Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann entered Saturday’s game with a chance to become the Major League’s first 13 game winner of the season — on the day that the All-Star teams were announced. On a hot, humid D.C. summer day, Zimmermann managed only 5 1/3 innings, but left with a lead.
Unfortunately for Zimmermann, the bullpen was victimized, preventing the stoic right-hander from earning that 13th win of the season, but that didn’t keep him from earning his first All-Star selection — or the Nats from the win, as some late offense and even later defense allowed the Nats to make a gutty comeback to earn a 5-4 win, their third in a row and seventh in their last 10.
The Nats cut the Atlanta Braves lead in the N.L. East to 4 1/2 games pending the result of their late contest with the Philadelphia Phillies.
During the game, MLB announced the 2013 All-Star teams, with Bryce Harper winning the fan vote to be a starter for the National League. Zimmermann will join Harper on the team as a starting pitcher for the game to be played at Citifield on July 16.
There was no score until the third inning, when the Nats scratched the surface. Anthony Rendon led off with a single and went to third on Kurt Suzuki’s double. After Zimmermann struck out, Denard Span walked on four pitches. Ian Desmond hit a grounder to first, and Padres 1B Jesus Guzman came home to force Rendon.
On the slide, Rendon collided with Yasmani Grandal’s lower right leg, and the catcher piled in a heap. After a lengthy injury time out, a few of Grandal’s teammates had to help the fallen player off the field.
When play resumed, Bryce Harper drew a free pass with the bases loaded, and Suzuki walked home with the first run of the game.
The Nats added to their lead in the next inning on Adam LaRoche’s 13th home run of the season.
The Padres got one back in the bottom of the inning. Logan Forsythe walked to lead off the frame, stole second base, and took third on Nick Hundley’s grounder to short. Forsythe then scored on Marquis’ ground out to cut the lead to 2-1.
Washington made it 3-1 in the fifth. Span reached on a one-out infield single, stole second, and took third on Desmond’s single to right field. Span then scored on Harper’s ground ball single up the middle.
The Padres chased Zimmermann in the sixth after 100 pitches and runners at first and second. Ross Ohlendorf came on in relief, but allowed a three-run home run to the first batter he faced, Jesus Guzman, which made the score 4-3 Padres, ensuring Zimmermann would not become the Majors’ first 13 game winner this season.
For the day, Zimmermann went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and one walk, striking out four.
The Nats retook the lead in the seventh inning of Padres reliever Nick Vincent. Span laced a one-out single to left field and took second on Desmond’s single to right. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, which proved to be critical. On the next pitch, Harper lofted a fly to medium left field, but deep enough to plate the speedy Span from third. Ryan Zimmerman then lined one to right field that scored Desmond from second, but Zimmerman was thrown out trying for second base.
Drew Storen, who was hammered in his last two appearances, entered to a smattering of boos in the eighth, but left to a rousing ovation after a dominant 1-2-3 inning. Rafael Soriano had some tense moments in the ninth, but earned his 24th save to preserve the victory.
THE GOOD: Bryce Harper. 1-for-2 with a walk and three RBIs. Entered the game 0-for-18 since his home run in his first at bat coming off the D.L. Span, Desmond, Zimmerman and LaRoche all added two hits apiece.
THE BAD: Roger Bernadina struck out as a pinch-hitter, lowering his average to .184/.179/.189.
THE UGLY: The play that injured Grandal. It was a clean, hard baseball play, but you never want to see a guy get hurt. The Padres announces a knee sprain, but Grandal will get further tests after the swelling in the joint goes down.
THE STATS: 12 hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks.
NEXT GAME: Sunday at 1:35 pm against the Padres. Stephen Strasburg (4-6, 2.24) hosts Robbie Erlin (1-1, 4.34).
NATS NOTES: After the game, manager Davey Johnson announced LHP Ross Detwiler would be placed on the 15-day D.L. with back issues and will be replaced on the roster by RHP Dan Haren, who is eligible to come off the D.L. Tuesday.