The cure for any poor performance is another team performing poorly. The Dodgers were 2-8 in their last 10 before tonight’s game, with the two being their two most recent games against the hapless Marlins. Meanwhile, the Nats had been 6-4, despite dropping their last two to the less hapless, but still last-place Cubs. The pitching matchup coming into the game paints a pretty accurate portrait of what really happened: Jordan Zimmermann (6-1, 1.59 coming in) vs. Josh Beckett (0-4, 5.13). Zimmermann allowed only two runs in 7.2 great innings, earning his MLB-leading seventh win, while Beckett got hammered, allowing four runs in just three innings and dropping to 0-5. When a stoppable force (the Nats’ bats, 27th in baseball in runs scored) met a movable object (Beckett) the Nats were happy to let us know what really happens, and put this one away early.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Ryan Zimmerman‘s two-run double (+14.8%)
Thanks to an RBI groundout in the first, the Nats led 1-0 coming into the third. Beckett was at a relatively high pitch count, but nothing sent up red flags until the wheels came off in the third. He led off the inning by walking Zimmermann, Steve Lombardozzi reached on an error, and Bryce Harper walked to load the bases. Zimmerman was happy to plate his fellow Zim and Lombo for his second and third RBIs of the day, putting the Nats up 3-0. Adam LaRoche would plate Harper with a groundout before the frame ended, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was quick with the hook on Beckett.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Luis Cruz‘s ground into double play (+5.5%)
Since the Nationals struck so early and with a (relatively) large number of runs, any offensive gains by the Dodgers became negligible in terms of WPA early on. Right after the Nationals struck, the Dodgers looked to be gaining a little traction on Zimmermann with a leadoff single by Nick Punto. Another base hit would have spiked the team’s WPA, but instead, Cruz grounded into a double play that turned a promising scenario into a bleak one. The Dodgers would not score until the sixth inning.
Champ of the Game: Zimmerman (+21.3%) was only 1-4, but batted in the team’s first three runs. He made most of his impact with the pivotal double, but also walked once in addition to his RBI groundout in the first. For LA, Dee Gordon (+2.2%) was a lone bright spot on a bad night for the Dodgers, going 1-4 with a run scored.
Chump of the Game: In a funny twist, Desmond (-3.0%) had the same statline as our Champ: 1-4 with a walk, though he had no RBIs. Beckett (-28.1%) took it for the Dodgers, despite the fact that only half his runs were earned. Even so, he allowed three hits and two walks in only three innings.