Aug 2, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: How about we just do “Game in a word” tonight? The answer is: Rout.
OK, a few more details than that. The Nationals annihilated the Phillies pitching staff, starting with A.J. Burnett, who let six of the 11 batters he faced reach safely, capped by Anthony Rendon’s 3-run homer in the bottom of the second. Then after throwing his next pitch — outside to Jayson Werth — Burnett said something to Chris Guccione, prompting the plate ump to immediately eject him (and later Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg) from the game.
That put more than a little bit of stress on the Philadelphia bullpen, which was nowhere close to up to the challenge. The Nationals pounded Phillipe Aumont for six more runs, opening up a staggering 11-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth, with all eight starting position players having delivered at least one RBI by that point. The only batter who didn’t drive in a run: Jordan Zimmermann, who would have if not for a nice catch by Marlon Byrd at the wall in right-center.
Speaking of Zimmermann, he was on cruise control with such a large lead, tossing seven scoreless innings and not giving the Phillies a chance to even think about the possibility of a comeback. The Nationals never looked back, sealing this one with ease after a couple of tough losses to begin the series.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There are no shortage of highlights when you score 11 runs, but let’s focus on the biggest hit of them all, and something we hadn’t seen in quite awhile: A Nationals home run. It had been 85 innings since anybody in a curly W helmet sent one over the fence, so Rendon’s blast in the bottom of the second was a most welcome development. He launched Burnett’s pitch into the Red Porch area beyond the wall in left-center, giving the Nationals a 5-0 lead and ultimately sending Burnett to the showers early (and quite upset).
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Lost amid the offensive fireworks was a dominating pitching performance by Zimmermann, who needed one. After a less-than-sharp return from his biceps strain in Colorado, then a very good start in Miami that was undone by the Nationals’ bullpen late, Zimmermann made sure the Phillies never got close to sniffing a comeback. Once given the big lead, he retired 11 batters in a row, departing after seven scoreless innings without issuing a walk. This was the ace-like performance the Nats wanted to see from Zimmermann.
STREAK WATCH: With his leadoff single in the first inning, Denard Span reached base for the 28th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the majors. His on-base percentage during this streak is .460.
KEY STAT: The Nationals were 3-for-3 on stolen-base attempts tonight and are now 61-for-71 on the season. Their 86 percent success rate is easily best in MLB.
UP NEXT: The Nationals need a win Sunday to salvage a 4-game series split, and they’ll have to beat Cole Hamels to do it. Stephen Strasburg is on the mound for the Nats, with first pitch scheduled for 1:35 p.m.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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