The Nationals learned they’ll be sending at least 3 players to the All-Star Game, but it was a former All-Star, Ryan Zimmerman, who appears to have finally regained his form. He came a triple away from the cycle, including a massive home run and 4 RBIs, to lead the Nationals to an 8-4 win.
The Nationals offense keeps piling on the evidence that it’s finally turned the corner. They took advantage of several mistakes from an inefficient Tim Hudson today including the huge two-run homer from Zimmerman. All told the Nats pounded out 9 hits, and every starter except for Michael Morse and the pitcher racked up at least one hit.
Even though he didn’t hit, Nats starter Gio Gonzalez pitched pretty well… for a while. His control abandoned him in the 2nd after a painfully long at-bat from Andrelton Simmons resulted in a walk. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in that inning before letting a run in the 3rd and driving his pitch count up. By the 6th inning he was nearing the century mark at which point he promptly melted down. He walked Chipper Jones, then walked Dan Uggla, then let them both in when Freddie Freeman took him deep. His day was mercifully done, finishing with 5 IP, 4 ER, 4 K, and a disappointing 4 BB. The bullpen closed out the game in truly uneventful fashion with Tyler Clippard closing it out in a non-save situation.
Tim Hudson was bad today, letting up 6 runs, 5 earned, in his 6 innings. Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman caused the big damage for the Braves, with 2 hits each and 3 RBIs for Freeman. Johnny Venters struggled in the 9th, hitting Steve Lombardozzi who promptly stole his first major league base. Harper walked before Zimmerman singled up the middle. Christian Martinez relieved Venters and allowed Harper to score when Zimmerman broke up a double play with an aggressive slide.
A Clayton Kershaw win tonight against the Mets would put the Nats back at 3.5 up on the division. They’re now 4.5 over the Braves and a hysterical 11 games over the last-place Phillies. So far on the season, the Nationals are 6-2 against the Braves including a 5-1 record in Atlanta. They finish their road trip at 5-5, despite outscoring the three teams by 13 runs.
Champ of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman, no question. Second place would have to go to Craig Stammen, who took over for Gio in the 6th and finished the 7th, squelching the Braves’ momentum and delivering the game to the Burnett-Clippard two-headed monster.
Chump of the Game: Sad to say on the day he made the All-Star roster, but Gio Gonzalez gets the nod. Yes, Davey Johnson left him in about two batters too long. Fortunately the offense bailed him out (how often have we been able to say that this year?), and he earned the win. Hopefully his control problems today don’t augur a return to those that plagued him in Oakland.
Next Game: The Nats get a slight break from the heat as they head back home where Tuesday’s forecast is for high of only 97. Jordan Zimmermann (4-6, 2.77, 65 Ks) takes the mound at 6:05 pm against the San Francisco Giants who put Tim Lincecum on the mound. Lincecum (3-8, 5.60, 99Ks) is coming off of one of his best starts of a terrible year, going 7 scoreless with 8 Ks against the Dodgers.