“Outstanding” hasn’t been a word manager Davey Johnson has been often attributing to games played by his Washington Nationals (39-38) as they have labored to float their record above .500.
But on Wednesday night, outstanding is exactly the word Johnson used to describe their 3-2 victory over the leaders of the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks (41-36), in a game that secured them a series win.
Jordan Zimmermann put in yet another quality pitching performance for the Nationals, despite getting off to a rocky start. He threw 27 pitches and allowed two runs in the first inning, though he had allowed only one run in the first inning through 15 starts this year.
Most notably in the first inning, Zimmermann gave Aaron Hill a free pass to first base on an 12-pitch walk, uncharacteristic of a pitcher who proceeded to throw no more than 15 pitches per inning for the next six innings.
After returning to form following the first inning, Zimmermann finished his night with a total of four strikeouts, three hits and two walks in 102 pitches through seven innings. In all nine of his home starts this season, Zimmermann has not allowed more than two earned runs (1.09 ERA) per game, and he kept that trend alive on Wednesday while earning his NL-leading 11th win of the season.
Anthony Rendon was the first hitter to contribute to digging Zimmermann out of his early 2-0 hole by hitting a single and scoring a run in the bottom of the first. He led the offense with his 3-for-4 night, and was just a few feet shy of hitting a home run in his fourth at-bat of the day.
Rendon has been spectacular since being recalled to the big league team on June 5. He has reached base safely in 18 of 19 games since then for a slash line of .371/.397/.529 with three walks.
He and Ryan Zimmerman – who was the other offensive leader of the night, going 2-for-3 with a double – were lighting up the bases from the second and third spots in the batting order, giving Johnson pause over which talented young hitter to award the two-hole to when Bryce Harper returns from being injured, a conflict Johnson said was a good problem to have.
Another young hitter who gave the fans a reason to cheer on Wednesday night was Tyler Moore, who hit a home run in his second at-bat since being recalled from a 16-day stint at Triple-A Syracuse.
Last year, Moore was hitting .158 in 19 plate appearances before being sent back to the minors for 12 days. When he returned, he hit .277/.349/.562 in 152 plate appearances through the remainder of the season.
This year, Moore was again hitting .158 in 102 plate appearances before returning to the minors. Though he is likely not here to stay as he was in 2012 because the Nationals will need to make room for Dan Haren’s replacement on the active roster, it is encouraging to see that Moore is still continuing to use instructional periods away from the big leagues to help the big league team.
To close out the game, Rafael Soriano came in to protect a one run lead against the heart of the Diamondbacks’ order. Though he gave up a hit and a walk, he untucked his jersey for the 21st time this season, tying him at third for National League saves.
The Nationals will have the chance at a three-game sweep tomorrow, a feat they have not accomplished since sweeping the White Sox on April 11, which would make a generally mundane achievement into another success worthy of being deemed “outstanding.”