In a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels before 35,257, the Nationals managed three hits and hit the ball into the outfield just six times against Dan Haren and a pair of relievers, wasting what might have been the best start of Zimmermann’s career — “one of the better games I’ve ever seen pitched,” said Manager Davey Johnson, who’s only been in the majors in some capacity for four decades. Zimmermann pitched past the seventh for the first time, throwing a four-hit, eight-inning complete game without allowing an earned run.
Following the game, Johnson walked to the middle of the Nationals’ clubhouse and announced, “You guys win games, and I lose them.” He had taken over a team that had won 13 of 15 games. After the Angels swept Johnson’s first three games, the Nationals dropped back to below .500, 40-41, at the season’s halfway point.
“I loved this team from spring training and I love them even more now,” Johnson said. “It’s a good ballclub. We’ve just got a few things we’ve got to straighten out and we’ll be fine. This was a tough series.”
After Ryan Zimmerman doubled down the right field line in the top of the ninth, the Nationals pushed the tying run to third base against closer Jordan Walden. But Michael Morse swung through a chest-high, 100-mph fastball that zipped through tough shadows, sealing the Nationals’ 11th shutout of the season, achieved with a starting lineup lacking four regulars because of minor injuries.
The conditions hindered both offenses. Trying to discern pitches through late-afternoon shadows, neither scored an earned run. Jerry Hairston could not pick up one of Haren’s two-seam fastballs before it drilled him in the hand and broke a bone just above his wrist. He called playing at this time of day, “irresponsible.”
“As a hitter, you see the fastball well,” designated hitter Matt Stairs said. “But there were some shadows. It’s tough hitting. It’s tough to see the rotation. If you ask everybody, it’s not really a comfortable at-bat. It was the same on both sides. They didn’t square any balls up very well, and we didn’t, either. One, we give credit to the pitching. Two, we give credit to the sunlight. But no excuses.”
The Angels scored their only run without a hit. In the fourth, Zimmermann issued a leadoff walk to Bobby Abreu, his only walk of the game. Vernon Wells followed with a chopper to third. Zimmerman charged from third base, scooped the ball and whipped a quick sidearm throw to Danny Espinosa at second.