In the 10th inning this afternoon, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson had uncommon luxury that carried with it an uncommon problem. The Phillies were intentionally walking Danny Espinosa to pitch to Jesus Flores. At his disposal, since it was the first game of a September doubleheader, Johnson had Ryan Zimmerman. He just couldn’t locate him.
“With all these batting cages around here,” Johnson said, “it’s hard to find people.”
Johnson finally tracked him down. Zimmerman went into the game and did what he usually does on the rare occasions he pinch-hits: he helped win the game. Zimmerman flared a Michael Stutes slider into center field, scoring Michael Morse with the game-winning of the Nationals’ 4-3 victory over the Phillies.
Zimmerman is 6 for 15 as a pinch-hitter with 7 RBIs, two homers, a double and a walk. Here’s the thing: He doesn’t even like pinch-hitting.
“I don’t have a lot of experience with it,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think I like it. It’s hard. You sit around all day and then come in. It’s not very easy.”
Why, then, has he been so good at it? The main reason is that he’s just plain good – “he can hit,” Johnson said.
“I have no idea,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think I have enough of a sample size to really say I’m really good or bad at it. I don’t see myself doing it a lot, hopefully.”
This afternoon, Zimmerman found himself in a 1-1 count. Stutes threw him a low, 82-mph slider that dove well below his knees – “a good pitch” Zimmerman said. Zimmerman eased his bat through the zone and hit a soft line drive for a single to center, another pinch-hit for Zimmerman.
“I think it definitely take a certain kind of person to do it and be good at it,” Zimmerman said. “The more experience you have with it, the better you get. It’s not something I would want to do. I think that would be a hard way to play. It’s a tough little routine.”
If anyone has proved that, it’s Jonny Gomes. Today, Gomes pinch-hit and struck out looking, which dropped him this season to an incredible 0 for 27 with 17 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter this year. Fortunately for Gomes, he is starting tonight. Right now, he’d probably rather face Cliff Lee as a starter than any pitcher in the pinch.