In the seventh inning, Ohlendorf pitched the Nationals out of trouble. Leadoff hitter Andrew Brown reached on an error by Zimmerman. A sacrifice bunt moved Brown to second base. Ohlendorf coaxed a flyout to center from Juan Lagares and, after a coaching visit, walked Murphy. No one was warming in the bullpen and Ohlendorf’s pitch count stood at 113. Ohlendorf got David Wright to pop out to end the inning with his 114th pitch, the most he has thrown in a major league start in four years.
“He pitched his heart out,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He was basically out of gas in the last inning, but I had more confidence in him locating the ball and changing speeds to get through it.”
In the opener, the Nationals failed to capitalize on any momentum they might have gained from Thursday’s walk-off win against the Pirates. Zimmermann was far from his best, the offense did little and three relievers combined to allow six runs on seven hits. The Nationals looked lifeless, each inning feeling progressively worse.
Ryan Mattheus, in his first game back after missing more than two months with a self-inflicted broken right hand, allowed three runs on 43 pitches over 11
3 innings in relief of Zimmermann and Fernando Abad. An already dreadful game turned into wretchedness when Johnson curiously called on Storen, in the midst of the worst season of his young career, to relieve Mattheus in the ninth inning with one out.
In 10 pitches, Storen allowed three hits, including a three-run home run by Ike Davis. The pitching change was puzzling because before the game Johnson said that Storen was likely unavailable all day because he was battling the flu. But Storen improved enough to pitch, Johnson said. A few hours later, Johnson imformed Storen that he had been optioned to Syracuse to “get right mentally and mechanically.”
“This is what’s best for him,” Johnson added. “He’ll probably have a hard time coming to grips with that, but it is the best thing for him.”
Soriano, who replaced Storen as the closer this season, struggled in the ninth inning of the second game. The day before, he was yanked as he stumbled in a non-save situation, a game that was rescued by a walk-off homer by Bryce Harper. On Friday, he pitched around two men on with one out in a tie game.
With one out in the bottom of the inning, Zimmerman clobbered a fastball from LaTroy Hawkins into the right field seats, snapping a streak of 47 at-bats without an extra-base hit. Teammates mobbed Zimmerman at home plate and walked off the field victorious after a wild day of loss, disappointment and struggle.