By Rich Dubroff
Jordan Zimmermann’s last three starts have been special, and on Sunday, his excellent outing gave the Nationals a three-game sweep over the defending world champions.
Zimmerman pitched seven solid innings, and Wilson Ramos slammed a tie-breaking homer as the Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants 3-1 before 33,157 at Nationals Park on Sunday night.
Zimmermann (7-5) won his third straight, and so did the Nationals (45-37).
He allowed just three hits, walked one and struck out eight, equaling his season high. In his last four starts, Zimmermann has struck out 25 and walked only two.
“The last three starts, he’s been amazing. All the pitches were good,” Ramos said.
Zimmermann gave up first-inning singles to Angel Pagan and Buster Posey, and other than a fourth-inning home run to Brandon Crawford on a 3-0 pitch, he gave the reeling Giants nothing.
“First couple of innings, I was up in the zone. The first inning, they had a couple of hits, and I had to settle down and make some pitches, and I was able to do that,” Zimmermann said.
“Tonight was one of those were I didn’t have very many first pitch strikes, and fell behind. I was battling for the most part. I was able to get some big outs when I needed to.”
Washington’s pitching has been outstanding. In the last 15 games, they’ve allowed just 29 runs.
“Our pitchers have done well, especially at home, and that’s where it starts,” manager Matt Williams said. “Starters go out there and give up one run, we have a really good chance of winning the ballgame.”
The Nationals were fortunate to catch San Francisco (42-41) going south. The Giants have lost six straight.
San Francisco’s highlight was challenged home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi ejecting both starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong and manager Bruce Bochy in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes.
The Nationals, despite losing Stephen Strasburg to the disabled list, had lots to celebrate. Bryce Harper was named to the National League All-Star team for the second time as a starter and set a league record for most votes.
In the bottom of the second, Vogelsong walked Ramos and Danny Espinosa. Both advanced a base on Vogelsong’s wild pitch as Ian Desmond struck out. Michael A. Taylor’s single to left scored Ramos.
Crawford’s 12th home run of the season tied the score at 1 in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Cuzzi, who had been hearing it from Bochy all night, decided he had enough. After a 1-2 pitch to Denard Span was called a ball, Vogelsong approached the plate and was ejected, and moments later, Bochy was, too.
Bochy and Cuzzi tangled in the first inning when the home plate umpire refused to allow the third base umpire, Will Little to rule on a check swing. In the third, Pagan was called out on strikes, and both he and Bochy argued with Cuzzi again.
It was the third ejection of the year for Bochy, and the first time in his career Vogelsong had been tossed.
Josh Osich relieved Vogelsong with the game tied at 1. Osich retired all four batters he faced.
George Kontos (2-1) came on, and on his second pitch, .Ramos hit a home run to right for a 2-1 lead, It was Ramos’ eighth of the season.
‘’I thought on my bat, ‘that ball is gone,’ but I see the replay, and it was just behind the wall. Next time I have to hit it harder,” Ramos said.
Desmond, stuck in an 0-for-19 slump, could have had two hits, but Pagan made a brilliant play on his drive to right-center in the fourth and second baseman Joe Panik a leaping stab of his line drive in the sixth.
David Carpenter recorded the first out of the eighth and gave up a single to Matt Duffy. Pagan was Matt Thornton first batter and he hit a line drive to left that Taylor dove for and snared.
The Nationals added a run in the eighth. Harper doubled against Javier Lopez. Tyler Moore flied to right against Hunter Strickland with Harper taking third, and Ramos’ single scored Harper.
Drew Storen saved all three games this weekend. His scoreless ninth gave him 25 for the season.
Since June 13, the Nationals have won 15 of 21.
“We’re fortunate enough to do the things we needed to do to get the win today and sweep that series,” Harper said. “We’ve been playing some good baseball the past month or so.”
For Ramos, there was satisfaction to beat the team that sent them home last October.
“We come into this series to try and beat those guys,” Ramos said. “We have to keep playing like that. A lot of the season left, and a lot of work to do.”