’s walk Rendon. Sure, he’s on a tear, but have you seen that Werth guy? He’s no good, right? I mean, it’s not like he’s walked four times in nine lifetime at-bats against Marmol, right? Wait, he has? Aw man.”
But someone has to dive on that terrible grenade, and sure enough, tonight it was Marmol. Werth tattooed an 0-1 fastball into the visitors’ pen, making it 10-7, and the Nationals improved to 6-2. Tomorrow’s tilt is a 4:05pm start at Nationals Park for the potential sweep. The Nationals have won their second of three series so far this year, and they did it after a five run deficit in the second. Not too shabby. This the kind of game they won in 2012 on the strength of their pen and their offense. Good to see they’ve got it back for 2014.