It always happens this way. Starting pitcher is dealing, I mean dealing. Jordan Zimmerman, the Washington Nationals' starter, started off the top of the 9th by throwing gas. He was firing bullets and hadn't even hit 100 pitches yet. He would get the first two outs easily. The guy was throwing a three hit shutout and he hand't walked anybody. The Nationals led 1-0.
That is as close to perfect that you are going to get. He had out dueled Tim Hudson, of the one time famed Hudson, Mulder, Zito three headed monster of the Oakland A's. He was one out away, and up to the plate stepped Joe Panik.
Panik didn't look like a rookie; he was calm, relaxed and focused. He pulled a fastball just wide of the right field foul pole and almost tied the game. That close call is what got him the walk. Zimmerman didn't want anything to do with the rookie batting .305 after that. He threw him garbage the rest of the at-bat and Panik would draw the first walk of the evening for the Giants with two out in the ninth.
As fate would have it, that would be the end of the night for Zimmerman. A flawless performance that undoubtedly would of been completed a short time later had manager Matt Williams left Zimmerman in the game, would now be left two chance in the hands of the bullpen.
Playoff baseball and relief pitchers have a way of being totally unpredictable. Matt Williams had to feel that Drew Storen would come in there and get the out they needed; but he failed. What Joe Panik started with the walk, the Kung Fu Panda finished. Pablo Sandoval got the game tying hit that was almost the game winning hit. Buster Posey was tagged out on a very close play at the plate that would be reviewed. Bryce Harper threw a rope from left and what looked to be a simultaneous tag as Posey's foot would touch the plate, was ruled an out. That would leave the Giants at 1-1 headed to 10th.
Panik's walk would result in the only run for the next three and a half hours until Brandon Belt took advantage of a hanging slider in the 18th.
The Giants will head back to AT&T Park with a comfy 2-0 lead in the best of five and they can thank Joe for doing the exact opposite of his name. There is no panic in this Joe, only poise and focus.
"I wonder if he’s human sometimes," Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said Friday night, per the Washington Post. "I think he is, but I don’t know."