The crowd was not as large as the 46,000 plus that filled Camden on Saturday, but over 41,000 plus watched a 1-0 pitcher’s duel until Matt Wieters turned on a Sean Burnett pitch and drove it deep to the Orioles bullpen in the eighth inning for a 2-run homer and a 2-1 victory. It was the smallest crowd of the three game series that drew over 132,000. The three game series in D.C. drew over 120,000. The Orioles won the Beltway Battle four games to two.
It was typical of a game between the team with the best ERA in baseball (Nationals) and the team with the best bullpen ERA in baseball (Orioles). A non-traditional pitcher’s duel that saw both starting pitchers depart before the seventh inning, Jake Arrieta going six and Ross Detwiler five.
Ross Detwiller had been spending much of his May and June in the bull pen so he was limited to five innings. While the Orioles loaded the bases off him in the fourth and had runners on second and third in the fifth he didn’t crack. The Orioles had another opportunity with Craig Stammen pitching his second inning of relief and putting runners on second and third in the seventh with two outs but again failing to score.
The Nationals trotted out Sean Burnett, who had the best ERA among relief pitchers entering the game. The formulae has worked like clockwork for Davey Johnson in the June, with the expectation that Tyler Clippard would trot out for the ninth. The Orioles didn’t have to face Tyler. Adam Jones started the inning with a single and Matt Wieters took the second pitch deep into the celebrating Orioles bullpen.
Jake Arrieta went six for the Nationals. His one blemish came in the third giving up a lead off double to the Nationals back up catcher Jonathan Solano. After hitting Steve Lombardozzi with a pitch he got Bryce Harper to hit into a comeback 1-6-3 doubleplay to appear to be out of the inning. The sore shouldered Ryan Zimmerman was able to line a single into right center to give the Nationals their first run.
The best bullpen in baseball was called on to get the Nationals out the last three innings. One has to wonder whether they are the best because of the matchups that Buck Showalter gives them. Troy Patton, acquired years ago in the Miguel Tejeda trade, looked to be a journeyman pitcher until given an opportunity towards the end of last year. He has turned that opportunity into a lefthanded longman job. He got the first five outs, three by whiff, including the two lefthanders he faced Rick Ankiel and Bryce Harper.
After giving up a hit to Ryan Zimmerman, Pedro Strop got the last out of the eighth. The homerun by Wieters put the ninth inning in the hands of Jim Johnson, who has turned into one of the better closers in the American League. He did issue a one out walk to Ian Desmond, but a Danny Espinosa strikeout and an attempted steal by Desmond on the swing and a miss resulted in a game ending strikeout/throw out double play. For Johnson it was his 22nd save, second to Chris Perez in the American League. He has one blown save, against the Boston Red Sox, but the Orioles were able to win that one, giving him his first victory.
Game Notes: Ryan Zimmerman was given a cortisone shot for his sore shoulder. As most expected he has been battling shoulder issues. It may be best that he go on the disabled list to let the shoulder heal rather than hit .220 for the rest of the season. With Mark DeRosa ready to come off the disabled list they may need the 25-man roster space. Zimmerman is restricted to hitting the ball to right field or right center for singles and has not pulled a pitch in a long time, which is where his power lies…Jonathan Solano was originally signed to be the back up catcher to Wilson Ramos with the expectation that they would eventually trade Jesus Flores. They couldn’t trade Flores, but when Ramos went down Solano was on the disabled list in the minor leagues. He is now healthy and fulfilling his originally intended backup role, but to Jesus Flores and not Wilson Ramos. He is hitting a nice .375 in limited playing time. Standing next to Matt Wieters he looked like a bit of a munchkin so he may be smaller than his 6 foot list height…Bryce Harper caught Adam Jones napping on a bounced single up the middle. Harper turned it into a hustling double. Jones thought he had Harper at second, but if he had hustled to the base hit initially, rather than break for it after he saw that Harper was not stopping as he rounded first he may have got him…Prior to his homerun Matt Wieters looked bad, swinging and missing at two pitches that dived in the dirt…Mark Reynolds almost made it back to back after Wieters homerun, stroking one that Harper caught against the scoreboard.