No shutout, but Nats finish sweep of Marlins
After back-to-back blankings, Zimmermann and Co. give up just one run
WASHINGTON -- The Marlins finally scored a run against the Nationals, but it wasn't enough as Washington won the game, 6-1, on Thursday at Nationals Park.
The Nats start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2008. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann pitched six innings, allowing one run on eight hits. The run came in the second inning when Justin Ruggiano hit a home run over the right-field wall. The homer snapped a scoreless streak of 19 innings for the Marlins.
Zimmermann was thinking about not giving up a run before the game. Why? Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez didn't allow runs in their first starts of the season.
"[Ruggiano] swings first pitch all the time. I figured if I could throw a fastball down and away and get him to roll over it, I could get a weak fly ball," Zimmermann said. "I kind of left it over the middle a little bit, and he made me pay."
Zimmermann believed he gave up too many two-strike hits, but he managed to get out of jams. For example, the Marlins' best chance to score more runs occurred in the sixth inning. They had runners on first and second with no outs, but Adeiny Hechavarria hit into a double play and pinch-hitter Austin Kearns grounded out to first baseman Adam LaRoche to end the threat.
"I felt good. It's the best I've felt in a long time," Zimmermann said. "It's one of those days where I had to battle and make the pitches when I needed a ground ball."
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc lasted five innings for Miami, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on five hits. Washington scored the first two runs in the first inning, when Ryan Zimmerman doubled over the head of Ruggiano in center field, scoring Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. At first it looked like Harper was seriously hurt after Rob Brantly's arm hit the right side of Harper's face. But Harper managed to get up and retrieve his batting helmet.
"I actually didn't think it was that bad. But the way he reacted, I thought he got shot or something," Werth said. "I wanted to make sure the little guy was all right."
The Nationals added to their lead an inning after Ruggiano's homer. Denard Span led off and reached base on a bunt single and made it to second on an error by LeBlanc.
"It was kind of spur of the moment when I decided to bunt," Span said. "I saw something and I just trusted my instincts."
Span then scored on a single by Harper, who is now 6-for-12 for the regular season. Harper was humble when talking about his fast start.
"It's a long season. You try to go out there and square things up as much as you can, have good at-bats, just try to work hard and good things will happen," Harper said. "We have three W's in the win column. Hopefully we'll keep going."
The Nationals scored three more runs in the seventh inning. With two runners on, Werth swung at Mike Dunn's 1-1 pitch and hit the ball into the left-field bullpen to give the Nationals a five-run lead.
"That's what happens with young teams, you almost have to play perfect out there," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "If we give them extra outs or extra opportunities, they're going to take advantage of it. They were able to do that today."
For Werth, it was his first home run of the season, and it appears the left wrist that he broke last May is getting stronger.
"Today, it feels like the first real day of the season," Werth said. "I started feeling a little bit better today -- batting practice. As the game went on, I felt like I had my rhythm. It showed up toward the end."
The Nationals' bullpen proved to be unhittable as Henry Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen blanked Miami the final three innings.
The Nationals now go to Cincinnati to face the Reds for a three-game series. This will be a big test because the Reds are not rebuilding like the Marlins. The Nats will face a team that won the National League Central last season.
"We have a long way to go. We are definitely starting on the right foot," Werth said.