Jordan Zimmermann, wearing throwback threads depicting the Negro League Homestead Grays, pitching in front of a huge crowd that included more than 300 friends and family from tiny Auburndale, Wisconsin, turned in a magnificent 6-inning performance, allowing a single run on five hits with six strikeouts as the Washington Nationals defeated the free-falling Milwaukee Brewers, 4-1.
The victory improved Zimmermann’s season record to 8-6 and lowered his ERA to 2.29. The Brewers’ only run came on Zimmermann’s lone mistake, a pitch that Rickie Weeks blasted into the left field bleachers. Washington’s starter dominated from there. With each passing day, it becomes more clear that Zimmermann, not Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez, is who struggled again on Sunday, is Washington’s best pitcher.
However, after the game, manager Davey Johnson delivered troubling news. He has been removing Zimmermann after six innings of work, no matter how dominant or how low his pitch count, because his top pitcher has experienced pain in the back of his shoulder that makes it difficult for him to loosen up during pre-game warm-ups. Johnson and Nats fans will watch this issue closely as the season progresses as the club cannot afford to lose its most reliable pitcher.
Corey Brown contributed to the Nationals’ 60th win in 100 games against 40 losses with his first major league hit, a solo home run in the fourth inning. Brown replaced Bryce Harper, who missed the game with a nasty stomach virus. Harper did return to the starting line-up on Sunday.
The rest of the Nationals’ offense against Milwaukee’s starter and loser Randy Wolf (3-7) also came from the long ball. Rookie Tyler Moore his his sixth home run, plating Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman added a solo shot for the game’s final margin.
Staked to a 3-run lead, the Nationals’ strong bullpen locked down the game. Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard (19th save) all pitched an inning of shutout relief to ensure a drama free ending and a happy on for Zimmermann and his many hometown pals. Afterward, as in the pre-game tailgates, the beer, bratwurst and happy conversation flowed. For their part, the Nationals enjoyed another convincing win and another day atop the National League East standings, still leading the Atlanta Braves, who swept the Phildelphia Phillies this weekend, by four games.
Champ of the Game: Zimmermann, who has pitched into the 6th inning of every start this season. Only one other pitcher in baseball has achieved this — Justin Verlander.
For the Brewers, Weeks went 2-3 with a home run.
Chump of the Game: Nobody for the Nationals. The team played a solid game all around. The club notched 11 hits against Milwaukee pitching, with at least one from every starting player except Zimmermann.
For the Brewers, Wolf surrendered three home runs for his 7th loss. The infamous Milwaukee bullpen had no chance to blow this game.
Unsung hero: Brown, with his first career hit and home run, filled in admirably for Harper. Stephen Lombardozzi also played solid defense and got two hits. His bat is coming to life, as evidenced by his lead-off home run the next day.
Next Game: On Sunday, in one of the craziest games all year, the Nationals defeated the Brewers, 11-10 in 11 innings. The game featured epic bullpen failures from both teams — read all about it in Marty Niland’s Game 101 re-cap here at District on Deck as we continue to bring you what is becoming a very special 2012 Nationals season.