Opening day is always so much fun. Except when you are running late, try driving to the stadium, and literally drive around for an hour trying to find a place to park. I’ve never seen the areas around the stadium THAT jammed, with no parking available in any lot for any price. We ended up illegally parked off of Delaware ave and somehow didn’t get a parking ticket. My guess is that the meter maids got carpel tunnel syndrome from writing so many tickets for out of towners that they had to go home before reaching the neighborhood where my car was parked. We saw the jets from 395, we heard the fireworks while driving past the McDonalds on South Capitol, and arrived in time to see the Nats bat in the bottom of the 2nd. Lesson learned; never never try to drive to opening day again.
Gio Gonzalez looked fabulous; 7ip, 2 hits, 7 punchouts and zero walks. He works fast, his four seamer hopped and his curve (at least from the side) looks amazing. He made Joey Votto, Cincinnati’s best hitter, look just foolish, punching him out twice. Gonzalez continues a trend of Washington’s 3 best starters pitching 7 complete with room to spare (Gonzalez sat at 97 pitches through 7 complete but had 7-8-9 coming up, meaning that Clippard had a relatively easy hold, but more importantly meaning that, were it later in the season, Gonzalez easily could have extended himself to get through the 8th).
Too bad Gonzalez’s Win was spoiled by the 2nd and 3rd defensive gaffes from Ryan Zimmerman on the afternoon. He had a fielding error earlier in the game (compounded by throwing the ball away) that didn’t end up factoring into the game, but his defense in the 9th was very questionable.
Baseball 101: if you’re nursing a close lead in the 9th inning, what do you tell your fielders? NO DOUBLES. That means your 1st and 3rd basemen guard the line and your outfielders play deep. You can absorb a single but you don’t allow someone into scoring position. So what happens in the top of the 9th? Scott Rolen doubles down the line past Zimmerman to get into scoring position. Zimmerman was so far off the line he didn’t even dive after the ball. What he heck was he doing?
Then, after a walk to load the bases Zimmerman plays Ryan Ludwick at least even with the bag, perhaps even further in, apparently guarding against the bunt. Ok: I guess I can understand that play to a certain extent … except that Ludwick is a power hitter and the Reds were 2 runs down at that point. Dusty Baker isn’t playing for a suicide squeeze, he’s playing for a gapper to score two runs. To make matters worse, Ludwick gets down 1-2, and Zimmerman STILL doesn’t return to double play depth. Ludwick, who was a far shot to bunt in the first place, certainly isn’t bunting with 2 strikes down 2 runs in the 9th! So what happens? Ludwick hits a routine grounder to Zimmerman, who gets eaten up because he’s playing right on the grass and the ball takes a weird hop. If Zimmerman plays at normal depth, that’s a game ending double play ball at best, a force out at 3rd for the 2nd out at worst.
Do you blame his positioning on Zimmerman or the dugout? Probably the latter, but Zimmerman has been playing long enough and is a good enough fielder that he should have known what to do. I hope he buys Gonzalez dinner for costing him a Win (not to mention Lidge for the blown-save). In the end the Nats get the W … but as I was driving away from the stadium it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least to see the team demoralizingly drop that game after controlling it the entire day.