BALTIMORE — Nationals manager Jim Riggleman fully admitted that home plate umpire Tim Tichenor had the call right when he called out Roger Bernadina on a bunt attempt to leadoff the game.
Bernadina’s right foot stepped on the plate as he bunted the ball (and then beat out the throw for what looked to be an infield single), that much was clear. Riggleman initially came out to argue because he thought his leadoff man was called out for running outside the base line. When he was informed what the true infraction was, he was even more irritated.
“I didn’t even have an argument,” Riggleman said. “I just was irritated that the call was made. The call was right but it’s a call you just never see get made… Without naming names, I know a couple of guys who’ve bunted the ball and quite often step on the plate and you don’t see it until you look at the video, but Bernie must have made it pretty obvious.”
Bernadina was aware that he might have stepped on the plate, but his focus was obviously more on getting down the line to beat the throw.
“The umpire was on top of his game,” Bernadina said. “In that moment, I was focusing on getting on base and bunting and I didn’t even realize that I stepped on the plate. He made a good call and you’ve got to move on from there.”
– Speaking of Bernadina, he had no problem with his footwork in his next at-bat when he missed a home run by just inches off the top of the tall wall in right field at Camden Yards. The most interesting thing about the hit (which was, of course, followed by two straight strikeouts to end the inning and leave him on second) was that Bernadina said later he didn’t even hit it that well. Even he was surprised to see it carry that far, especially on a day where a lot of balls were dying in the outfield early in the game.
– In my opinion, Jordan Zimmermann continues to get better each time he takes the mound. His numbers this season (2-5, 3.98) are extremely deceptive — especially his loss total. In his past two starts alone, Zimmermann has dazzled for six innings and been felled both by one mistake and a lack of run support in the seventh.
On Sunday his curveball, particularly, was extremely impressive. Zimmermann has generally said that when his curveball’s working his slider’s off or the other way around, but on Sunday he didn’t even need to use his slider much because the curve was so good — the “best it’s felt in a long time,” he said.
The perfect example of how good it was came in an at-bat by Orioles catcher Matt Wieters in the fourth inning. Zimmermann started Wieters off with a fastball but then dropped in an inside curve that Wieters flailed at for strike two. He followed that with a high fastball to change up the levels, threw a slider for ball two and then came back with a 78-mph curve to get Wieters swinging for the K.
Zimmermann usually runs his curve harder than that — an indication of how good a feel he had for it on Sunday — but he had both a hard and, as he called it a “get me over” curve on Sunday.
Zimmermann continues to impress as he continues to turn into the type of pitcher the Nationals hoped he would. He certainly impressed Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
“His secondary pitches were pretty impressive today,” Showalter said. “You can see why they’re so high on him. He’s got a good arm. They’ve got a lot of great arms down there.”
– Another young player Showalter was lauding after Sunday’s game was Wilson Ramos, who didn’t do all that much for the Nationals offensively as the designated hitter (walking once) but had a phenomenal night at the plate on Friday and continues to garner attention with his skill behind the plate.
A lot of attention in Sunday’s game was going to Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who threw out two attempted base stealers in strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out situations — including catching Brian Bixler to end the game. But it’s worth mentioning that while Wieters has now caught 13 of 27 base stealers this season, the only player in the major leagues with a better percentage is Ramos, who’s caught 7 of 14.
“I love that Ramos kid,” Showalter said. “That’s about as good a young player as I’ve seen this year. He’s really impressive.”
– Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is getting the torn labrum in his left shoulder reexamined by a doctor in New York and will meet the team in Milwaukee on Monday. LaRoche is still not feeling pain in the shoulder when he swings — only when throwing — but feels that his strength when hitting is simply missing.
“He’s not progressing at all,” Riggleman said. “He’s getting treatment every day, he’s just sore. He’s saying it doesn’t affect his hitting but he feels like there’s a lot of balls he should be crushing and he’s just not doing that. He’s been in slumps before but this has a different feel to it and so we’re just going to get him checked out further.
“I feel bad for him because this guy makes no excuses. He’s a total professional, he’s playing great defense, the struggles he’s had at the plate he’s never taken to the field, he comes in here every day with a smile on his face every day and working hard and he’s a great teammate so I’m hoping that the news is good but we’ve got to get him checked out.”
– The Nationals road doesn’t get any easier offensively as they head to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brewers in a place, Miller Park, where they’ve lost the last five games they’ve played — and they get to face Zack Greinke in the series finale on Wednesday.