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Nationals sweep Giants behind Zimmermann, Ramos


Nationals sweep Giants behind Zimmermann, Ramos

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.”

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.


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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles


Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

WASHINGTON -- Presented with identical opportunities to ring up a big inning, the Washington Nationals took full advantage and Baltimore Orioles squandered the chance.

That goes a long way toward explaining why the Nationals are a contender and the Orioles own the worst record in the big leagues.

Trea Turner went 4 for 4 with a homer , Anthony Rendon drove in three runs and Washington extended its recent domination of the Orioles with a 9-7 victory Tuesday night.

The game was essentially decided in the fifth inning, which began with Baltimore leading 4-1.

In the top half, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs and scored only one run -- when Manny Machado hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half and batted around, scoring four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Adam Eaton contributed a two-run single, Rendon hit a sacrifice fly and Bryce Harper chased starter David Hess with an RBI double.

"They did a lot better job cashing in their bases loaded, nobody out situation than we did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter conceded.

For the game, Baltimore was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals were 5 for 10.

"This team is starting to become relentless," manager Dave Martinez said. "They kept pounding and pounding and pounding, had a couple of big innings there and scored some runs."

The Nationals trailed 6-5 before getting six hits in a four-run seventh. Rendon delivered a two-run double off Tanner Scott (0-1) that made it 7-6, and Turner capped his four-hit night with a double.

Both teams noted that more than a couple of Washington's hits were bloopers and seeing-eye grounders, but the Nationals certainly weren't about to apologize.

"I feel like all year we've been hitting balls right at people," Turner said, "so it's nice to get a bunch of those in one game and come out with a win."

Washington has won six straight over its neighboring interleague rival, including four games this season by a combined 20-8.

Pitching in his second big league game, Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez gave up five runs, four hits and four walks in five innings.

Justin Miller (5-0) pitched two innings of relief, newcomer Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect eighth and Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run to Joey Rickard while earning his 19th save.

Jace Peterson and Trey Mancini each hit two-run homers for the Orioles, who have lost 16 of 19.

This one can be blamed on an all-too-telling fifth inning.

"It's just one of those things where if they got hits they seemed to have found holes," Showalter said. "They hit some balls hard, too."