Simontacchi helps Nats win series
Right-hander gives up one run over six strong innings
WASHINGTON -- After Saturday's heartbreaking loss to the Indians in which the Tribe went ahead in the ninth off Nationals closer Chad Cordero, manager Manny Acta hoped the same potential scenario would present itself Sunday.
Washington had a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning Saturday, but Cordero allowed a three-run homer to Victor Martinez.
Acta did indeed receive his wish against Cleveland in Sunday's Interleague series finale. The Nationals were up, 3-1, going into the ninth inning, but, this time, Cordero was able to get out of the inning, maintaining the score as the Nationals took two out of three games and improved their record to 32-43.
"Ask and you shall receive," Acta said after the game. "It's what I asked for, and we got it again today. Chief [Cordero] bounced back like he has done before and our bullpen got it done today."
On Sunday, Cordero decided to mix things up and make the Indians think a little more. Instead of just throwing the fastball, like he did on Saturday, Cordero threw some sliders.
"That was the difference. The Indians were sitting on one pitch, but they had to be thinking about two," Acta said. "He mixed his pitches well and got it done."
Cordero was not available for comment, but catcher Brian Schneider said he wasn't surprised to see Cordero bounced back the way he did. Cordero has been bouncing back after a rough outing for the last four-plus seasons.
"You have seen him fail once or twice in a row, and you [have seen] him come back the next night. He showed the same emotion today as he did last night, when he gave [the lead] up," Schneider said. "That's the thing about him. He has the mentality to be a closer. It's seems like things don't faze him. The way he bounces back shows you how much composure he has and confidence that he has."
It was also redemption for right-hander Jason Simontacchi. After giving up a team-record 10 runs against the Tigers on Tuesday, Simontacchi pitched six solid innings and gave up just the one run on four hits against Cleveland. The lone run was a home run hit by Franklin Gutierrez in the fifth inning.
Asked what was the difference between Simontacchi's two starts, Acta came up with a simple remark.
"The Tigers. They can hit," Acta said. "They are gone. I don't even want to talk about the Tigers. They are hitting [close to] .300 as a team."
Simontacchi said there is no question that the Tigers were a better hitting team than the Indians.
"It was just one of those days on Sunday," Simontacchi said. "I kept the ball down and I didn't get behind. I moved the ball inside and out."
The night before, it helped that Simontacchi and his roommate, Jesus Flores, were coming up with a game plan on how to beat the Indians.
"[The plan] was slow down the hitters," Flores said. "I think Jason made the right locations all the time, so that's why we had a good game today.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Nationals scratched out three runs off right-hander Jake Westbrook. In the second inning, with runners on first and third and two outs, Flores singled to left to drive in Dmitri Young.
Ryan Langerhans sent Young home with a sacrifice fly to center fielder Grady Sizemore.
With the lead cut in half by Gutierrez in the top of the fifth, the Nationals made it a two-run game again when Flores grounded out, with Ronnie Belliard scoring on the play.
Flores, 22, continues to show that he can hold his own despite not playing higher than Class A ball prior to this season.
"He's pretty impressive for a guy his age and from A-ball," Acta said. "He's getting out there once a week, maybe twice. It's not easy, especially calling the game. That's something we never had to address with him. He and Simontacchi live together, and I told Flores to get together with his roommate, get a good pitching plan together and get it done."
Everything worked according to plan.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.