Sep 14, 2013, 12:18 PM EDT
To us reporters, it was quite a surprise seeing Ross Ohlendorf’s name on the Nationals lineup card in the clubhouse on Friday afternoon. Normally if there is something unexpected in the Nats’ lineup, it’s just a position player getting the day off. But this time it was Stephen Strasburg’s name that was missing and it was indeed because of injury.
Ohlendorf said he came to the park on Friday with a pretty good feeling he would start. He was told the day before, after the Nats game with the Mets, that Strasburg’s bullpen session didn’t go as planned and mentally prepared as best he could to be the emergency option.
Ohlendorf saw the Phillies go up with an early run in the first inning, but managed to go five before his night was over. By the time he left Washington was up 6-1 and fully in control of the game.
The fact Ohlendorf could step in and allow the Nats to not miss a beat along their winning streak impressed his teammates.
“Ross has been great for us all year. From the time he came up as just kind of a long guy and started a few times, he’s done everything we asked of him and more,” Ryan Zimmerman said.
“He was very clutch,” Bryce Harper said. “He showed a lot of guts out there for us.”
Ohlendorf helped the Nats win their seventh straight game and gain some crucial ground on the Cincinnati Reds. During their best run of the season, Ohlendorf’s performance is just another case of good fortune for the Nationals.
“When you’re winning games in a row the whole team is doing things that are helping you win,” Zimmerman said. “It’s kinda contagious and kinda rubs off on whoever is out there.”
Ohlendorf was also able to overcome a recent slump, after he began the season brilliantly he had tailed off in recent weeks. His last time out he allowed two runs in one inning of work against the Marlins, and the previous time he gave up four runs on nine hits against the Mets.
Manager Davey Johnson thinks the cooler weather may actually help Ohlendorf become more effective. The game time temperature was 71 degrees on Friday night and it was windy, easily the coolest game at Nats Park in months.
“In the past, hot weather, 78 pitches, he’d usually hit a wall. But he was still throwing good at the end,” he said.
4 ½ games remain between the Nats and their goal of making the playoffs this season. If they do make a push and advance, Ohlendorf will certainly have played his role in making it happen.
Zimmerman homers once again
Ryan Zimmerman smacked another home run on Friday night, making it seven in his last seven games. As noted in Friday’s game story, he is the first Washington baseball player to do that since Frank Howard in 1968.
Zimmerman’s incredible power surge has put him atop the Nats this season with 24 homers, and awed his teammates along the way. Bryce Harper said all he can do at this point is just laugh.
“It’s incredible,” Harper said. “That’s something that’s very special. I just started laughing once he hit that one. I just started laughing, I thought it was awesome. He’s locked in right now and it’s exciting to watch. Hopefully he can keep it going through September.”
Ian Desmond thinks Zimmerman can keep it up. Having played with him for five years now, this is just what Zim does.
“This is the crazy thing about baseball. He’s been hitting low line drives that have been hard ground balls, low hard ground balls that if you’re one grain up turn into home runs and now it’s happening. This game, you are what you are and by the end of the day, we might look up and Zim might have 30 and 100. That is who he is.”
Zimmerman himself doesn’t want to talk very much about his streak, or about how well the team is playing really. When asked to describe how he feels at the plate he said:
“I don’t know. Just going with it.”
But Davey Johnson has a theory and it’s an interesting one.
““I think it coincides with him feeling better in the field,” Johnson said. “But I’d say about three weeks ago, in BP, he started pulling the ball better. And I would say only one of these home runs the last … have been right field. They’ve been getting him out early throwing him down and in, inside. Now he’s hammering that ball. So I like it.”
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