The Washington Nationals were encouraged after a strong all-around showing netted them a 7-0 win over the Minnesota Twins in the first game of a doubleheader. They were elated after a gritty comeback gave them a 5-4 win in the nightcap.
Jordan Zimmermann was dominant in seven shutout innings and the Nats rode a five-run inning to victory in the afternoon. After the Nats Park doors closed and reopened, Washington overcame Nate Karns' poor start and used defense and timely hitting to bring home the sweep.
In the late game, second baseman Anthony Rendon made a leaping catch of a Jamey Carroll liner to end the top of the sixth with a runner on third, then singled to lead off the bottom of the inning. With two out, Denard Span tripled into the right-field corner to score Rendon and tie the game at 4-4.
Back-to-back doubles by Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond in the seventh gave the Nats a 5-4 lead.
"It was a good game all around," Desmond said after the nightcap. "When we get our pitching and defense good, the bats will come."
Karns lasted only three innings, giving up four runs and struggling in every frame. Karns got out of a based-loaded jam in the first. In the second, he walked the first two batters and nearly escaped again, but catcher Chris Herrman slammed a two-out double off the right-center wall to score two.
In the third, Karns retired the first two, but Eduardo Escobar singled and light-hitting shortstop Pedro Florimon hit a first-pitch homer, his fourth as a major leaguer.
"I didn't pitch ahead. I didn't execute pitches when I needed and fell behind," Karns said. "I fell behind, they took advantage."
Jayson Werth kept the Nats in it with a pair of RBI singles in the first and third. After a 12-minute rain delay in the fifth inning, the Nats plated one more on a sac fly by LaRoche.
Players credited manager Davey Johnson's meeting with the team before the first game for the improved offensive showing.
"He was just trying to get us relaxed, and also not just wait but go take something, be aggressive and be ready to play," utility player Jeff Kobernus said. "Just be aggressive, that's what he's basically trying to do," is how Rendon put it. "Just go out there and try to hit."
Rendon got the scoring going in the early game with runners on second and third and two out in the fourth. He hit an infield single deep in the hole at shortstop, and Florimon's wild attempt to nab Rendon at first went astray, allowing both runners to score.
Playing the matchups backfired big-time on the Twins an inning later. With two outs and runners on second and third, Werth was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing up lefty-hitting LaRoche against lefty pitcher Scott Diamond. LaRoche smashed a grounder to second that Brian Dozier couldn't handle, plating a run. Desmond followed with a two-run single to center. Reliever Ryan Pressly entered the game for Diamond and immediately gave up a two-run double to Rendon, making it 7-0.
The Nats hadn't scored more than three runs in any of their previous seven games, and had a 2-5 record in that stretch.
"To me, confidence comes by attacking, just being aggressive," Johnson said.
Recent call-up Kobernus got his first major league hit in the bottom of the third on an infield single in front of the third baseman. But he ran too far ahead on Steve Lombardozzi's flyout in the next at-bat, and center fielder Aaron Hicks doubled Kobernus off first before he could get back.
"It was a straight steal. I just picked up the hitter too late," Kobernus said of his base-running blunder. He later walked and picked up another single.
Zimmermann pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, both to Chris Parmelee. He had eight strikeouts and walked two. Zimmermann's ERA dropped to 2.00, fourth-best in the N.L. and his nine wins puts him in a multi-way tie for most in the majors.
"It means I'm pitching pretty well, I'm going deep into ballgames and giving the team a chance," Zimmermann said of his win total.