- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The light drizzle at Nationals Park on Tuesday morning had cleared by the early afternoon, and the tarp that once covered the field had been removed. After Monday’s game was delayed, the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays were finally able to begin their series Tuesday with a doubleheader. And it was a welcome start for Washington.

Behind eight scoreless innings from Jordan Zimmermann and a two-run fifth inning, the Nationals held on to beat Toronto in Game 1, 2-0. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each drove in a run, and Drew Storen pitched a spotless ninth to close it out, his 17th save of the year.

THE RUNDOWN:Zimmermann and R.A. Dickey traded zeroes for four innings Tuesday afternoon, with Zimmermann hurling 92-mph fastballs and Dickey utilizing mid-70s knucklers. Both pitches were equally effective early, and both starters were able to wiggle out of a few minor jams. That changed in the bottom of the fifth, when Zimmermann hit a leadoff single, Yunel Escobar followed with a walk and Ian Desmond bunted to advance both runners. Bryce Harper then singled to score Zimmermann, his 44th RBI of the season, and Ryan Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly to score Escobar. The Nationals took a 2-0 lead, and with Zimmermann on the mound, they didn’t need any additional scoring from there.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Sometimes it’s easy to miss Danny Espinosa’s web gems because he makes them look so easy. One such play ended the third inning Tuesday afternoon. Toronto’s Josh Donaldson popped a ball into foul territory along the first-base line, and Espinosa ranged all the way from second base, called off Zimmerman and made a basket catch. Add that to the list of reasons why Espinosa is the one of the best defensive infielders in the National League.

STAR OF THE GAME:Zimmermann. The right-hander entered Tuesday’s game with a streak of eight consecutive quality starts and turned in his best start of the season to make it nine. He pitched eight scoreless innings in the first game of the doubleheader, holding the Blue Jays to six hits while walking one and striking out four. He encountered one jam, walking pinch-hitter Edwin Encarnacion with one out to load the bases in the seventh, but escaped the inning with a 6-4-3 double play. Zimmermann’s performance was especially important given the circumstances: Washington’s bullpen was worn out in Cincinnati and facing extra work with the doubleheader.

THE TAKEAWAY: In the grand scheme of things, this week’s homestand is no more significant than any other. There’s no such thing as a must-win game in June. But after being swept in Cincinnati, the Nationals certainly wanted to make a point to bounce back and take care of business this week against Toronto and Chicago. And they got off to an excellent start in the first game of the doubleheader. Though there wasn’t much offensive firepower, this is the type of game Washington has the capability of winning every night: a pitcher’s duel in which one or two runs ultimately make the difference. The fact that they were able to manufacture a few runs in the fifth was a good sign for the Nationals, especially after how their weekend in Cincinnati unfolded.


SEE ALSO: After postponement, Casey Janssen must wait to face his former Blue Jays teammates


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