Three homers help Nationals top Marlins, gain game
By Jacob Emert and Joe Frisaro
MLB.com |@JoeFrisaro |
WASHINGTON -- Backed by three home runs, including back-to-back blasts from Clint Robinson and Ian Desmond in the sixth inning, Jordan Zimmermann turned in seven strong innings in the Nationals' 5-1 series-tying victory against the Marlins on Saturday night.
Zimmermann, who improved to 11-8 with the win, scattered seven hits. Justin Bour's second-deck home run in the seventh was the only interruption in a string of zeros.
Coupled with the first-place Mets' loss to the Red Sox earlier on Saturday, the Nats cut their deficit in the National League East to 5 1/2 games.
"[He was] really good," manager Matt Williams said of Zimmermann. "Fastball velocity was really up the first three innings. He touched 96. [He] was really good. He's feeling good. He got us through seven. He gave up the homer, but at that point he was just going after guys."
Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler, who has dropped seven straight decisions, allowed Ryan Zimmerman's homer in the second, but had his team within two runs entering the sixth before Robinson's two-run shot, followed by Desmond's blast, on successive first pitches. Koehler was upset at himself, because he felt he allowed the Nationals to jump his first pitches.
"I started Clint off slow two out of three at-bats, so he was probably thinking maybe we're going to try to jump away a little bit," Koehler said. "He stayed on it and hammered it. They're well-aware of what my best breaking ball is. I've faced these guys a bunch. Desmond was probably looking for a pitch up, and [he] saw the spin. He handles breaking balls in the zone really well. As you can see, he crushed that one."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bour's big blast: The Nationals broke the game open with their back-to-back homers in the sixth, but Miami quickly chipped back a run and got on the board on Bour's blistered blast to right-center in the seventh. Statcast™ projected the drive to have landed an estimated 452 feet from home plate, with an exit velocity of 113 mph. Bour has 13 homers on the season, second on the club to Giancarlo Stanton's 27.
"He's making the most of an opportunity," manager Dan Jennings said. "He's getting that chance right now. It's good to see him put good swings on the ball." More >
See you later, times two: Holding a 2-0 lead, the Nationals got some breathing room in the sixth. With two outs and Anthony Rendon on first base, Robinson sent a deep home run to left-center field to double Washington's lead. On the very next pitch, Desmond caught a curveball right over the plate and hit his second home run in as many nights, a blast that landed a projected 447 feet from home plate, per Statcast™, on to the berm beyond the center-field wall. It was the second time this season that the Nationals hit back-to-back home runs.
"We've been hitting the ball better lately," Zimmerman said. "[Koehler] threw well for the first five innings or so and didn't make any mistakes. He finally left some balls over the plate and we put some good swings on them." More >
Bend, don't break: Miami had the opportunity to turn the seven hits off Zimmermann into a host of runs, but at every point the righty escaped, holding the Marlins to 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. He allowed back-to-back singles to start the fourth, but responded with a strikeout, groundout and flyout.
"If there is a guy on first or second or whatever, I'm trying to get a ground ball. Get a double play, some popups, just anything but hits," Zimmermann said. "I had guys on first and second, and obviously I'm trying to get a double play. When I got two strikes, I tried to go for the strikeout was able to get that. I was able to work around some stuff. It was a big start for me and a big win for us."
Koehler out at plate: Koehler, who had his first career multi-hit game, singled to right with two outs in the third inning. It put him in position to score the potential tying run. After Dee Gordon's double off the wall in right, Koehler advanced to third in what was then a one-run game. A big moment occurred when Zimmermann's pitch got away from catcher Wilson Ramos and went to the back wall. Koehler attempted to score, but he was tagged out at the plate, wiping out a chance for Miami to pull even at 1 on the wild pitch.
"I'm slow," Koehler said. "I probably shouldn't have gone. It was a ball that looked like it might have a chance to kick away. I don't know, I may have been a little over excited to be on the bases. Then Ichiro [Suzuki] leads off the next inning with a base hit. It could have been two runs and completely changed the game."
"I don't know about everybody else, but I do. That's who we're chasing in the playoff race. If I see that they lost and it's a chance for us to gain a game, I want that as badly as I do any other win. We saw it and it was a good opportunity for us to gain a game." -- Robinson, on knowing the Mets' result before the game
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Zimmerman's homer off Koehler to lead off the second inning was the 25th of his career against the Marlins, his most against any team. He also has 83 RBIs against Miami, his second-most against a division rival. The Washington first baseman has 88 career RBIs against Atlanta.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: In the series finale on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET, Brad Hand (4-3, 4.23 ERA) will make his ninth start and 33rd appearance of the season. The lefty is 0-5 (7.71) in 32 2/3 innings in his career against the Nationals.
Nationals:Stephen Strasburg will start for Washington in Sunday's matinee. Strasburg (8-6, 4.14) is 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA, 32 strikeouts and three walks since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 8.
Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.