He attacked the Royals early with his fastball. Their aggressive bats poked singles through the infield, and he wanted to turn the aggression against them. He induced a double play from Billy Butler in the third on a change-up. The rest of the night, he threw more change-ups — and better change-ups — than he had all season.
“I had four pitches working,” Zimmermann said. “And when I have that going, it’s going to be a fun night to be out there.”
For the second straight night, the Nationals seized control in the fourth inning. Ryan Zimmerman led off with a walk, and Bryce Harper smacked his second hit off Royals starter Wade Davis, a single to right. Wilson Ramos lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, which gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead.
After Desmond flied to center, Davis had a chance to squirm out of the inning with the Nationals ahead by only one run. Royals Manager Ned Yost ordered an intentional walk of Adam LaRoche, who walked to the plate batting .200 since the all-star break. Yost preferred Davis face right-hander Tyler Moore, who had been recalled this week and started only because Werth couldn’t play.
“I would have walked him, too,” Moore said. “He’s a good hitter.”
Moore stroked a 1-1 curveball off the left-center field fence. Harper scored to make it 3-1. LaRoche could make it only to third. When Chad Tracy blooped a single to shallow left, the hitter Yost intentionally walked and the one who made him pay both scored. The Nationals led, 5-1.
Moore’s struggles this year twice earned him trips back to Class AAA Syracuse, but he has improved in his third stint, albeit in a microscopic sample. Moore added a single in the ninth, which made him 11 for 21 since he returned this week. In his recent stint in Syracuse, he fixed a timing issue with hitting coach Troy Gingrich. Moore loaded his hands earlier, giving him more time to recognize pitches.
“It’s kind of slowing the ball down a lot,” Moore said.
Desmond added his 18th home run in the sixth, even if Zimmermann didn’t need it. Reliever Fernando Abad needed to squirm out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, but in the ninth Johnson could finally relax. The Nationals’ own misdeeds this season have kept them out of a real pennant race, but they have played well enough lately to keep alive the chance they may yet creep into one.