Ryan Zimmerman wasn’t exactly laughing when his ninth-inning line drive somehow landed in the glove of Mets outfielder Mike Baxter. At the time his team was down 2-0 and a leadoff double would have put serious pressure on New York’s shaky bullpen.
Yet as the ball drove towards the right-field corner and the big crowd at National Park roared, something seemed off: Baxter was gaining ground on it. It’s not like the tying run was on base. It’s not like Zimmerman is a notorious opposite-field hitter. He’s far more likely to drive something into right-center. But Baxter was playing both deep and towards the line and made a sweet running catch before banging up against the fence. The crowd groaned in shock. Michael Morse then struck out and Adam LaRoche grounded out to first base to end it.
“Yeah, I have no idea where [Baxter] was playing or why he was playing there,” a baffled Zimmerman said. “2-0. I don’t know why you would play no doubles. Good catch, but I really don’t know why he was there. But he got me out so it worked.”
It was that kind of night for the Nats. There were several balls that appeared hit hard enough to go for extra bases or maybe even a home run off starter Jon Niese. And yet all of them died on the warning track. It happened to Morse. It happened to Jayson Werth. It happened earlier in the game to Zimmerman. Washington’s batters just couldn’t square the barrel of the bat against Niese, who pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings.
Nats manager Davey Johnson said it was Niese’s sweeping cutter that gave his hitters trouble all night. Zimmerman said he thought it was Niese using his curve ball more. Either way, if that ninth-inning smash would have just fallen in both men felt like a rally was in order. Not on this night.
“Hit a line drive that would have hit the wall right on the foul line and [Baxter] doesn’t even have to dive to catch it,” Zimmerman said. He wasn’t any less confused.
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