With the Atlanta Braves starting to catch fire with only two weeks left to go in the regular season, the Washington Nationals know they can't simply cruise into the final few games as if they don't matter, and they certainly showed in the September 24 game against the Milwaukee Brewers that they don't intend on doing so, winning by the score of 12-2. Jordan Zimmermann picked up his twelfth win of the year for the Nationals, while Marco Estrada had his seventh loss.
In a twist of irony for Jordan Zimmermann, who had gone much of the year getting little to no run support at all, the Nationals' bats finally came through for him against the Brewers, scoring seven runs over the first four innings. It wasn't as if Zimmermann needed all of them either, as he pitched another great game by going six innings strong and giving up only one run on four hits to go along with seven strikeouts as well. While Gio Gonzalez has really been the stand-out pitcher for the Nationals this year, they really could not have made the playoffs without solid contributions throughout the entire year from Jordan and Edwin Jackson. Now that Stephen Strasburg is out of the rotation, the Nationals will need to rely on these two pitchers to continue stepping it up in the playoffs if they want to make any sort of noise.
Another player who is starting to heat up at just the right time is Ryan Zimmerman, who went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and an impressive opposite field home run in the fourth inning to break the game wide open. He is now batting .309 for the month of September with seven home runs and 24 RBIs, providing much-needed stability in the middle of the lineup for the Nationals. Similar to the starting rotation, while Zimmerman and Bryce Harper have dominated the headlines this year on offense, several players have stepped up their games to another level, none more so than Ian Desmond. Desmond is really having a 'breakout' year in every sense of the word, as far as both average (.299) and power (24 home runs and 71 RBIs) are concerned, and it is these sort of performances that are needed for teams for teams like the Nationals to get over the hump and make an unexpectedly deep run in the playoffs.
The Washington Nationals will look to end the season on a strong note as they start a six game road series against the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals before heading home to face the Phillies again for three games. Ross Detwiler will take the mound on September 25 against Cole Hamels in what should be an interesting pitching matchup to watch. Detwiler has been fantastic of late for the Nationals, giving up only two total runs over his past two starts, while Hamels has really been the only positive thing going for the Phillies in 2012. I would expect to see a low scoring game with the bullpens determining who will get the victory.
Ryan Kekoufski lives near the Nationals' stadium and has been following the team ever since they moved to Washington D.C.
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