Has a 27 year old ever become the winningest pitcher in a franchise’s history? Jordan Zimmermann would be happy to be the first.
Zimmermann tossed six and one-third shutout innings and Anthony Rendon was 4-for-5 as the Washington Nationals (16-12) blew out the Houston Astros (9-19), 7-0, and swept the two-game road series.
Zimmermann (W, 2-1) gave up seven hits and a walk while striking out seven to earn his 45th win in a Nationals uniform, breaking Livan Hernandez’s three-year-old record. Among active Nats, Gio Gonzalez is not far behind him with 35 wins, and Stephen Strasburg and Tyler Clippard (?!) follow him with 31 and 29 respectively.
While Zimmermann’s feat was the talk of the postgame, the biggest impact on the field came from Rendon. In his second game ever back in his hometown of Houston, he was absolutely on fire. He notched two doubles and a home run, making his lone out on a fly ball to the warning track. He also displayed some slick defensive work, laying out for a ground ball and showing off his cannon of an arm.
With his great night tonight, Rendon is now hitting .316/.352/.544, and his .896 OPS places him 17th in the National League, just .004 behind Joey Votto and ahead of sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt, Hanley Ramirez, and Buster Posey. He is also the youngest player in the top 20. If he stays healthy, he will be one of the league’s premier hitters for a long time to come.
It was a great offensive day all around for the Nats, as they pounded the Astros pitching staff for 13 hits. Denard Span opened the scoring in the third inning with a Little League home run, as a bobble by Astros right fielder George Springer allowed him to keep going all the way around the bases on what would have otherwise been a triple.
Five base hits in the fourth helped the Nats score four runs and break the game open, and a Danny Espinosa solo homer the next inning chased Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer (L, 0-5) after just four and two-thirds innings as the Nats took a commanding 6-0 lead.
Houston did threaten to score, as one would expect they might on nine total hits, but the Nats did a good job of defusing the danger. The Astros had two baserunners in the fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth, but could never cash them in.
Zimmermann left with two on in the seventh, but in relief, Aaron Barrett locked the Astros down, ending the inning with a strikeout and a groundout. He returned to form after giving up a hit and two walks while getting just one out in his last appearance against the Padres.
Ross Detwiler gave up two hits in the eighth but escaped unscathed, and recent callup Ryan Mattheus got a double play after drilling a batter to face the minimum in the ninth.
The Nats will resume their NL East slate on Friday as they head to Philadelphia (13-13).
– Mattheus made his first big-league appearance since a disastrous 2013, which saw him finish with a 6.37 ERA in 35.1 innings and miss two months with a broken hand after punching a locker in frustration. He’ll likely head back to Syracuse when Doug Fister returns to health, but it’s good to see him back with the team, even temporarily.
– Kevin Frandsen was 2-for-4 and is now hitting .289/.372/.342, playing mainly as an outfield injury replacement. After being jettisoned by the Phillies during Spring Training, he has been huge for the Nats.
– With the win, the Nats are now just two games behind Atlanta for first in the division. Additionally, because Alex Wood and Aaron Harang turned back into pumpkins these past two days against the Marlins, giving up 16 runs in nine and two-thirds combined innings after unrealistically hot starts this season. The Nats now have a better run differential than the Braves, +18 to +16. It just goes to show: Never worry about the standings in April.