ST. LOUIS -- Having watched Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman tee off against his pitchers for three straight days, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wanted little to do with him as he stepped to the plate with the potential go-ahead run in scoring position in the eighth inning on Wednesday. And yet the player the Cardinals had no intention of letting beat them still did just that.
A pitch that was supposed to lure Zimmerman out of his comfort zone was instead laced down the right-field line to cap his sensational series and send the Cardinals to a 4-3 loss. It also left Matheny to answer one burning question: Why pitch to Zimmerman at all?
"We're not trying to give him anything to hit," Matheny said. "We're trying for a strikeout off the plate, and it didn't work."
Zimmerman stepped up having already homered twice off Tyler Lyons on Wednesday. Add that to his production from the first two games of the series, and he was 6-for-13 with four homers and seven RBIs since arriving.
Reliever Jonathan Broxton had first base open after Anthony Rendon singled and moved up 90 feet on a sacrifice. The Cardinals chose not to intentionally walk Zimmerman, instead hoping to bait him into swinging at pitches off the plate. Matheny also hoped that Zimmerman's splits -- he entered the day with an unimposing .211/.280/380 slash line against right-handers -- would work in their favor.
Zimmerman worked the count to 2-2 while Broxton received his instructions from the dugout.
"When we got to two strikes in that situation, it was communicated that we're going to try to get a swing off the plate," Matheny said. "Let's try to expand the zone."
Broxton's 87-mph slider, however, caught the outer part of the plate, and Zimmerman slapped it down the line for an RBI double. It was his third go-ahead RBI of the night -- and this one stuck.
Zimmerman finished the season series 12-for-27 against Cardinals pitching.