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Zimmermann took the no-decision after allowing just one earned run, three hits and two walks in seven innings pitched. His only run allowed came on a Wil Nieves sacrifice fly in the second inning.
“I really hate for it to come on [Zimmermann], Zimm pitched a gem. It was hot out there and he gave a jewel out there, a heck of a game. It was one of the few times the bullpen hadn’t done a good job,” manager Davey Johnson said.
“They’ve been doing a great job all year. They’ve been having our backs in some tight situations all year,” Zimmermann said. “This one got away. We gotta move past it and focus on the second half.”
Johnson took Zimmermann out after the seventh inning even though he had thrown only 95 pitches. The Nats skipper said he didn’t even consider bringing his starter back for the eighth because of the heat and humidity.
Johnson decided to go with Sean Burnett to start the eighth inning, one of his best relievers who entered the day with a 1.52 ERA. Burnett was not his usual self, however, and failed to record an out before being replaced.
The Rockies sent Eric Young in to pinch-hit for pitcher Eric Belisle against Burnett and the result was not good. Young took a 2-1 sinker over the fence in left field for a solo home run.
Burnett then allowed consecutive singles to Dexter Fowler and Marco Scutaro, the second moving Fowler into scoring position at third. Johnson pulled Burnett for Michael Gonzalez who has also maintained a sub-2.00 ERA this season. Gonzalez struck out the first batter, but let a pitch get away from him with Tyler Colvin up. The wild pitch brought Fowler home and tied the game at three.
“Just wasn’t my day. I threw I think it was a sinker to the guy Young and it just cut. I think I pulled it middle-in and he didn’t miss it,” Burnett said. “Then I got a couple ground balls and they just happened to find a hole. Just one of those things it didn’t go my way today.”
Tyler Clippard came into to pitch the ninth in a tie game having not allowed a run in 20 straight appearances. He last gave up one up on May 16, a stretch of 19.1 innings pitched. Today was not Clippard’s day either as his first pitch was a double by Jordan Pacheco to left field. Jonathan Herrera then sacrificed Pacheco to third with a bunt as Jason Giambi came to the plate to pinch-hit. Clippard pulled a changeup against Giambi that got away from catcher Jhonatan Solano and Pacheco came home to score the go-ahead run.
“I can’t remember the last time I threw a wild pitch, so it was kind of frustrating to do it in that situation,” Clippard said. “What are you gonna go?”
The Nationals put up a fight in the bottom of the ninth by getting two runners on base. Ian Desmond, who had hit a two-run home run earlier in the fourth inning, led off with a single to left field. Roger Bernadina then draw a walk two batters later and both players got into scoring position by way of a double steal. Johnson pinch-hit catcher Jesus Flores who could was quickly retired with a three-pitch strikeout.
It was an unfortunate ending for the Nationals who have grown accustomed to stingy relief pitching and timely hitting at the end of games. The mood around the locker room, however, was that losing their final game before the break could be a blessing in disguise.
“Everything happens for a reason in this game. The ball never lies. This is a lesson. Hopefully we can come back and bounce back against the Marlins in a big division series,” Desmond said.
“I look at it as good timing. You know, I think you don’t ever want to get too comfortable or too confident out there so this is a little, maybe, check, for ourselves. We can kind of regroup and move forward with a new beginning in the second half,” Clippard said.