We all knew that run prevention was going to be a strength of the 2012 Washington Nationals. I just don’t think that we thought it would be this good. Granted, it is against the Miami Marlins and granted, it’s cold but the Nationals became the first team since the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks to pitch back-to-back shutouts to start the season. It is the first time this has happened in franchise history and in Washington baseball history.
There are quite a bit of similarities between Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez as well, but it’s not only about the starters. Tyler Clippard, Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen have been great setting up Rafael Soriano and what a luxury to be able to just choose your set up man on a given day before the game even starts like Davey Johnson did with Clippard and Storen through the first two games of the season.
But now back to yesterday’s game. Gonzalez pitched very well. The only negative was the number of three-ball counts he had which forced him to come out after six innings despite the fact he only allowed two hits. He even did his best Clayton Kershaw impression by giving the Nationals a lead on a home run in the fifth inning. Gonzalez needed help from his bullpen to end up with the shutout, however.
It was also nice to see Ryan Zimmerman make contact in play after going 0/3 with three strikeouts in the opener. Zimmerman went 2/4 with an RBI single and a triple. Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth both hit the ball hard but came up with zeros and both are still looking for their first hits on the year. Denard Span had his first RBI with the Nationals and walked twice showing his worth as a lead off man.
The Marlins could only muster four hits and two of them were erased on double plays that were quite timely but the one that Gonzalez got on Casey Kotchman after failed bunt attempts (and on which Kotchman hurt a hamstring and had to leave the game) was the biggest rally Nationals pitching had to squash. The other came when Mattheus got Justin Ruggiano to ground into one after a leadoff single to the first batter he faced.
Next Game: Thursday afternoon against Miami at Nationals Park. Zimmermann (0-0, 0.00) v. LeBlanc (0-0, 0.00)