ZIMMERMANN'S FIRST CAREER COMPLETE GAME GOES FOR NAUGHT
As the shadows crept across the outfield grass at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, it became tougher and tougher for both teams to bat against the elite level starters their opposition sent out to face them. Fortunately for the Los Angeles Angels, they caught a break in the fourth inning. Unfortunately for Jordan Zimmermann and the Washington Nationals, a simple mistake broke them.
Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error on a slow roller advanced Bobby Abreu to third base with no outs, which allowed him to score on a double play grounder by the next batter. That was the sole run in the Angels' 1-0 victory, sweeping the Nats in Davey Johnson's first three games as the Nationals skipper.
The story of this game was the two starting pitchers, Zimmermann and the Angels' Dan Haren, who matched each other pitch-for-pitch in the mid-afternoon sun and shadows. Zimmermann (5-7, 2.85) allowed the single, unearned run on four hits and one walk, striking out four in the eight-inning complete game effort. Zimmermann threw just 93 pitches in his eight innings, 60 for strikes. The Nats ever-impressing righty recorded 10 ground outs versus six fly balls.
Haren was equally impressive. He went 7 1/3 innings, giving up just two hits -- a Brian Bixler bunt single in the fourth and Pudge Rodriguez' single to center in the eighth. Haren struck out three of his first four batters, and recorded six for the game, allowing one walk.
Zimmerman's (the third baseman) bad throw was certainly one he wished he had back. With Abreu on first, Vernon Wells hit a slow roller that Zim had to come in on. It was a tough play at second regardless, and once he looks at the reply Zim will probably say he should have just gone to first with it. But his throw was into the runner, and it looked like Danny Espinosa either short-armed the catch, or maybe lost it temporarily coming out of the stands. Either way, I'm sure both players will take responsibility for the miscue.
Though the Nats fell because of a defensive breakdown, they also benefited from a pair of terrific plays in the outfield. Both Bixler, who played right field to give Jayson Werth at least part of a day off, and Roger Bernadina in center gunned down Angels trying to take an extra base at second.
So the Davey Era has gotten off to something of a slow start. It's not like this team was going to continue to win 13 out of every 15 games. But four losses in their last five games now certainly gives one pause and lowers their record to 40-41.
After an off-day tomorrow, the Nationals return home to start an 11-game homestand, featuring the improving Pittsburgh Pirates (40-39), struggling Chicago Cubs (32-48) and disappointing Colorado Rockies (39-40), who expected to contend this season. It should be a good test for these Nationals coming into the All-Star break.
THE GOOD: Zimmermann. Though his innings limit for the season rapidly approaches, the 25-year old is showing just how dominant he can be.
THE BAD: Jayson Werth, who pinch-hit for Alex Cora lat in the game, struck out looking in his only at bat. He's struck out 13 times in his last six games.
THE UGLY: Matt Stairs, at DH and hitting cleanup, went 0-for-4 with two Ks, lowering his average to .132.
THE STATS: Three hits, one walk, eight strikeouts. 0-for-6 with RISP, five LOB, zero GIDP. E: Zimmerman (5).
NEXT GAME: Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at 7:05 from Nationals Park. Tom Gorzelanny (2-6, 4.18) faces Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.77).
NATS NOTES: Jerry Hairston left the game after getting hit in the right wrist area with a Haren fastball. The team described the injury as a "contusion" and listed him day-to-day.
The Nationals signed free agent LHP J.C.Romero, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies and assigned him to AAA-Syracuse. Romero is a lefty-killer and after getting a few appearances at Syracuse to re-build his arm strength could join the Nats to give them a second lefty out of the bullpen. Romero was part of the Phillies World Series winner.