Jordan Zimmermann was looking to recreate fellow starter Gio Gonzalez’s success, though not with his pitching prowess.
In a 3-0 win over the Miami Marlins last week, Gonzalez hit a home run. Zimmermann wanted to answer with a solid swing of his own. Unfortunately for Zimmermann, he struck out twice during Washington’s 6-1 win that night.
“I tried to hit a home run to match Gio,” Zimmermann said.
The day could come when neither pitcher gets a chance at the plate. Now-daily interleague play has reignited the debate over whether the National League should institute the designated-hitter rule, which the American League adopted in 1973.
Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein recently told USA Today the AL has a “big advantage” over NL teams during interleague play and the World Series. He said he hopes the NL jumps on board with a DH.
Despite the offensive advantages a designated hitter brings, Nationals manager Davey Johnson is opposed to it.
“Baseball is a game of strategy,” Johnson said. “With the pitcher in the lineup, it’s also self-policing. I like the offense you can throw out there with the DH, but it’s more challenging to manage.”
The Nats host the Chicago White Sox this week, with the AL club having to adapt to NL rules. This means pitchers will hit with Johnson expecting White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn to play first base.
Nationals pitcher Dan Haren is in his sixth season with an NL club, but he’s played the other half of his career in the AL.
“I prefer the National League game,” Haren said. “I think there’s more strategy. With pitching around the pitcher, substitutions, double switches — I just think it keeps everyone on their toes, all 25 guys, really. I favor that.”
Haren acknowledged there could be 15 players with jobs on the line if the reverse happened and the AL eliminated the designated hitter. Even so, Haren prefers having pitchers hit.
“It keeps you in the game,” he said. “You always have to be aware of when you’re coming up to bat with what the situation calls for, whether it be a bunt or something else.”