As they often do, an early pitcher’s duel turned into a dramatic battle of the bullpens. After a fast-paced start to the game, a tumultuous ninth and exciting extras ended in the Washington Nationals’ (39-33) favor, as Ian Desmond hit a sac fly to left field that gave the Nats a walkoff win over the Atlanta Braves (35-37), 2-1 in 11 innings. With the win and Mets loss, the Nationals now lead the NL East by 3.5 games after five straight wins.
Zimmermann Cruises With Some Help
It had not been the best season for Jordan Zimmermann to date, as he entered Wednesday with a 3.75 ERA on the year. But he mowed through a paper-thin Braves lineup, going eight scoreless innings and allowing six hits and no walks. The sterling outing dropped his ERA a third of a run to 3.42 and pushed the Nationals’ rotation’s scoreless streak to 34.1 innings, a new Nationals record.
On the opposite mound, Zimmermann was matched pitch-for-pitch by Shelby Miller, who allowed just one run in seven innings and retired the first 10 Nats. But a Bryce Harper RBI single in the seventh was all the Nats would need in the game’s first nine innings.
The one knock on Zimmermann’s line was his low strikeout total, which came in at just three. A few of the balls he let into play were decently hard hit, especially as the game wore on. But fortunately for Zimmermann, Denard Span borrowed the winged sandals from Hermes for the night. He was everywhere, making a sliding catch on a shallow popup and a leaping one on a ball drilled to the wall. He even delivered an excellent throw on the sacrifice fly that tied the game, getting Joey Terdoslavich at second to perhaps prevent the Braves from taking the lead.
Storen Blows It
Drew Storen has been among baseball’s best closers this season, by any standard. He entered the night with an even 2.00 ERA, an even better 1.70 FIP, a monstrous 34.0% strikeout rate and a miniscule 4.7% walk rate. On top of that, he had blown just one save all season, converting his last 17 in a row and ranking third in the NL with 21 total. But a pair of singles, including one on a weak grounder up the first base side, and a throw to third put men on second and third with nobody out.
An intentional walk loaded the bases and made Span’s double play (with a cutoff throw from Danny Espinosa) possible after Kelly Johnson’s sac fly. With a man on third and two outs, Andrelton Simmons grounded out to second to end the threat. Fortunately for the Nats, Storen’s run would be the only one they would cede.
Desmond, like all of the Nationals, was playing with a heavy heart today. Bench coach Randy Knorr’s wife Kimberly passed away Tuesday, and Knorr was not with the team. His jersey was hanging in the dugout, and Desmond wore Knorr’s number 53 on his helmet as an emblem of the closeness between the two.
So it was only fitting that Desmond would be the hero. After Harper doubled, Wilson Ramos was intentionally walked and Clint Robinson drew an unintentional one to load the bases with one out. Desmond lined the first pitch from David Aardsma to left, where ex-Nat Eury Perez made the catch but was far too deep to have a chance at home.