In a night where the Nationals managed to muster just three hits, Washington was able to hang on in what had the potential to be their last game of the season by the sheer will of their bullpen.
Following a stellar start from Ross Detwiler, which yielded just three hits and one unearned run over 104 pitches, the Nats remained deadlocked in a 1-1 tie with the Cards after six. That’s where Davey Johnson made the decision to turn to the bullpen with the hopes that the squad that the team had relied on all season would be able to succeed where they had failed in the past two games.
The result? Electric stuff from two of the usual suspects, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, and flat out unbelievable stuff from the team’s No. 2 starter Jordan Zimmermann. In a rare relief appearance in the seventh, Zimmermann struck out all three batters he faced, using just 12 pitches. The right-hander’s fastball sat at 97 mph on the gun and his slider, which usually rests in the mid-to-high 80’s sat at 91.
“Yeah, the guys said, he needs to be our closer, “manager Davey Johnson said in his postgame press conference.
“But Zimm said to McCatty, he said “I just tried to throw it as hard as I could throw it.”
Clippard and Storen were just as effective in the eighth and ninth. Clippard struck out three of the four batters he faced, and Storen struck out two before ending the inning with a pop-up to shallow left.
At one point, the Nationals bullpen had recorded all of their eight outs as strikeouts.
In the bottom of the ninth, Werth took to the plate to matchup against Lance Lynn for the Cardinals. An epic 13-pitch at bat culminated with a walk off shot for Werth that brought the house down at Nats Park.
“He’s a remarkable guy,” Johnson said. “He can force a pitcher ot throw a lot of pitches, and he did that time.”
Nats fans can look at tonight’s game in one of two ways. A squad which had struggled to hit the ball managed to earn just three hits on the game, and only had five base runners overall. One could wonder if the issues that have crippled the top team in baseball this series are over, or if the inevitable was merely delayed.
On the other hand, the Nationals pitching returned to its electric form. Washington won games early on in 2012 on the sheer will of their pitching and timely hitting. It was a formula that worked well until the team found their groove in the middle of the summer. It’s not ideal, but if Gio Gonzalez can take the mound tomorrow night for Washington and replicate what we saw here tonight, then Washington will , no matter what, have a punchers chance at the NLCS.