It’s easy to cast extra significance onto one of 162 regular season games in the wake of a memorable win, but Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies felt like perhaps the most memorable — or at least one of the most notable wins — this year given the circumstances.
Ross Ohlendorf, who signed with the Nationals this offseason after one season with the San Diego Padres, hadn’t pitched in a major league game in nearly 10 months. He was brought straight from Class AAA Syracuse to face a high-scoring offense in a hitter-friendly stadium. He had a 4.27 ERA in Syracuse. The Nationals sat at 31-32. Welcome back to the majors, Ohlendorf.
The right-hander delivered. He held the Rockies to two hits and one run over six innings. When he walked off the mound, after massaging a high and deep fly out of Troy Tulowitzki, and handed his team a 4-1 lead after six innings. His performance was impressive enough for Manager Davey Johnson to declare after the game that Ohlendorf would stick around longer than one day.
Stephen Strasburg will throw a bullpen session on Thursday morning ahead of his anticipated return to the rotation on Sunday. Johnson hinted that Ohlendorf would remain around until at least then as insurance for Strasburg should he suffer any setbacks in his return from a strained lat.
“He was excited to be here and I’m really excited he’s here,” Johnson said. “An outstanding effort and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.”
Before the season started, it would have been hard to foresee Ohlendorf guiding the Nationals to a win in early June given their vaunted starting rotation. But now, after a rash of injuries and fate, Ohlendorf had earned his keep after spending two months in the minor leagues waiting for his chance.
“It can’t be easy,” Ian Desmond said. “I know he was hungry to get back to the big leagues. He’s been in the big leagues. He’s tasted it and all the other stuff. After the rainout the other day, where he was supposed to be in the big leagues, back up here [Saturday] and got pushed back, I’m sure a little emotion set in there and to come up and deliver. That’s the outing we’ve been needing all year long. To hold the Rockies at home. All their guys are hot. He did an unbelievable job.”
Other notes from the victory:
>>> Ohlendorf said his wind-up delivery was originally the idea of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan when both were the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kerrigan suggested that Ohlendorf employ the old school-looking windup while he played catch to help loosen up. Ohlendorf did it and tweaked it, adopting it full-time as his delivery this season.
“Just that extra movement really helped,” he said. “This year I just decided to try to do the fully thing in the game. My only hesitation was I didn’t know if I would tip my pitches but I haven’t been … It helps me, gives me rhythm and it helps me stay loose and the ball has been coming out well pitching that way.”
>>> An unusual but funny statistic emerged from Ohlendorf’s start: the Nationals became the first team in major league history to use two players who employ the name Ross in the same season. (Ohlendorf goes by Ross even though Curtis is his first name and Ross is his middle name.).
Ohlendorf said he turned to Ross Detwiler on the bench during the game to point out how unusual it was that two pitchers named Ross would start back-to-back games. Ohlendorf also remembered an interesting nugget: Detwiler’s first major league start back on May 18, 2009 against the Pirates featured two starting pitchers named Ross; Ohlendorf was the opposing starter that game, and won.
>>> The Nationals drew a season-high eight walks. Yes, they drew eight walks in one game. After a recent stretch in which they drew only five walks in seven games, the offense has been more patient of late. They have now drawn 20 walks in the past four games. A week ago, they were last in the majors in on-base percentage. This recent stretch has pushed them to 27th.
>>> It’s hard not to overstate how well Desmond has played recently. He is riding a 14-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .358 (19 for 53) with six extra base hits, 11 RBI and three walks. He also hasn’t committed an error in the field since April 21, a streak of 45 errorless game and the longest such streak among current major league shortstops.
“He’s been playing great, outstanding,” Johnson said.
Desmond had struggled with runners in scoring position this season. With runners in scoring position and two outs, Desmond entered Wednesday’s game hitting .179 with six RBI. During the game, he delivered a two-out, two-run single in the sixth.
“I’m trying to stay even keel, control the emotions a little bit,” Desmond said. “Early on, I was struggling in runners in scoring position situations. Thank God they keep on giving me opportunities and as long as they keep on coming I’m going to keep on trying to grind through them.”
>>> And in another occurrence unexpected before the season began, Ohlendorf was relieved in the seventh inning by Ian Krol, the 22-year-old left-hander who the Nationals acquired in the Michael Morse trade and called up from Class AA Harrisburg last week.
Krol pitched a perfect seventh inning, his fourth scoreless appearance since his call-up. He sat down two left-handed batters he faced — Todd Helton and Tyler Colin — on eight total pitches, making them look uncomfortable with his well-spotted, low 90s fastball.
The recent additions of Krol, fellow left-handed reliever Fernando Abad and the bat of infielder Anthony Rendon have, in their brief time, already provided a boost. Krol and Abad have combined to post a 0.00 ERA and allowed only five hits in 12 1/3 innings.
>>> Since his second call-up, Rendon is hitting .375 (9 for 24) with four doubles and four RBI, including two hits on Wednesday. Johnson admitted before the game he had considered moving Rendon higher up in the lineup, perhaps the No. 2 spot, but liked Rendon’s bat lower where it is now.
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was off.
Harrisburg 2, Richmond 1: Ryan Tatusko gave up one run, none earned, on four hits and walked four over seven innings. Aaron Barrett logged his 10th save and his ERA is down to 2.42. Steve Souza Jr. and Destin Hood each added two hits. Souza hit his sixth homer of the year.
Potomac 13, Carolina 11: The Nationals used six pitches. Only Richie Mirowski and Rob Wort didn’t allow any earned runs. Caleb Ramsey went 5 for 6 with four RBI. Michael Taylor drove in two runs.
Hagerstown 10, Hickory 3 (7): Brett Mooneyham allowed one run on two hits over five innings. Shawn Pleffner went 3 for 4 and Will Piwnica-Worms finished 2 for 4 with two RBI. Wilmer Difo hit a three-run home run.
Hagerstown 6, Hickory 5: The Suns used six pitchers in the win. Five players collected at least two hits. Shawn Pleffner and Will Piwnica-Worms each drove in his 24th run.