June 27, 2012
In Denver last night, with the air filled with smoke from forest fires in the mountains nearby, Ryan Zimmerman finally broke out of his slump, getting his 1,000th hit, a single to right field in the fifth inning that launched a big rally. But wait, there's more! He also hit a double and a home run, his fourth of the year. Adam LaRoche homered twice and rookie Tyler Moore also homered for the Nats, who got 21 hits altogether, tying the mark set since the team moved to D.C. in 2005. In fact, every one of the nine starting players got hits, including the pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who batted in a run to take a 4-3 lead in the fourth inning. It took Bryce Harper until the ninth inning to get his first hit, but it was a weird infield dribbler that failed to advance the runners on second and third, neither of whom scored, so it didn't really matter. The final score was 12-5, with the Nationals matching the total number of runs scored in their previous five games combined. See MLB.com and/or washingtonpost.com for a full recap.
For me, it's hard to believe that Ryan has been around long enough to reach the 1,000 hit plateau. Well, it's been seven and a half years, and that's an average of 133 hits per year. As I have probably mentioned at least a dozen or so times in the past, I had the good fortune to see Ryan Zimmerman get his very first major league hit, a double, on September 2, 2005 (Phillies 7, Nats 1). I was hoping that I might get to see him hit #1,000 when I was in Washington last week. Maybe some day I'll get to see him hit #2,000, or -- dare I dream? -- #3,000!
In tonight's game, which just ended, the Nationals continued their offensive onslaught, racking up a score of 11-1 by the end of the seventh inning, after which relief pitchers gave up four runs in the last two innings. Something is definitely wrong with Chien-Ming Wang, I'm afraid. Final score: 11-5. Oddly, both teams had the same number of total hits (14), but the Nats' solid infield turned four double plays, shutting down potential rallies. Ryan Zimmerman hit another home run (his fifth), and young Tyler Moore got another, but Bryce Harper could only manage a single and a double. It was starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann's first win since May 22, notwithstanding his superb ERA of 2.77. It's too bad some of that surplus run support tonight wasn't spread out over some of those other games, when he could have used it.
And so, the Nationals go into tomorrow afternoon's game hoping for a series win, enjoying a steady 3 1/2 game lead in the NL East. With the L.A. Dodgers having lost four in a row, the Nationals now have the highest winning percentage (.589) in the National League. Only the Yankees (.622) and Rangers (.618) are higher than them in the American League.
I did some checking of my game records, and learned that this is only the [third] time that the Washington Nationals have had double-digit scores in two consecutive games. The first time was [September 27-28, 2005, when they beat the Marlins, 11-1 and 11-7, and the second was] September 24-25, 2007, when they beat the Mets, 13-4 and 10-9. On the other hand, there have been eight times when the Nationals' opponents (not necessarily the same team) have scored ten or more runs in two games straight. Once, that happened three games in a row: the Braves beat the Nats 10-1 and 13-6 on August 26-27, 2006, and then the Phillies beat them 10-6 on August 29.
After winning his sixth game in six consecutive starts last week (when I was there), Stephen Strasburg finally slipped up, in the opening game against the Rockies on Monday. He had a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning, and one of those runs he batted in himself, but then he allowed three hits and hit a batter with a pitch, giving the Rockies the lead, 3-2. Tom Gorzelanny came in as relief pitcher in the seventh inning, and the Rockies tacked on another run to earn a rare triumph over a division-leading team.