For the umpteenth time this season, the Washington Nationals followed one of their most feel-good — and important — victories, with one of their flattest performances. After Bryce Harper’s walk-off homer saved them on Thursday night, the Nationals lost 11-0 to the New York Mets in Game 1 of a doubleheader. They were shutout for the 10th time this season.
“We had people up with some runners in scoring position early and couldn’t do it,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “It’s over. I hate to even be in here talking about it.”
They’ll have to brush their 12th loss in their last 15 games off fairly quickly, with Game 2 set to begin at 7:05 p.m. and Mets ace Matt Harvey taking the mound against Ross Ohlendorf.
A few notes from Game 1:
– Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t necessarily his quick-working, efficient self in his 6 2/3 innings of work, but he felt he pitched an awful lot better than the final line score indicated. Zimmermann allowed five earned runs, though one scored after he’d already departed and two swings from Daniel Murphy accounted for three of those five.
“I felt the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Zimmerman said. “Those two mistakes cost me three runs.
“I’ve thrown those pitches to Murphy plenty of other times and got him to ground out to second. Today just wasn’t my day.”
The first home run Murphy hit, on Zimmermann’s seventh pitch of the game, was a slider right down the middle. Zimmermann conceded the location on that one was poor. The second home run, however, also came on a slider, after an at-bat littered with fastballs and changeups away.
Before the pitch, in a 3-2 count, Zimmermann and catcher Kurt Suzuki conferenced on the mound. But they decided on another slider, and Murphy did the same thing with it.
“The whole second at-bat, I was throwing him everything away,” Zimmermann said. “Fastball, changeups away, and got to 3-2 and thought maybe he was still thinking away. If I come in there a little further, he’s jammed.”
“I take the blame for that one,” Suzuki said. “The first one he got a good piece of that. But the second one, that’s my fault… I went out there to discuss it. And like I said, that’s on me.”
Zimmermann said his neck, which has been a lingering issue for him this season, felt fine.
– Ryan Mattheus made his return from a 10-week stay on the disabled list with a broken right hand and was welcomed back by a 1 1/3-inning, 43-pitch effort, allowing three earned runs off two hits and two walks.
Mattheus said he’d thrown that many pitches or more on rehab assignment so he was not tired out by the end, just lacked some of his command. He thought it might be a mechanical issue he could take a look at.
“I got a little short on a couple sinkers,” Mattheus said, deflecting the notion that he might’ve been too pumped up given how long his layoff was. “Bounced them in the dirt. Then I started feeling for stuff. I made some good pitches then I made some not so good pitches. We’ll move forward from there.
“It was really good to get back out there. I just wish we could have won the ballgame and I could have performed a little better.”
– It was extremely surprising to see right-hander Drew Storen begin to warm behind Mattheus in the top of the ninth inning as Mattheus struggled some and his pitch count continued to rise in his second inning of work. Johnson said before the game that Storen was suffering from the flu and would most likely be unavailable barring “a dramatic recovery.”
Johnson likened what Storen was dealing with to what befell first baseman Adam LaRoche this past weekend, and he missed two games.
But there Storen was, warming in the bullpen and then relieving Mattheus to face David Wright. Storen, looking obviously weakened (he even jogged in from the bullpen slower than normal) threw 10 pitches. Five runs scored during his time in the game — three charged to him on a three-run homer by Ike Davis.
Given that he entered with the Nationals already in a 6-0 hole and two runners on, in addition to his condition, it was curious to see him tabbed for the assignment.
Johnson said Storen “got to feeling a little better,” and that he told bullpen coach Jim Lett he could pitch. Storen was not present in the clubhouse when reporters were allowed in for a brief period between games, but his bullpen mates were aware he was under the weather.
“I know he’s not feeling very well,” Mattheus said. “That’s just tough. I bet you if you ask him, he’d take the ball again. He’s a tough kid. You gotta commend him for going out there.
“I think if you ask him, he wouldn’t make the excuse. He’s a very professional individual and he’d probably take the ball in this next game again.”
Presumably, neither Storen nor Mattheus will be available in the nightcap.
– Bryce Harper banged his left knee making a catch in the fifth inning — the only out of the game for Murphy — and Johnson said the outfielder might’ve aggravated the bursitis in his left knee. Harper is not in the lineup for the second game.
Harper sat out of Wednesday night’s game after Johnson noticed he’d been getting treatment (ice) on the knee that cost him 31 games on the disabled list earlier this season. Johnson admitted then that he’d probably have to keep a better eye on Harper throughout the season.
Steve Lombardozzi, who followed his big day on Thursday with two more hits in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, was slotted into left field in Harper’s place.
He was one of few productive Nationals on the day as they advanced precisely one runner as far as third base and didn’t put a single runner in scoring position after the third inning.