The Washington Nationals walked off the Atlanta Braves last night with a sacrifice fly from Ian Desmond to score Bryce Harper, making the final score 2-1. This was a classic pitchers’ duel and Jordan Zimmermann for the Nats and Shelby Miller for the Braves and it did not disappoint.
Miller was fantastic and had a no-hitter through the first ten hitters before Anthony Rendon was able to scratch out a hit. Miller only ran into a bit of trouble in the seventh, where he gave up his only run. Miller was working the edges of the plate, moving his fastball around in the zone, and keeping the Nats’ hitters off-balance by mixing up his fastball type.
For as good as Miller was for the Braves, Zimmermann was just as good if not a bit better for the Nats. Zimmermann was pitching to contact a bit more and had a few more hits, but he was solid through eight scoreless innings. I think Zimmermann did not want to let the rest of the starting rotation think less of him as the last run a Nationals’ starter gave up was Joe Ross last Friday. Unfortunately for the Nationals, the common themes of inconsistent bullpen work and questionable fielding almost came back to haunt the club.
Another night of the tale of two bullpens with Drew Storen giving up the lead in the top of the ninth, but Casey Janssen and Felipe Rivero pitched two perfect relief innings in extras to keep the Nats close. Again, the Nats need a bit more consistency in the bullpen to make any sort of run into the playoffs.
Fielding again was of concern last night and the finger seems to always land on Ian Desmond. Desi could not get the ball out of his glove on what should have been an easy double play in the top of the second. Fortunately for Desmond, Zimmermann was able to pitch around his miscues. I also think he should have been able to pick Wilson Ramos’ throw on the Janssen wild pitch in the tenth, but he was not charged an error for that play and Janssen was able to work out of the jam.
Bryce Harper also made a questionable decision to try to throw out Markakis at third, letting a runner advance to second in the top of the ninth. It worked out in the Nats favor as that opened up first for the intentional walk to load the bases. The Nats were able to get out of the inning with a great play by Denard Span.
Last night, the Nats were able to cover these miscues with outstanding play elsewhere, but other nights, plays like these will cost the team ballgames.
I am happy that Ian Desmond was able to get a walk-off sacrifice fly. He still had a 0-for-3 night, but at least he was able to drive in the winning run. Everyone knows that Desmond is due for a rebound, which means his second half numbers should be pretty good, so let’s hope this is the spark he needed to get going.
The Nats will go for the series sweep against the Braves this afternoon.