Friday night saw the start of the Nationals’ last series before the All-Star break, a three game road battle with Philadelphia. The Phillies were hot, having just completed a four game sweep of the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Nats came in fresh off a series loss to Baltimore and without their power-hitting shortstop, Ian Desmond, who was out of the lineup for precautionary reasons after taking a pitch on the hand in the previous game.
The start of the game came with some promise. With the Cubs’ 5-4 victory over Atlanta earlier in the day, the Nats entered the evening with a prime opportunity to put some space between them and their division rivals. By the time the game had ended, however, the Nats were in even worse shape than they started: victims of a 6-2 loss, still in a first place tie, and surrounded by even more injury concerns than they started with.
Washington attempted to get off to a fast start, but they squandered an early opportunity in the second. After Adam LaRoche doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder, the Nats could not bring him home. Bryce Harper grounded out to second, and Wilson Ramos struck out swinging.
The Phillies, on the other hand, made the most of their chances. In the second, following the Nats’ wasted shot at first blood, the Phillies pounded pitches from Zimmermann, with Domonic Brown doubling in two runs before Jordan was able to stop the bleeding. Another two scored in the third when Jimmy Rollins launched a ball a few rows back into the right field stands, pushing the lead to 4-0.
After that, the scoreboard remained quiet for a while. The pitcher’s mound, however, was another story.
Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals’ lone All Star, had struggled early to sustain the form that had landed him that honor, mixing strings of strikeouts with long bouts of ugly pitches that the Phillies hammered. His line upon leaving (4 ER, 6 hits, 5 Ks, 0 walks in 3.1 innings) was far from a typical Zimmermann outing, but in a vacuum, hardly anything to worry about. What was cause for concern, however, was the way he left the game.
After recording only ten outs, Zimmermann looked over to the dugout and waved the trainers onto the field. A quick discussion and a few furrowed brows later, the pitcher was walking off the field unceremoniously, with the four run hole he was in the last thing on his –and everyone else in the District’s – mind.
Coming on in relief of Zimmermann, Craig Stammen pitched admirably. He surrendered one run in the sixth and another in the seventh. The Nats’ offense, for its part, scarcely offered any support. Bryce Harper finally managed to put one in the seats in the top of seventh; in the eighth, Ryan Zimmerman drove in a run on a two-out double. That was all the scoring the Nats would manage. A one-two-three ninth inning secured the win for the Phillies.
There’s no word on what, exactly, brought Zimmermann out of the game, but for a Nationals team that had just gotten healthy before losing Ian Desmond, the loss of Zimmermann comes as a far bigger blow than the loss of a game to the Phillies. The young pitcher will almost certainly miss the All Star Game. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. All the Nats can do for now is cross their collective fingers and hope that Jordan Zimmermann isn’t just the latest name on the list of Washington players to hit the DL.
For tomorrow night’s game, Stephen Strasburg (7-6) will look to build upon his last outing as he faces off against Cole Hamels (3-5). Hopefully Strasburg can get the Nats back on track, and, hopefully, the Nats will make it to the All Star break without losing anyone else to injury.