So far in the 2011 season, the Washington Nationals have had a fairly consistent formula for when they've won ballgames: Decent starting pitching, score five runs or more, and get dominant relief pitching. In nine of their 12 wins going into Sunday's game with the San Francisco Giants the Nationals had scored five or more runs.
The formula worked again Sunday, as Washington got six solid innings from Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen pitched three shutdown innings, and they pushed five runs across, beating the Giants for the second time in three days, 5-2, before 21,611 at a damp and cool Nats Park.
Zimmermann (W, 2-4, 4.29) wasn't "ace" dominant, but he was solid, allowing just two earned runs on six hits and two walks over six innings. He struck out four and worked himself out of a couple situations that could have lead to big innings. He turned things over to Clippard in the seventh, and the man with the goggles and funky delivery was really on, striking out three in his 1 2/3 innings. Burnett was asked to dispose of lefty Aubrey Huff with two outs in the eighth, and he got Huff to bounce back to the mound.
Storen gave up a one-out double in the ninth, but to no harm, as he got the final two outs for his fifth save of the season.
The offense did just enough, and took advantage when the Giants stumbled, something they could not do in Saturday's 2-1 loss. Alex Cora drove in a run with a two-out double in the second, Rick Ankiel scored on a wild pitch, Jerry Hairston got a ball deep enough with men on second and third to force in a run, and Pudge Rodriguez' two-run single in the eighth provided the insurance for a damp, but enjoyable nonetheless, victory over the defending World Series Champions.
The Nationals record is now 13-14, and have one more home game against the Giants before heading out on a 10-day, nine-game road trip against Philadelphia, Florida and Atlanta without their best player. They're still not hitting well, with the team batting average at .229, but they've managed to find a way to win a couple games in the weekend series. They'll need to take that resolve and confidence out on the road with them.
THE GOOD: Jayson Werth went 3-for-4, though he didn't score or drive in a run. Pudge and Cora both had two hits.
THE BAD: Adam LaRoche went 0-for-2, lowering his average to .189. He did draw two walks. Unfortunately, Ian Desmond, hitting behind him, struck out twice and left five runners on, going 1-for-4.
THE UGLY: Jerry Hairston went 0-for-4, lowering his average to .193, from the leadoff spot with Danny Espinosa taking a maintenance day. Hairston will get the bulk of at bats with Ryan Zimmerman out with abdominal surgery, and the Nats need him to start hitting.
THE STATS: 10 hits, four walks, seven Ks. 2-for-12 with RISP, 6 LOB, 1 GIDP. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Monday at 7:05 pm against San Francisco Giants. Tom Gorzelanny (0-2, 3.97) v. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 6.17).