Manager Davey Johnson saw an immediate return on the team meeting he held with his players Saturday night “to cheer them up,” in the Washington Nationals’ (30-31) 7-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins (27-32) in the first game of a double header on Sunday.
“I’ll have [a meeting] every day if we get 14 hits and seven runs,” Johnson said.
Johnson had expressed his frustration at the Nationals’ seemingly lackadaisical quality of play after their extra-innings loss to the Twins on Saturday, but the Nats didn’t let those words hang in the air for long.
They came out with bats hot in their 14-hit effort, which Johnson called “aggressive” and “fun,” with each starter besides catcher Kurt Suzuki getting at least one hit. Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon led the charge, going a combined 5-for-7 with five RBIs, four of which came during the Nats’ fiery fifth inning.
With two outs and Jeff Kobernus on base after a walk, Ryan Zimmerman came to bat in the fifth to start a rally with a double. Twins starter Scott Diamond then intentionally walked Jayson Werth, who went 2-for-3, to load the bases for Adam LaRoche. LaRoche and Desmond both delivered RBI-singles, followed by a two-RBI double from Rendon to tally five runs in the inning.
The Nationals’ seven total runs were the most they had scored since May 28, and this game was only the ninth time in 61 games that the Nats scored seven or more runs.
On the mound, Jordan Zimmermann dazzled in a much-needed seven-inning effort after the Nationals used seven relievers on Saturday. Zimmermann threw 111 pitches, and allowed only two hits and two walks, striking out eight (tied with the most he has struck out this season).
After the third inning, Zimmermann had already thrown 64 pitches, but he quieted any concerns about his capability for longevity by following with a five-pitch fourth inning, which could be interpreted as a head nod at the spent bullpen.
Zimmermann kept the Twins’ offense quiet, and Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno, who made his Nationals debut in the ninth inning, followed suit. Krol pitched a 1-2-3 inning, and Cedeno allowed one hit and one walk with a strikeout to complete the shutout.
The day was not without its miscues, as the beginning of the game was highlighted by a dropped pop-up by Rendon, a base-running mistake by Kobernus after his first Major-League hit – resulting in his getting doubled off on a Steve Lombardozzi fly out – and a throwing error by Zimmerman.
However, each player seemed to head into his next at-bat with the aim of redeeming himself, as each reached base safely in the first plate appearance after his mistake.
This type of bulldog mentality, coupled with the offense they put together today can only result in good things for the Nationals if they keep it up. They will get to try it all again at 7:05 in the nightcap of the double header as they go for the series win against the Twins.