The only home run of the evening and nearly perfect pitching from Jordan Zimmerman would be all the Nationals needed to take down Paul Maholm and the Atlanta Braves 2-0 Wednesday night, ending a five game winning streak against the division rival this season.
Wednesday night was Washington right hander Jordan Zimmermann’s first season start against the Braves. With the injury struggles of star pitcher Stephen Strasburg minimizing Washington’s production, Zimmermann (5-1) has become the most consistent starter in the Nationals’ rotation.
“He’s pretty good,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Zimmerman. “He’s a guy that commands his fast ball. He came after us so good, we couldn’t get to him.”
By the top of the seventh inning, the 22,460 in attendance at Turner Field only seemed interested in successfully completing the wave around the stadium, as the Braves had only managed to get two men on base by that point of the game.
The game, the third of a four game series, was locked at zero until the top of the fourth inning. Maholm walked Washington outfielder Bryce Harper on a full count, only to have the next batter, shortstop Ian Desmond, bat next and homer to centerfield on a 1-1 count.
Maholm has taken a precipitous drop since starting the season a perfect 3-0. The lefty has now dropped three in a row and is now at .500 (3-3) for the season.
“Obviously, my pitching wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted,” Maholm told the Daily World. “I wasn’t happy with walking Bryce because I think I had him 1-2, but it was only two hits and a home run. You get over it, take the positives and move on.”
The Nationals (14-14) still are far from their 98-64 marker last year, which gave them the best record in baseball and the National League East division title.
Prior to the game, Atlanta was 5-0 against the Nationals this season, also posting a 9-0 record against them dating back to August. The Braves dropped to 17-10 with the loss.
Atlanta currently holds a 3 1/2-game lead over the Nationals for first place in the NL East divisional race.
The loss is only the third at Turner Field this season, with the last win coming Tuesday.
During Tuesday evening’s 8-1 win, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson became the 110th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to reach 200 career wins. Hudson topped off the win with a third inning home run, the third of his career. Hudson is now one of three active pitchers with 200 wins or more, the New York Yankees’ Andy Pettitte (248) and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay (201).
With Hudson now in the 200 Win Club, all eyes will be focused on the Yankees’ CC Sabathia, who currently has 195 wins.
The Braves enter May not quite as dominant as they were at the beginning of the season. After a 12-2 start, Atlanta slumped to 2-7 in mid-April before recovering to take the first two of the four game series against the Nationals.
Although Atlanta may be lacking firepower with the absence of Jason Heyward, who is still out after an appendectomy last week, the Braves are still strong with left fielder Justin Upton’s current slugging streak.
Upton hit a major league-leading 12 homeruns in the month of April, the second most in MLB history during that span. But 11 of his homers have been solo shots with no man on base. Upton was 1-3 on Tuesday and failed to score a run.
“We just didn’t get it going tonight,” said Upton. “For the most part he was pounding us with that fast ball all night and we got beat by him.”
Zimmerman ended the night eight strikeouts in eight innings as opposed to the struggling Maholm, who managed to throw four strikeouts in eight innings.
Braves closer Luis Avilan took over for Maholm to keep Atlanta in the game, but after two hours and 15 minutes, the save went to Nationals closer Rafael Soriano, his eighth of the season.
After the conclusion of the Braves series with the Nats, the team will play host to the New York Mets, May 3-5. This will be the second series of a 56 game stretch in 59 days for Atlanta, 34 games at home, 22 on the road.