Zimmerman leads Nats to fifth straight
Surging third baseman cranks two homers in rout of Cards
WASHINGTON -- Nationals skipper Manny Acta said Saturday night marked the first time he didn't have to manage a game this season. That's because Washington's offense, which has been struggling most of the season, came through in a big way and routed the Cardinals, 12-1, at RFK Stadium.
It was largest margin of victory for Washington this season. In fact, it got so bad for the Cardinals that manager Tony La Russa let infielder Aaron Miles pitch in the eighth inning.
"I was telling one of my friends [in the clubhouse], I finally had a day off from managing," Acta said. "Other than bringing in [reliever] Saul [Rivera] in the sixth inning to shut down that inning. It's that first time I could just lay back and wait for 27 outs. That was nice for my brain cells."
The game wasn't that easy for Washington at first. With Joel Hanrahan on the mound, St. Louis took a 1-0 in the top of the third inning when Adam Kennedy hit a home run over the right-field wall.
After that minor setback, the rout was on for Washington, starting in the bottom of the fifth inning against right-hander Joel Pineiro.
Ryan Zimmerman led off in the fifth and hit a mammoth home run into the fourth row of the left-field upper deck. Washington added four runs in the inning, highlighted by an RBI double by Hanrahan. It was his second hit in as many games.
In the fifth inning, Washington put the game away. The Nats scored five more runs off left-hander Mike Maroth. Zimmerman did it again with a two-run home run.
For the third consecutive day, it was the Ryan Zimmerman show. He hit two home runs and knocked in three runs. Zimmerman has been in fire during this recent homestand. He is 11-for-22 (.500) with 10 RBIs in five games. He raised his overall batting average to .270. Since July 1, Zimmerman has a .336 batting average with five home runs and 18 RBIs.
"He is not going to be hitting two home runs every day, but he is capable of doing what he has been doing the last month or so regardless who is around him," Acta said. "If he is patient enough, he will get his pitches. You guys know he can do it not only at the plate, but [with the glove]. His defense is so huge for us."
Zimmerman said he is being more patient at the plate and getting pitches to hit.
"I'm trying not to do too much, I guess. I'm getting into my counts, laying off the pitcher's pitches early in the count," Zimmerman said. "Once you are ahead in the count, you are in command you could look for the pitches that you want."
Hanrahan was the beneficiary of the 12 runs. He picked up is first Major League victory, becoming the fourth member of Nationals (Matt Chico, John Lannan, and Levale Speigner are the others) to reach that milestone this year.
Hanrahan lasted five-plus innings and gave up the one run on six hits. He acknowledged that humidity and running the bases in the fourth inning left him spent by the time he left the game.
It was Hanrahan's second Major League game of his career. Last Saturday, he pitched against the Mets and lasted six innings and gave up three runs, but didn't figure in the decision in a 6-5 Nats victory.
"It has been a long week," Hanrahan said. "Getting a week off between starts, I was just waiting for this day to come. I didn't feel like it would ever get here. It finally came and I felt good."
Hanrahan also is 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Asked if he loved to hit, Hanrahan said, "I like hitting. I think it's fun. I kind of take a little pride in it and we'll see what happens next time."
The Nationals have now won five straight games to improve their record to 50-60. They are now 29-29 at home.
"We got to a point where we are playing .500 at home, which most of the clubs in the big leagues [do]," Acta said. "We can put to rest all the complaining about the stadium. It's been great. The fans have been real good backing us up this all week. It means a lot to us."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.