Zimmerman pulled in top of ninth inning
By Daniel Popper
With the Nationals leading the Rockies, 4-3, in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday night, manager Matt Williams made a defensive switch by bringing Danny Espinosa into the game at second base.
But the move came at a price.
Williams was forced to remove Ryan Zimmerman from the contest as not to lose Anthony Rendon, who moved from second base to replace Zimmerman at the hot corner for the final inning.
The point became moot when Rafael Soriano earned his 20th save of the season, but he did so in dramatic fashion by stranding runners at first and third base. Had the Rockies tied the game up in the ninth inning, Zimmerman would not have been available to hit in the bottom half or beyond.
“At that point, we want our finest defense in there,” Williams said.
Earlier in the contest, Zimmerman — who was making his third start at third base since returning from a fractured right thumb — made a stellar diving play on a rocket shot down the left-field line off the bat off Michael McKenry, throwing the lead runner out at second base. Even so, Williams opted to take Zimmerman out of the one-run ballgame.
“It’s the right move,” Zimmerman said. “I’m still getting used to playing third base again…Anthony’s played well at third base and Danny is one of the best if not the best defensive second basemen in the game. So if we’re up late in the game, I have no problem if it gives us the best chance to win.”
Even if it means losing a potentially crucial at-bat late in the game?
“With our bullpen, we expect to hold a lead after the seventh inning, whether it’s one run or five runs,” Zimmerman said. “You’ve got to put your best defensive players in. And right now, that’s Anthony and Danny.”