After Jordan Zimmermann’s stellar performance and an unusual outpouring of support for him, the Nationals had another series victory in their back pocket, 6 for 6 this year. They have a 14-4 record, the best start in Washington baseball history, matched only by the 1932 Senators. This laid-back victory put all the others — 13 decided by four runs or fewer, eight decided by two or one — in perspective.
“Not that we can lay down late in the game,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “But it’s nice to know every pitch, every play isn’t a potential loss. If we keep flirting with these one- and two-run games, one pitch, one base hit and we can lose. It hasn’t happened. And it’s been awesome.”
If the Nationals wanted to add another nip-and-tuck win, Zimmermann made it possible. He allowed one run in six innings on four hits and no walks to go with six strikeouts, which actually raised his ERA to 1.33, which ranks no better than third among Nationals starters.
“For me, I always want to try to do better than the guy before,” Zimmermann said. That would not be a problem on most staffs. But he follows Gio Gonzalez, who has a 20-inning scoreless streak. And Gonzalez follows Stephen Strasburg.
Before he allowed a home run in the fifth, Zimmermann extended the Nationals’ starting rotation’s scoreless streak to 26 innings, their longest such stretch since baseball returned to Washington. In 14 of 18 games this season, their starters have allowed two or fewer earned runs.
“They’re trying to compete against each other when they’re going out there,” Johnson said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
The difference Wednesday was, without Ryan Zimmerman but against the rancid Padres (5-14), the Nationals didn’t need a great start. LaRoche went 3 for 3 with a walk, raising his on-base percentage to over .400 while producing his team-leading 14th RBI. The Nationals turned a one-run game into a blowout with a four-run seventh, paced by Wilson Ramos’s two-run, bases-loaded single.
The Nationals could lose Zimmerman for another week. They have played all season without cleanup hitter Michael Morse and closer Drew Storen. It hasn’t mattered.
“Whatever adversity is thrown at us, it seems like we’re handling it pretty well,” shortstop Ian Desmond said.
Wednesday, the Nationals afforded Zimmermann the unknown luxury of early run support. In his first three outings, the Nationals scored one run while Zimmerman was still in the game. In the second inning, LaRoche and Rick Ankiel both doubled down the right-field line for the game’s first run.