04/26/09 7:44 PM ET
Who's the 'mann? Nats run over Mets
Righty wins second start to deliver club's first road win
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
The right-hander tossed another great game and helped the Nationals defeat the Mets, 8-1, on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak. It was also Washington's first win on the road since Sept. 7, 2008, and Zimmermann also became the first Nationals/Expos pitcher to win his first two starts of his career since Randy Johnson did the trick for Montreal in 1988, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's the first one on the road. We know we are better than what our record shows. It's there and we can't change it," manager Manny Acta said. "We brought it onto ourselves -- all the negativity and sarcasm toward us."
There were 40,023 at Citi Field, and Zimmermann had never pitched in front of a large crowd before. But there were no signs of nervousness on his part.
Zimmermann pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up just one run on six hits. He didn't go any further, because he threw 103 pitches.
But even more impressive was how he handled the heart of the Mets' order, as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright went a combined 2-for-9 with six strikeouts against the right-hander. The game plan was to mix his pitches against the trio.
"You can't go with the fastball all the time," Zimmermann said. "You mix it up and try your best to get the offspeed stuff across and hope they ground out or fly out."
Said Acta about Zimmermann handling the heart of the order: "That was impressive. That's as good as it gets. He just handled those big-time guys really well, especially since he didn't have his usual command."
Zimmermann got off to a slow start in the first inning. With two outs and Beltran on second, Delgado tripled off the glove of Justin Maxwell in center field to drive in Beltran.
After the second inning, Zimmermann didn't allow a runner to move into scoring position.
"Zimmermann was very good. During the first two innings, he was rushing his delivery a little bit and was off," Acta said. "And then, two or three innings later, I looked up on the board and he already had 40 strikes in 60 pitches. This guy continues to pound the strike zone. He shows no fear. He throws four pitches. Against a potent lineup like the New York Mets have, I think he showed us a lot today."
The Nationals gave Zimmermann plenty of run support against left-hander Oliver Perez. Catcher Jesus Flores started the scoring in the second inning, when he hit a two-run home run over the left-field wall to give Washington a 2-1. Washington added to its lead in the next frame on an RBI single by Flores.
"That was a big homer in the second inning, just to get us on top of the game and go from there," Acta said.
Flores is now 5-for-15 (.333) with runners in scoring position. He seems to have his best at-bats when runners are on base.
"Jesus has a knack for being in those situations. The focus is really sharp," hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. "It's not to say that he doesn't have the same approach when no one is on base. It's that moment, and it's impressive to watch."
In the fifth, the Nationals batted around and knocked in four runs. Austin Kearns highlighted the output with a long solo shot over the center-field wall. The ball went 420 feet and landed next to the big apple.
According to Eckstein, teammate Adam Dunn told him that it had been a long time since he's seen Kearns hit a ball that far. Since he has been a member of the Nationals, Kearns had never hit tape-measure shots until this season.
Does that mean Kearns is back to his old self like he was during his first two years with the Reds? Eckstein seems to think so.
"For Kearnsy, we are excited to see that," Eckstein said. "He has works awfully hard. Boy, that was impressive."
Realizing how big the park is at Citi Field, Kearns was not sure that he hit the home run.
"It was just a fastball over the plate," Kearns said. "I hit it well, but I didn't know it would go or not. It's a big ballpark. I didn't know what was going to happen. My head was down, and I was running."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.