Since Matt Williams became the manager, the Nationals are not known for hitting the long ball. They are aggressive on the bases and are willing to do the little things to get the run across. But on Friday, the team clubbed six home runs, four of them against Felix Hernandez, who is considered the best pitcher in the American League. It helped that the Nationals laid off of Hernandez's changeup.
"They were aggressive with Felix. They got some balls up in the zone to hit. It's a big ballpark. You don't expect that in a park like this," Williams said. "But then, we put some good swings on it."
In his previous eight Interleague starts, Hernandez was 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 66 strikeouts. He was hittable against the Nationals and it started in the first inning. Anthony Rendon was the second batter of the game and swung at the first pitch he saw from Hernandez and smacked a home run over the left-center-field wall. Rendon ended up going 4-for-4 and continues to show that he is one of the most valuable players on the team.
"We knew he loved his changeup," Rendon said. "He gets a lot of swings and misses. You see the ball up and try to put a good swing on it."
But the Mariners ended up taking a 2-1 lead against right-hander Jordan Zimmermann in the bottom of the inning. Kendrys Morales singled passed first baseman Adam LaRoche, scoring Dustin Ackley to tie the score at 1. Kyle Seager reached base on an infield single as Robinson Cano scored the go-ahead run.
Zimmermann ended up throwing 32 pitches in the first inning, but settled down and pitched six innings, allowing the two runs on seven hits and striking out eight batters. Seattle had chances to score more runs in the third and fifth innings. In the third, Seattle had runners on first and third and one out, but Zimmermann struck out Kyle Seager and Mark Zunino to end the threat.
Two innings later, the Mariners had runners on first and second, but Morales and Seager popped up to end the threat.
"I don't know that he made a whole lot of adjustments. In the first couple innings, we hit some balls hard. He kept pouring it in the strike zone, that's what he does. That's typically his outing," said Mariners interim manager Trent Jewett about Zimmermann. "He's going to keep coming after you, and he did it again tonight. I thought we hit the ball well as a unit, we had a chance to capitalize and put some big numbers up."
But the Mariners didn't. Zimmermann ended up winning his 10th game of the season. It marked the third year in a row Zimmermann has won at least 10 games.
"I was a little strong in the first and second inning. The fastball is up and I couldn't get it down," Zimmermann said. "I think throwing that many pitches helped me a little bit. I got a little tired. I was able to keep the fastball down after that. It was one of those games I had to battle the whole game. Nothing came easy. I was in a few jams, but I made the pitches to get out of them. These guys gave me some runs early and I was able to settle in."
The home run derby began in earnest in the third inning for Washington. After Rendon walked with one out, Jayson Werth homered over the center-field wall on an 0-1 pitch to give Washington a 3-2 lead.
An inning later, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos took Hernandez deep to make it a 5-2 game. It was the first time Hernandez allowed four home runs in a game. Hernandez left the game after allowing five runs on 10 hits and striking out only one batter over seven innings.
Of all the homers that Hernandez gave up, Desmond's bomb may have been the most impressive. He was behind in the count, 0-2. Eight pitches later, the count was 2-2, when he clubbed his 22nd home run of the season.
"It was a tough day. I couldn't get out of the middle of the plate the first four innings," Hernandez said. "I was up and I got crushed."
Mariners left-hander Joe Beimel took over in the eighth inning and allowed consecutive home runs to Bryce Harper and Ramos to make it a five run-game. For Harper, it was the 50th home run of his career.
"The end result was the amount of homers that we hit. You can't figure these things out sometimes," Werth said.