Remember base hits? Those things that major league hitters get about 26% of the time? Me neither.
The Padres’ atrocious offense managed only two hits against Washington Nationals’ ace pitcher Jordan Zimmerman, who turned a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Petco Park ugly. Final score, 6-0 Nationals.
For the second time in this 3-game series, the game was over 10 pitches into the game.
The Nationals’ Denard Span led off the game with a ground ball double up the middle. You don’t see many ground ball doubles up the middle. The ball went about 10 feet to the left of second baseman Alexi Amarista and continued to roll into right-center field. Center fielder Cameron Maybin was playing to the shortstop side of second base. So there was a significant gap exactly where Span hit the ball. Was that bad luck, or poor defensive positioning? Span then stole third base. Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal is now 1-for-22 in throwing out base runners, which is less than 5%. The league average is 25%. With a man on third and nobody out, all it took was a very weak grounder to short by number two hitter Kevin Frandsen to make the score 1-0.
And that was all Zimmerman would need.
Zimmerman started the game with 5.1 perfect innings, and allowed only two base runners all day, walking none. You’ve heard that old adage “What’s the best pitch in baseball? Strike one.” Zimmerman got ahead of Padres’ hitters all day long, throwing first-pitch strikes to the first 13 batters and 22 of 29 overall. He started off 0-and-2 on 9 batters. Zimmerman set his career high in strikeouts with 12, and finished the complete game with only 114 pitches.
On the other side of the hill, Padres’ starter Eric Stults didn’t have it today. The Nationals scored in each of the first three innings, and Stults’ day was over after 2.1 innings. Stults allowed 7 hits and 4 runs before leaving the bases loaded for Tim Stauffer. Danny Espinosa drove Stauffer’s first pitch into right for a 2-run single, so Stults’ final line was 6 runs in 2.1 innings, bringing his season ERA up to 5.68.
So, who’s pitching well down on the farm? Any of those draftees from this weekend looking to make a start next Friday?
The Padres had a little scare in the 7th when left fielder Carlos Quentin took an awkward dive after a sinking line drive off the bat of Frandsen. Quentin rolled over, got up and retrieved the ball, and stayed in the game. As much as we love to see players play the game hard, it would be difficult to see Quentin come up lame diving after a ball in a 6-0 game.
Alexi Amarista broke up Zimmerman’s bid for a perfect game with a base hit in the sixth inning. He was stranded at first when the next two hitters struck out. The Padres’ best scoring opportunity came on a lead-off triple by Seth Smith in the 7th inning, with the heart of the order coming up. But a grounder to third by Quentin, an infield popup by Chase Headley, and a lazy fly ball to center by Yonder Alonso, all in the span of 5 pitches, quashed the hopes of avoiding a second shutout in three days.