Sunday, September 21, 2014

Game of the Day (9/20/14)

Nationals 3, Marlins 2. Washington's Jordan Zimmermann, who has pitched roughly like an ace for the last 3 or 4 years, took on Miami's Jarred Cosart, who has pitched roughly like an ace since being acquired from the Astros at the trade deadline.

Cosart allowed singles to Denard Span and Jayson Werth in the first, but Adam LaRoche hit into a double play to end the threat. Miami then took the lead in the bottom of the inning when Christian Yelich, Casey McGehee, and Justin Bour singled. Washington picked up two more singles (by Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos) in the second and a Span walk in the third, but double plays ended both of those innings as well; Zimmermann was spotless in the bottom halves of each.

Werth led off the top of the fourth with a single, and Ian Desmond walked behind him, but Werth was then caught stealing third and Zimmerman grounded out to strand Desmond. The Marlins extended their lead in the bottom of the inning when Reed Johnson doubled and Span and Zimmermann both committed throwing errors that allowed him to come around and score. Cosart threw his first perfect inning in the top of the fifth, then singled and was stranded in the bottom half. Werth singled and was also left on in the sixth, and Zimmermann retired the Marlins in order in the bottom of the inning.

In the top of the seventh, the Nationals struck. Desmond led off the inning with a single, and Zimmerman tripled him home. Ramos grounded to third, with Zimmerman getting thrown out at home, but Asdrubal Cabrera then tripled to bring Ramos around with the tying run. Mike Dunn relieved Cosart and Bryce Harper hit for Zimmermann and grounded out, but Span then singled to bring Cabrera in and put Washington in front. Rendon singled before Chris Hatcher retired Werth to end the inning.

Aaron Barrett was flawless in the bottom of the seventh, and Desmond's double made him the only runner to reach in either half of the eighth, which was worked by Hatcher and Tyler Clippard, respectively. Carter Capps set the Nats down in order in the ninth, and Drew Storen took the mound in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Marcell Ozuna and Bour singled, putting the tying run at third, but pinch hitter Garrett Jones then grounded into a game-ending double play.

The breaks in this game mostly favored Miami. Washington went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, hit into three double plays, had one runner caught stealing and another thrown out at home, and gifted the Marlins a run with a two-error play. It was a game that most teams would have lost - but the Nationals still came out on top. Their pitching was excellent, allowing 7 hits, no walks, and only one earned run among the two that Miami scored. Their hitting was balanced and effective, as seven of their eight starting position players had at least one hit, and four had two or more.

If you can manage that sort of comprehensive performance consistently, you're usually a very good team. And that's just what the Nationals have been this year - the NL's best, in fact.

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