Results tagged ‘ Ryan Zimmerman ’
After making the Nationals as a non-roster invitee in 2012, Chad Tracy took no time at all to make his presence felt. On April 7 in Chicago, he came in with the bases loaded, one out, and the Nats down a run in the top of the eighth, and promptly doubled home a pair to lead the club to victory. Thus began the Goon Squad, Washington’s fearsome and versatile bench, with its leader, the veteran Tracy.
Just as he did early in 2012, Tracy provided the Goon Squad’s biggest moment to date on Friday night. After the Nationals surrendered a two-run lead in the ninth inning in San Diego, the tide seemed to have turned against them. But with two outs in the top of the 10th, Tracy turned on a hanging, 1-1 change-up out of the right hand of Huston Street, depositing it over the right field wall at Petco Park for a go-ahead home run to put the Nationals back ahead for good, 6-5.
“He’s a really good hitter,” said Davey Johnson of Tracy. “Last year he started fast, this year he started slow. But (the home run) makes up for anything he’s done in the past.”
There is something about being at the right place at the right time that often defines success for a bench player like Tracy. But Friday night’s heroics were the continuation of a stunning trend, one which indicates the Padres are always the right opponent for the leader of the Goon Squad. With his blast off Street, each of Tracy’s last three pinch-homers have now come against the Padres. And of the seven he has hit in his career, five have come against San Diego.
Other Nationals like Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman have both hit well against the Padres in their careers as well, each notching double-digit home run totals. But both track records pale in comparison to Tracy’s.
Meanwhile, Drew Storen survived a Padres rally in the bottom of the frame to notch his first save of the season, and the Cardiac Nats won the kind of gut-wrenching game on which they built their reputation last season. After a couple of close calls in low-scoring games in Los Angeles, the breakthrough may have meant just one win, but it may also have opened the door for a return of the Cardiac Nats, the team that went 27-21 in one-run games and 13-7 in a league-high 20 extra-inning affairs in 2012. This year’s club (7-3, 2-1) hasn’t seen nearly as many of the same opportunities, but a strong showing from the Goon Squad may change that in a hurry.
Ryan Zimmerman has long been the name best associated with the Washington Nationals. For years, he was easily the most recognizable player, his Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards helping him stand out as the clear-cut favorite to be recognized in a ballpark outside of Washington.
While he remains the most well-established and longest-tenured star on the club, with young stars like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg joining him in the forefront, Zimmerman can now lean on those around him to help carry the load, both on and off the field. And so, in typical Zimmerman fashion, his contributions on Monday night were overshadowed by other headlines, his three RBI and solid defense at third base pushed down the page.
Meanwhile, after a year of ceding various accolades to rotation-mates Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann’s eye-opening start to the 2013 campaign has suddenly thrust him into the spotlight.
Just how good has he been? Few pitchers would see their ERA rise after allowing just two runs over 7.2 innings of work, but that’s exactly what happened to Zimmermann on Monday night. His 1.69 ERA now sits just .25 behind NL-leader Matt Harvey of the Mets, fifth-best in the National League on the young season. His effort still earned him his league-high seventh win as well, but there’s another, more obscure category in which he also leads every pitcher in the sport.
Zimmermann’s 13.26 pitches per inning are the fewest of any starting pitcher in baseball. Couple that with his quick reset on the mound between deliveries, and he gives his defense the shortest amount of time possible standing out at their positions. The less time the Nationals spend on the field, the more they spend at the plate, putting additional pressure on the opposing pitcher.
Shorter innings also equal longer starts for the 26-year-old, who has worked at least seven innings in six of his eight starts. In comparison, he only lasted that late into a game nine times in 32 starts in 2012. A longer outing takes pressure off the bullpen, meaning fewer opportunities for the opposing offense to catch a reliever on a bad day or have the chance to exploit a matchup.
Though not obvious, flashy statistics, they create a recipe for success that, just like Zimmermann’s mid-90’s heater, can sneak past you before you have time to adjust. If the rest of Zimmermann’s season is anything like these first eight starts, he’ll have a chance to do what Strasburg and Gonzalez did last season: pitch in the Midsummer Classic in July.
Regardless of what accolades he receives, fans around the league ought to start learning the name of the Nationals newest superstar. The adjustment should be easy – just add another “N.”
5.13.13 – Nationals 6, Dodgers 2
Stat of the Game: Jordan Zimmermann won his Major League leading seventh game of the season, allowing just two runs in 7.2 innings of work.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman plated three RBI, on a sac fly and a two-run double, to key the offense.
It Was Over When: Washington knocked out Los Angeles starter Josh Beckett after just three innings of work.
5.12.13 – Cubs 2, Nationals 1
Stat of the Game: Gio Gonzalez took a perfect game into the sixth inning, allowing just two hits in seven scoreless frames overall.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman collected two hits and Washington’s lone RBI, on a double in the first inning.
It Was Over When: Kurt Suzuki‘s throw to third on a steal attempt by Alfonso Soriano ticked off batter Welington Castillo’s bat, allowing Soriano to score with the winning run.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija figured to be a tough matchup for the Nationals on Friday night. The 6-foot-5 right-hander had a strong recent history against Washington, compiling a 1.15 ERA with 16 strikeouts in two starts in 2012 – plus Bryce Harper was out of the lineup with a toe injury.
Ian Desmond had other designs. He entered the game a lifetime 5-for-10 with a pair of doubles against Samardzija, the only batter in the Nationals lineup with more than two career hits against the pitcher nicknamed “Shark” by his college teammates at Notre Dame. Desmond proved his history of head-to-head success was no fluke.
Batting fifth, the Nationals All-Star shortstop singled in his first at-bat and later scored on a two-out, two-run double by Kurt Suzuki that gave Washington an early 2-1 lead. He homered in his second trip to the plate, a two-run blast to left that snapped a 2-2 tie. He later gave the Nats a 5-2 advantage, driving home Ryan Zimmerman with a two-out double in the fifth, and scored one batter later on a two-run double by Danny Espinosa, completing the scoring for the Nats in a 7-3 victory.
Three trips to the plate against Samardzija, three hits, three runs batted in and three runs scored. Combined with their previous meetings, Desmond is now 8-for-13 with three doubles and a home run against the Cubs ace, good for a slash line of .615/.615/1.077.
Desmond’s homer, his fifth of the season, carried another impressive distinction. All five of his long balls have given Washington the lead, and the Nats are 5-0 when Desmond goes deep.
Needing a triple to complete the cycle, Desmond grounded to third base against reliever Shawn Camp leading off the bottom of the eighth inning. Although disappointed in the result, Desmond offered up some humor to put everything into perspective.
“Yeah. But, I mean, third base is a long ways away,” he said.
A quick glance at the final box score may suggest that Washington enjoyed a rather comfortable victory in its rubber match triumph on Sunday. But the series finale in Pittsburgh began about as poorly as one could possibly draw it up for the Nationals. They went three up, three down in the top of the first, culminating in Bryce Harper’s check swing strikeout, after which he was ejected by third base umpire and crew chief John Hirschbeck.
The bottom of the first didn’t get any better. Starling Marte hit Gio Gonzalez’s first pitch over the wall, Jordy Mercer followed with a double, and Ryan Zimmerman’s throw to first on a grounder by Andrew McCutchen hit the runner in the back. After a walk to Gaby Sanchez, the bases were loaded with nobody out.
The afternoon could well have been over right there. But Gonzalez locked in and fanned Russell Martin swinging, then Michael McKenry looking. With two outs, Brandon Inge sent a grounder past Gonzalez up the middle, but a rangy play and a strong throw across his body by Ian Desmond beat the runner to first, and the Nationals escaped with just the single run of damage.
“It just felt like the momentum shifted,” said Gonzalez after his first-inning Houdini act. “A younger me would have probably spiraled out of control, trying to be too much, trying to do too much.”
Instead, the Nationals got that run back immediately, as Zimmerman drew a leadoff walk to start the second inning, moved to third on Adam LaRoche’s double and scored on Danny Espinosa’s sac fly deep to center field, knotting the game at 1-1. The game remained deadlocked until Espinosa’s next at-bat, when he got into a two-out, two-strike hanging curveball from Wandy Rodriguez and punished it deep into the left field seats for a two-run shot, putting Washington ahead for good.
“He didn’t really try to crush it, he just met it,” said Davey Johnson of Espinosa’s swing. “Of course, he’s so strong, it went a long way.”
In a sense, that approach has been emblematic of the Nationals in general this year, where they may have pressed too much out of the gates. They are such a strong team that simply meeting the challenges in front of them should yield positive results.
The Pirates clawed back within a run in the sixth, but again Gonzalez stranded a big runner, leaving Martin at third base as the potential tying run. The start – six innings of two-run ball with two walks and five strikeouts – was much more like the Gonzalez Nationals fans got to know last year, when he won 21 games.
“He was the old Gio,” said Johnson after the game. “I hadn’t seen that grin in a long time.”
The contest remained a one-run game until late, when Washington got some fitting redemption for the first-inning antics. With one out and Roger Bernadina at second base, the Pirates elected to walk LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore, who had gone down looking three times in as many trips. Moore fell behind 1-2, then checked his swing at a pitch out of the zone, with the home side appealing down to first base umpire Jim Reynolds, who signaled no swing. Moore annihilated the next pitch to left field for a three-run bomb to put the game out of reach.
“It fires you up a little bit,” said Moore of the intentional walk ahead of him, before quickly couching his statement. “But you can’t blame them. I would have done the same thing. LaRoche was swinging a good bat and I was struggling early.”
There have been a number of games so far this season where an early miscue or unfortunate turn would alter the mood, portending a feeling of, “Here we go again.” Sunday’s contest in Pittsburgh provided the most amount of early trouble to overcome in any victory thus far in the young season. Those feelings crept up upon Harper’s ejection, grew stronger after Marte’s leadoff home run, and were at full boil with the bases loaded and no outs in the first.
But just as it turned around a road trip that saw the club lose the first two games at rival Atlanta, Washington rebounded Sunday to make it four wins in five days to close the trip, mostly low-scoring, tightly-played affairs that leaned on the good pitching and solid defensive foundation upon which this roster was constructed. If the final game of the trip does mark a turning point in the campaign, it may also well serve as a microcosm of the season as a whole. After struggling from the outset and encountering some adversity, cooler heads prevailed on the way to victory.
Washington Nationals (16-15) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (17-13)
LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 5.34) vs. LHP Wandy Rodriguez (2-1, 3.91)
The Nationals enter Sunday with a chance at both a series victory and a winning road trip before heading back to Washington. The rubber match with the Pirates will feature a pair of southpaws as Gio Gonzalez and Wandy Rodriguez each toe the rubber in search of their third win of the season.
1. Span CF
2. Desmond SS
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Moore RF
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Ramos C
9. Gonzalez LHP
QUITE A STEAL
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche conspired on a shocking double steal in the ninth inning Saturday to set up the winning score. It was the first time in Zimmerman’s nine-year Major League career that he has ever swiped third base, and was just the seventh steal total for LaRoche in 1214 career games.
Washington enters Sunday’s series finale at PNC Park having not yet homered in the series. The Nationals have hit at least one home run in 65 straight series dating to September 2011. The last time Washington played a homerless series was during a four-game set at Citi Field, September 12-15, 2011, a series they nonetheless swept, 4-0.
In 12 games dating to April 23, Steve McCatty’s starting staff has fashioned a 2.96 ERA (26 ER/79.0 IP) thanks in part to a 3.5/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .218 batting average against.
Over the course of a 162-game season, you have to find any number of different ways to win games to have a successful year. While the Nationals never really came up with the big hit they were looking for on Saturday, they nonetheless discovered a new and creative way to snag a crucial 5-4 road victory over the Pirates, setting them up for a possible series win to close the road trip.
After not hitting a sacrifice fly since April 17 – a span of 16 games – Washington hit three on Saturday, accounting for 60 percent of its scoring. The third and final one proved to be the difference, and was set up by perhaps the unlikeliest turn of events possible, a double-steal from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. Not only was it the first stolen base for either player this season, but it was the first time Zimmerman had ever stolen third in his career. Both got such a good jump off Pirates reliever Tony Watson that catcher Russell Martin could not even get a throw off.
“I would have thought those were the last two guys that were going to steal,” said Tyler Moore, who apparently wasn’t alone in that assessment, and who delivered the third and final sacrifice fly moments later to plate Zimmerman with winning run. “But they got it done. That was huge. Trent (Jewett) had the guts to send them, and it ended up winning us the ballgame.”
Sometimes that’s exactly what a team needs to get going. Other than Wilson Ramos’s big two-run single that tied the game in the sixth, the Nationals did not have a hit in their other 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position. But they drew six walks and were thrice hit by pitches to go along with their six base hits, putting constant pressure on the Pittsburgh pitching staff. They had a runner in scoring position in every inning after the first, and middle-of-the-order stalwarts Zimmerman and LaRoche each reached base four times. There were signs of better at-bats, the kind of patient, grind-it-out style that the team showed in its victories early in the season.
So to what should one attribute the change in approach? For one, Davey Johnson held a team meeting, something he does not do often, before the game. Ironically, he did the exact same thing during a lull in the 2012 season, before the 31st game (also started by Stephen Strasburg), against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Not so ironically, the result was the same. The 2012 edition went on to win its next three games and 11 of 17 to follow.
“That’s how you win Manager of the Year right there,” joked Ian Desmond as the media entered the clubhouse after the game, referring to the honor bestowed upon Johnson last year.
Just how much correlation exists in the cause and effect between the meeting and the team’s performance is open to debate. But it’s hard to argue with the results.
5.4.13 – Nationals 5, Pirates 4
Stat of the Game: Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman each reached base safely four times and each earned their first steal of the season, on a double-steal in the ninth.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Roger Bernadina made a huge defensive play, gunning down Russell Martin trying to stretch a leadoff single into a double leading off the bottom of the ninth.
It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano whiffed Jordy Mercer to shut the door on his seventh consecutive save opportunity, his 10th in 11 tries overall this season.
While Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and the Nationals were busy shutting down the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night, one of their fellow teammates took a big step forward as well.
Batting third and wearing No. 33 for the High-A Potomac Nationals, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman saw an assortment of fastballs, sliders and change-ups from Carolina Mudcats starter Joseph Colon in three at bats.
Zimmerman told the media contingent in the Potomac clubhouse that it was good to face live pitching again and that, “everything went great. (It was) good to get back out there. Everything felt fine.”
Playing in front of a supportive crowd of 3,032, Zimmerman grounded out to short in his first at-bat, testing the tight hamstring that landed him on the 15-day disabled list by running hard through the bag. He flied out to deep right-center in the fourth inning, then reached safely on a Carolina Mudcats fielding error in the sixth.
Defensively, the former Gold Glove Award winner made three successful fielding plays in six innings, including an excellent play on a sacrifice bunt attempt. He charged hard to catch the ball in the air and whipped a sidearm throw to first to nearly double off the base runner.
“My arm feels great and my hammy (hamstring) feels great,” Zimmerman said. “Now it’s just time to get back up there and get going.”
Zimmerman said he would work out on Thursday, likely at Nationals Park, before flying to Pittsburgh to join his teammates as they take on the Pirates over the weekend. Despite being held out for the required 15 days, he told reporters he started working out after just five days of rest and never had any residual hamstring issues.