While the Mets are celebrating their ascension back into relevance with their eight-game winning streak, and the Phillies are floundering without their anchor, Jimmy Rollins, the Nationals are on a high of their own. With the win over the Florida Marlins last night the club earned their third win in a row, finished April above .500 for the first time in five years, and quietly slipped into second place in the National League East.
While the club has had to get by without him for most of the second half of the month, the Nationals welcomed back Ryan Zimmerman to slam the door on what has been an exciting April.
Zimmerman must have felt like he was missing out on all the fun while sidelined for seven games with a hamstring injury. In his first three at-bats back the hot-corner blasted two home runs and a double. Charged by Zimmerman's three RBI and Scott Olsen's second consecutive start in which he yielded no runs, the Nationals trampled on the Marlins to win 7-1 and earn their third victory in a row.
Olsen came into Friday nights game with motivations of his own. The 26-year-old lefty was going head-to-head against the team that first drafted him and then traded him. Olsen first gained recognition in 2006 as a 22-year-old posting a promising rookie campaign, going 12-10 with a 4.04 ERA. He soon fell out of favor with the south Florida fans and Marlins front office with an array of behavior problems that culminated in an arrest after fleeing from police on a routine speeding violation. Following the 2008 season Florida shipped Olsen to Washington, where he has had his struggles until early on this season.
It's safe to say the lefty had a chip on his shoulder when he took the mound last night, but boy, did he deliver. Olsen earned the win pitching six strong innings allowing only five hits, no runs, and struck out four. He was successful by attacking the strike zone, throwing 59 out of 89 pitches for strikes. Olsen's most effective pitch on the night was his change up, which he threw 57 times for six swinging strikes.
Olsen has now thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings since allowing six earned over two innings of work Apr. 20 vs. Colorado.
The Nationals were in control of this game from the second Zimmerman hit his first home run. Zimmerman was the clubs most valuable hitter posting a .224 WPA where Olsen posted a .244 WPA of his own.