Keeping up with the Zimmerman(n)s
Written by Mike Laws
Keeping up with the Zimmerman(n)s
Davis’s twin blasts — on T-shirt night! — power O’s in epic comeback
Washington 6, Orioles 9
Go ahead, admit it: You turned this game off after the fifth. It’s OK. Maybe the dog needed walking. Maybe the recycling was piling up. That term paper wasn't gonna write itself. You wanted to hit Jimmy John's before they put the chairs up for the night. The kids were hollering for a bedtime story. The wife wanted attention.
It's OK. We get it. This certainly looked like a good candidate for giving up on: the rare game this high-octane O’s offense wasn’t gonna be able to get itself back into. Jordan Zimmermann was dealing. Ryan Zimmerman had just belted his third homer. Chris Tillman’s evening was at an end. Hell, even Roger Bernadina had gone yard again. The score was 6-2, and nothing was going the Oriole way …
But if that was the case, and you gave in to Facebook’s siren beck and call (or whatever it was that pulled you away) — well, we’d be willing to bet you’re kicking yourself now.
The bullet points!
- We’ll start with the ugly stuff. No, Tillman didn’t have it tonight. The big right-hander and de facto Baltimore ace notched a pair of outs to start things off before surrendering the first of R. Zimmerman’s three bombs, a blast into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center. 1-0. And while Tillman appeared to settle, through the second and third, facing the minimum six hitters through those frames — and while his team drew level on the strength of a two-out Ryan Flaherty double, cashing in on Chris Davis, who’d singled and taken third on Matt Wieters’s subsequent base-knock — the Nats struck again in the fourth. Bernadina homered to right. Zimmerman homered to center (a mammoth shot, straightaway, into the batter’s-eye grass). 3-1, Washington. Yes, Davis led off the Oriole half with his own long ball, a drive into the bleachers in right-center off a 3-2 payoff, which brought the Birds back to within a run and sent the crowd into a Crush Davis T-shirt-waving frenzy, but the Nationals would respond in kind. With one away in the fifth, Danny Espinosa reached on an infield single, taking second on a rare miscue from shortstop J.J. Hardy. Denard Span stroked a double. 4-2. And then, with two away, Zimmerman homered again, slapping a 1-2 Tillman offering the other way, just to the lee side of the out-of-town scoreboard in right. 6-2. Tillman would face just one subsequent Nats batsman, coughing up a single to Adam LaRoche and giving way to Steve Johnson …
- Who, laudably, kept the margin to those four runs. Johnson walked the first hitter he faced, Ian Desmond, threatening to really blow this thing wide open, then proceeded to ground Tyler Moore out to (finally) retire the side — and summarily dispatched the next six Nationals he’d face, through the sixth and seventh. He couldn’t have known it at the time, but Johnson’s master class in mixing speeds would wind up putting him in line for the W …
- Because, despite appearances — not to mention facing the daunting challenge of going toe-to-toe with arguably the NL’s best pitcher, up to this point in the season — the Oriole bats weren’t going down without a fight. Nick Markakis got the chipping-away started, leading off the bottom of the sixth with yet another dinger to right-center. 6-3. And though the Birds would go quietly through the remainder of that frame, they’d finally really break through against (J.) Zimmermann in the seventh. Flaherty (who’s apparently seen enough of triple-A, thank you) led things off with a single to center — after which Steve Pearce punished a hanging 2-1 breaking ball, lofting the pitch up and out to left, bouncing it off the top of the wall and into the stands. 6-5, and the crowd’s back in it. But can they do it without the long ball? They can. Nate McLouth slapped an 0-2 pitch back through the box, ticking it off Zimmermann, who couldn’t locate the baseball in time to retire the fleet Baltimore left fielder. So that’s two in, one aboard, no one out. Good time for a little small-ball, perhaps? Try and manufacture this tie run? Hmm … well … naaaahhhh. Manny Machado, too, fell to 0-2 before scorching a liner over short and into the gap in left-center, bringing McLouth charging all the way around from first and in ahead of the relay. And we were, all of a sudden, knotted at 6. Holy … But no time to pat ourselves on the back. Greeting Washington reliever Tyler Clippard, Markakis again came through in the clutch, rolling a single back over the pitcher’s mound and into center. 7-6, O’s: the first lead of the night. Clippard got Adam Jones to fly out to left, just missing another home run, and while Markakis would tag up and take an aggressive extra bag — narrowly edging a strong throw from Moore via headfirst slide — Davis decided he didn’t care where that runner was. Not on T-shirt night! His second blast of the evening (on an 0-2 fastball tailing high and away, which he appeared to have connected with off the end of the bat, yanking it out of the park to right-center) meant that Davis had now gone 4-4, with three runs scored and three driven in. Oh, and that the score was now 9-6, Orioles. Clearly, this guy should feature in more promotions …
- And so now it was a matter of the bullpen preserving the cushion. Tommy Hunter did his part, sandwiching a fly-out to center between two swinging strikeouts to retire the side in order in the eighth. Dude looked straight-up dominant; you had to love the way, after failing to get the favorable third-strike call on a fastball that probably painted the corner low and away, Hunter shook it off and delivered one of his dirty (literally) sliders, tempting Moore into chasing. And while the Orioles would fail to plate another run in their half (despite McLouth’s infield single and stolen base), which kept the lead at three and thus turned things over to the suddenly mercurial Jim Johnson, the closer — thankfully — looked right as rain, inducing a quick line-out to Davis before ringing up Kurt Suzuki on a nasty slider dropped in on the hands, then fanning Espinosa, too, to pick up the save and put a point on another monumentally satisfying come-from-behind victory. (Which, by the way, MASN is thoughtfully re-airing at 9 a.m. Thursday. Go on ahead, fire up the TiVo. The garbage can wait. Your term paper looks fine. None of us will judge.)
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