The worst start of Zimmermann’s career doubled as perhaps these Nationals’ ugliest day. They were outhit 15-4 and trailed by eight runs after the fourth inning. In the ninth, as lightning flashed beyond half-empty Nationals Park, reliever Fernando Abad walked a Dodgers relief pitcher to load the bases. Afterward, they still held tight to the belief they can be great.
“I think at any moment, this team could take off,” Werth said. “But I’m not going to get into the doom-and-gloom stuff, because we’ve got way too many games to play. I believe in this team. I’ve said it from the beginning. We got a long way to go. We’ll be fine. We’re a good team.”
They certainly could be a good team in 64 remaining games. At the moment, they are a 48-50 team that has lost eight of 10. Despite the thoroughness of the defeat, the Nationals’ standing in the National League East remained the same, seven games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Braves and second-place Phillies also fell, so all they lost was a day on the calendar. By all appearances and indications, the Nationals have maintained a harmonious clubhouse and, despite occasionally lacking fundamentals, an appropriate focus.
“There’s a good attitude,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I’m the one that’s frustrated. I’m the one that has trouble sleeping. I’m feeling like we’re going to be fine.”
“I feel that guys each day are coming, giving their all for that game,” said reliever Ross Ohlendorf, who saved the Nationals’ bullpen with six solid relief innings. “I expect us to start reeling off a bunch of wins. A lot of us have played enough where we’ve gotten in the routine of forgetting the games you had before and focusing on the game you’ve got that day.”
On Saturday night, as the Nationals bungled scoring countless scoring opportunities in a 3-1 loss, the Nationals Park crowd hurled frequent boos. On Sunday, they sat in stunned silence. They had never seen Zimmermann absorb such a beating or experience the indignity of an exit after the second inning.
As the Dodgers drilled Zimmermann, Johnson worried about the lingering neck stiffness Zimmermann has pitched through for much of the season. That was actually the best news the Nationals could cull from the afternoon. Zimmermann said his neck felt “awesome” and “the best I’ve felt in a while.”