Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann faces Anibal Sanchez tonight at Sun Life Stadium.
But Zimmermann was only partly satisfied with his performance that night. Yes, he was happy to have returned to the mound and pitched four innings against the Cardinals. But he wasn't happy to have allowed five runs and seven hits during those four innings, not to mention putting six straight St. Louis batters on base during the fourth.
So tonight, Zimmermann begins the next quest in his return. He's back in the majors. Now he wants to get these major-league hitters out. He'll be facing a Marlins lineup that has plenty of power but also has been known to strike out a bunch. Could be a good matchup from Jordan's perspective.
If Zimmermann is up to the task, and if his teammates can string some runs together against Florida's Anibal Sanchez, the Nats could be looking at their first four-game winning streak of the season. Pretty amazing it hasn't happened yet.
Check back for updates throughout the evening...
NATIONALS at MARLINS
Where: Sun Life Stadium
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees, Wind 17 mph in from RF
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
RF Michael Morse
C Ivan Rodriguez
CF Nyjer Morgan
P Jordan Zimmermann
2B Emilio Bonifacio
LF Logan Morrison
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Gaby Sanchez
3B Chad Tracy
RF Mike Stanton
CF Cameron Maybin
C Brett Hayes
P Anibal Sanchez
6:59 p.m. -- In a shocking development, the start of tonight's game will be delayed due to rain. But, they're claiming first pitch will only be five minutes late, pushed back to 7:15 after a quick little cloudburst a little while ago. It's cleared up since, so things look fine moving forward. But I've heard that one before...
7:14 p.m. -- We are underway with a strike from Anibal Sanchez to Adam Kennedy. Few more fans here tonight than last night. Still no way there are 1,000 people in the stands at first pitch, though.
7:16 p.m. -- They've managed to already fix the scoreboard Ryan Zimmerman took out last night. So we're once again coming to you live from "Sun Life Stadium."
7:20 p.m. -- Well, Ian Desmond did a lot of running in the top of the first. Some of it was good, like when he reached on a strikeout-wild pitch. Some of it was bad, like when he raced all the way past second on Roger Bernadina's long drive to center. Couldn't get back to first in time and thus was doubled up to end the inning.
7:26 p.m. -- It took Jordan Zimmermann all of eight pitches to retire the Marlins in the first. Got a pair of flyouts to left sandwiched around a strikeout of Logan Morrison. We are scoreless through one.
7:35 p.m. -- Michael Morse's latest hot streak continues. With a single up the middle, Morse now has 11 hits in his last 16 at-bats, six of them for extra bases. During this time, he's raised his average from .266 to .305. Not bad.
7:44 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman noted again this afternoon that he believes left field is Roger Bernadina's best position, and it's hard to dispute that. Bernadina has made several highlight-reel plays since taking over there for Josh Willingham and just gunned a throw to third to complete a double play (Gaby Sanchez was trying to tag up from second on a deep fly ball.) Through two innings, Zimmermann has thrown only 20 pitches while facing the minimum. Scoreless as we go to the third.
7:59 p.m. -- We're through three innings and Jordan Zimmermann has faced the minimum. Has allowed only Gaby Sanchez's double to lead off the second, which was then wiped out on the Roger Bernadina double play. Zimmermann has recorded three strikeouts, including a pair on some wicked sliders to end the third. Only 38 pitches (24 strikes) so far for the 24-year-old, who looks impressive. Game still scoreless.
8:13 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann is DEALING tonight. He's struck out five straight Marlins, three on curveballs, two on fastballs. Just blew away Hanley Ramirez with a 93 mph heater. He's still faced the minimum through four, has thrown a total of 52 pitches. Now, if the Nats could just supply him with some run support...
8:30 p.m. -- Five innings in the books, no runs, one hit, seven strikeouts for Zimmermann. He's thrown only 69 pitches.
8:38 p.m. -- You know, if the Nats want to go ahead and score a run here at some point, Zimmermann would appreciate that very much. Alas, nothing through six against Anibal Sanchez, who has allowed two hits and a walk. Only one National has reached second base so far.
8:47 p.m. -- Not that Stephen Strasburg needs any extra motivation for overcoming what he's about to face, but if he does, Jordan Zimmermann just provided it. In his second start back from Tommy John surgery, Zimmermann has tossed six scoreless innings, allowing one hit, facing the minimum, retiring 14 straight batters and striking out a career-high nine. His pitch count is only 86, but he's probably done. This was the first time he'd pitched into the sixth inning in any start this season, majors or minors.
8:58 p.m. -- Not to be outdone by Zimmermann, Sanchez has now tossed seven scoreless innings allowing two hits. He's thrown 126 pitches! Zimmermann, by the way, is officially done for the night. Joel Peralta enters for the bottom of the seventh of what is still a scoreless game.
9:11 p.m. -- Nice job by Peralta in the seventh. He issued a one-out walk to Logan Morrison but proceeded to get Hanley Ramirez to fly out and then struck out Gaby Sanchez. This game remains scoreless as we head to the eighth, with Jose Veras taking over on the mound for Florida.
9:20 p.m. -- Great note picked up by Nats PR guy Mike Gazda via the Elias Sports Bureau: Jordan Zimmermann tonight became the first pitcher in Nationals history (2005-present) to go at least six innings and face the minimum. (Meanwhile, it's still scoreless as we head to the bottom of the eighth and Tyler Clippard enters from the bullpen).
9:32 p.m. -- We go to the ninth of an epic, scoreless duel between these two teams. Bernadina, Zimmerman and Dunn due up for the Nats.
9:42 p.m. -- Bottom of the ninth now, still 0-0, Clippard still in.
9:50 p.m. -- The good news: The Nationals' pitching staff allowed one hit in nine innings. The bad news: They'll be playing at least 10 innings tonight because nobody can score. If you were wondering, the only other time in Nats history when the pitching staff held the opposition to one hit: April 2, 2008, when the terrific trio of Tim Redding, Luis Ayala and Jon Rauch did it to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. After that victory, the Nats were 3-0 and anything seemed possible. Well, except for 102 losses, which is what did ultimately happen.
10:07 p.m. -- Of all the things that could happen, how many of you expected Nyjer Morgan to bowl over the opposing catcher (and make the final out of the 10th in the process)? The scenario: Runners on first and second, one out. Adam Kennedy hit what looked like a routine double play grounder to second. Meanwhile, Pat Listach waved Morgan around third, thinking if the double play wasn't turned Nyjer would score the go-ahead run. Except Hanley Ramirez didn't attempt the turn. Instead he fired to the plate, where Brett Hayes caught the ball and braced himself for a mammoth collision. He held onto the ball, and Morgan (who went back to touch the plate just in case) was called out to end the inning. Unbelievable.
10:12 p.m. -- I think I'm actually going to defend Nyjer on this one. Listach appeared to wave him around. It's a good idea if the Marlins try to turn the double play. If the turn is slow, Nyjer scores. But when Hanley realized it, he fired to the plate instead, leaving Nyjer DOA.
10:15 p.m. -- Marlins win. Chad Tracy singles to left. Hanley Ramirez stormed around third. Roger Bernadina fired a strike to the plate. Pudge applied the tag, but it was high and Hanley's feet got in first. Final score: 1-0. Unbelievable.
10:54 p.m. -- Just got back from the clubhouse. Obviously, I'll have plenty of reaction and thoughts later in the full postgame analysis, but I wanted to pass along that everyone I talked to on the Nats side (players, coaches, front office people) agreed that it was the right decision to send Nyjer on that play, and that he really had no choice but to try to run over Hayes at the plate. Obviously, this will be up for debate, but that was the overwhelming sentiment from everyone I talked to, both on and off the record. They weren't just saying the right thing in public. Privately, they believed it too.