"We jumped on Smoltzie pretty good and Jordan went out there and kept getting the first guy out." --Willie Harris, June 25, 2009.

THE RESULT: The Washington Nationals hung four runs on certain Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz in the first inning, and cruised to a 9-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox before 41,985 at Nationals Park.

Nats starter Jordan Zimmermann (W, 3-3, 4.65) was fairly dominant, giving up just one earned run on five hits and one walk, and he struck out six Sox hitters along the way.

Smoltz, making his first start of the year and first appearance for the A.L. East leading Red Sox, gave up five earned on seven hits, one walk and one hit batter, and struck out five. The veteran right-hander was making his first start in over a year after surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

"Most of the time when the line score is the way it is, I'm going to be very disappointed, but I really can't at this point," Smoltz said. "I lost a little rhythm there in the first inning ... but very encouraged with how good I can be and the way I felt and the stamina and everything going forward."

Washington's first inning rally was spurred by the middle of the order and completed by the bottom.

With one out, Nick Johnson was hit on the left shin and awarded first base. Ryan Zimmerman doubled down the left field line on the next pitch, and Adam Dunn followed with a walk with first base open.

Josh Willingham delivered with a base hit to left that scored Johnson, and catcher Josh Bard singled in Zimmerman. After Willie Harris struck out, Anderson Hernandez contributed a clutch liner to left, plating Dunn and Willingham. Just like that, the Nats batted around in the first inning.

The Nationals (21-49-1) added a single run in the third, two in the sixth and two in the seventh, the final two coming on Harris' third home run of the season.

THE TAKEAWAY: The Nats certainly took advantage of a pitcher making essentially a rehab start in the big leagues. Smoltz threw strikes last night, but was hardly the pitcher that dominated the National League for so long. If he can regain some of what made him such a great pitcher, Boston will be awfully tough to beat down the stretch.

The bottom of the order really came through, as Willingham, Bard, Harris and Hernandez combined for nine of the Nats 11 hits. Once again, getting regular playing time Willie Harris is proving to be a pretty valuable player for the Nationals.

THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann. He completely shut down one of the best hitting teams in the major leagues. He threw 77 of his 109 pitches for strikes, and got nine ground ball outs to go with his six Ks. That's great production.

THE BAD: Ryan Zimmerman. He continues to struggle mightily at the plate, going 1-for-5 and three left on base. He was tremendous in the field though, making several highlight reel plays.

THE UGLY: Nick Johnson's shin. He did not come out to play defense after scoring in the first inning, and TV replays showed a big goose egg on his shin as he was standing at third. The team has him listed day-to-day with a "shin contusion", but that knot looked more like a small planet.

How fast he can recover and get back in the lineup will go a long way in determining if he's going to be a valuable trading commodity as we approach the non-waiver trade deadline.

NEXT GAME: Tonight in Baltimore against the O's, hon. Ross Detwiler (0-3, 4.76) goes against fellow rookie Brad Bergeson (4-2, 3.94) at 7:05 p.m. at Camden Yards.

NOTES: Tyler Clippard make his 2009 debut in relief of Zimmermann. He threw two innings and gave up a two-run home run to Rocco Baldelli in the seventh inning. He gave up three hits, struck out two and did not walk a batter.

1 comments

  1. Andrew Lang // June 26, 2009 at 8:15 PM  

    "THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann. He completely shut down one of the best hitting teams in the major leagues. He threw 77 of his 109 pitches for strikes, and got nine ground ball outs to go with his six Ks. That's great production."

    The Bosox first 3 hits were dinks, doinks, and tweeners so he really shut them down.

    Finally JZim27 got some run support like in his 2nd game. Nice to see win #3 against such a quality team!

    Also impressive was the prep work Jordan did for this start. Ball placement and pitch selection was excellent and 75% strike percentage is also excellent.

    The defense also backed up Jordan and Adam Dunn who shifted to 1st base was solid.

    Great win!!!