Jordan Zimmermann didn’t have his best start of the season, but it was enough to guide his team to their 90th victory of the season and come within one win of clinching a playoff spot for the first time since the relocation in 2005.
The Washington Nationals got just enough offense to earn Zimmermann his 11th win of the season, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1, in the first game of a traditional single-admission double-header, necessitated by Tuesday night’s rainout. The Nats gained a half-game over the Atlanta Braves, moving six games ahead of their closest competition in the N.L. East.
Zimmermann (W, 11-8) battled his command in throwing 106 pitches through six innings, walking two and hitting a batter. His normally impeccable pin-point control just wasn’t there with his fastball, though he utilized a strong breaking ball to record four strikeouts.
“The first couple innings — I was coming off seven days rest — I was a little out of sync,” Zimmermann said, “The last three innings I felt much better and I was able to control everything. It was definitely good to get a win.”
“He got stronger as the game went on,” manager Davey Johnson agreed. “It was a welcome win.”
The Nats (90-57) got their first run in the second inning. Michael Morse, in his first game back after taking off a few to nurse his sore left wrist, singled to lead off. He took third on Danny Espinosa’s infield single and scored on Kurt Suzuki’s deep fly ball to right field.
Los Angeles evened things up in the third against Zimmermann. Andre Ethier reached on a one-out single and scored on Hanley Ramirez’ opposite field two-out single.
The Nats took the lead back in the fifth inning, as Bryce Harper led off with a hustle triple to the right center gap and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s ground out to the right side of the infield. They tacked on another in a similar manner in the sixth. Ian Desmond led that inning off with a double to the left center gap, took third on Kurt Suzuki’s single and came in on pinch-hitter Tyler Moore’s ground out to second.
Ryan Mattheus, Sean Burnett, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard totalled three innings of scoreless relief for the Nats to hold onto the victory.
Lefty John Lannan (3-0, 2.41) hosts Josh Beckett (6-13, 4.94) in the nightcap.
SEE PHOTO GALLERY FROM GAME ONE.