>>> Ryan Zimmerman does not pinch-hit often, but he had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to do Sunday in the eighth inning, when he interrupted his day off with his second pinch-hit appearance of the season. Danny Espinosa stood on second base with two outs, the Nationals down by a run, and on the mound was fire-balling Aroldis Chapman.
“That guy throws 200 miles per hour,” Zimmerman said. “So I’m looking fastball, from the first pitch to the last pitch. Pinch-hitting, I haven’t done it much. Against a guy like that, obviously he’s going to come after you. I’m just looking for a fastball.”
Zimmerman took a 100-mile-per-fastball for ball one. Chapman fired another aspirin tablet, 98 miles per hour. Zimmerman stroked a line drive to right-center. Third base coach Bo Porter windmilled Espinosa home, and he slid in just before Drew Stubbs’s throw arrived home. On second base, Zimmerman looked into the dugout and made one big clap.
If he can play, Zimmerman rarely starts the game on the bench. But whenever the situation has arisen, he has been an outstanding pinch-hitter. In his career, Zimmerman is 5 for 14 with six RBIs, two doubles, a homer and a walk.
“It’s tough,” Zimmerman said. “It’s definitely not easy to do. If it’s a good situation for me to go up there and I have the day but I’m available, definitely. I’m down, ready to do it every time.”
>>> Ian Desmond led off the ninth with a sharp single to right of Reds reliever Nick Masset, one of his three hits in the game. He took his lead, trying to time Masset’s delivery to see if he could break a strange streak on the bases.
Desmond had stolen 20 bases by June 17 this season, at which point he ranked among the league leaders. In the 60 games since, Desmond had not stolen any bases while getting thrown out six times.
He decided it would be the right time to steal again. With Jayson Werth batting, Desmond bolted for second and easily swiped the base. Werth would follow with an RBI single, a chance created by Desmond’s steal.
>>> Tom Gorzelanny entered with one out in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, and he set an apt tone for the Nationals’ bullpen: it delivered in a difficult situation.
Gorzelanny escaped the jam by inducing a grounder to first by Joey Votto and striking out Jay Bruce. The rest of the bullpen, aside from two pitches that cost the Nationals the game, followed suit.
After Jordan Zimmermann lasted only 4 1/3 innings, all seven relievers who began the day in the Nationals’ bullpen pitched, combining to allow two runs over 8 2/3 innings. The only runs scored on solo homers, one allowed by closer Drew Storen in the ninth that tied the game, the other by Collin Balester in the 14th, the game-loser.
Henry Rodriguez stood out, throwing a scoreless 10th and 11th innings, striking out two. Balester pitched well despite his disappointing finish, pitching two scoreless innings.