The runs came from all over baseball’s most balanced lineup. There was nowhere for Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Gavin Floyd to turn for relief save his counterpart, Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann.
There was the monster home run by Bryce Harper, a laser that smashed into the seats in the second deck in right field. There were RBI singles by Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman. Even No. 7 hitter Danny Espinosa ripped an RBI double into the right-field corner and No. 8 batter Kurt Suzuki drove home a run with a single of his own. It all added up to Washington’s 5-2 victory over Chicago at Nationals Park.
“There’s no real way to go through our lineup and relax at all,” Desmond said. “Some teams you might be able to do that a little bit. But you can never take a breath against us. It’s one right after the other.”
The Nats (6-2) remained unbeaten at home this season. And Zimmermann was plenty good on his own. He pitched seven strong innings against Chicago with two runs allowed, both on RBI ground outs. In all he forced 11 ground outs and three more infield flies to go with four strikeouts. Zimmermann didn’t walk a batter, either. He threw 90 pitches
With the umpiring crew late to the game thanks to the District’s traffic woes during peak Cherry Blossom season – plus an immigration rally on the Mall – Zimmermann easily shook off a 15-minute delay before the game started. Zimmermann had a heads up that the crew would be late and said he wasn’t bothered at all. No Washington pitcher possesses the low-key personality to deal with that annoyance better.
“No, I had plenty enough time. They let me know pretty early and said be prepared to sit around a little bit,” Zimmermann said. “I sat around.”
Desmond doubled his first two times up and then tripled in the sixth off Floyd, an Annapolis native and Mount St. Joseph’s graduate. He also scored two runs, including on Espinosa’s sixth-inning double. Floyd retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced, but ran into immediate trouble in the fourth when a first-pitch fastball to Harper was sent screaming into the seats for a solo homer to tie the game 1-1. That seemed to open the floodgates. Suzuki drove in Desmond later that frame. Zimmerman’s RBI single to right came in the fifth inning. Espinosa and Span drove in runs in the sixth to make it 5-2 Washington.
That was more than enough for Zimmermann, who stuck with his fastball most of the night and broke several White Sox bats with inside pitches. And when he had to mix in off-speed pitches they were sharp, too.
“Very rarely last year did I take [Zimmermann] over 100 [pitches],” Nats manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s usually very pitch efficient. I’ll go further with him, but he had that long delay going into the seventh. I’m just not gonna push him at that point. I got the people I want coming in [from the bullpen].”
Indeed, reliever Drew Storen allowed just a single in the eight and closer Rafael Soriano did the same in the ninth en route to his fourth save as he showed no ill effects from his minor leg injury suffered Saturday in Cincinnati. Johnson noted that none of his relievers are as sharp as they need to be yet.
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