Instant Analysis: Nats 4, Mets 3

Instant Analysis: Nats 4, Mets 3
July 19, 2012, 2:09 am

Game in a nutshell: Stop us if you've heard this one before: Jordan Zimmermann pitches brilliantly but gets precious little run support and finds himself facing a possible no-decision. Thankfully for the hard-luck right-hander, the Nationals strung together enough hits late to give him the lead. And Zimmermann didn't need much, because he didn't allow any runs over six strong innings. Adam LaRoche provided the big blast: a two-run homer in the sixth to snap a scoreless tie. Steve Lombardozzi then added the insurance knock: a two-run double in the seventh. That gave some cushion to the Nats bullpen, which unlike last night managed to close this one out in regulation (though Tyler Clippard did give up homers to both David Wright and Jason Bay in the ninth). Thus, the Nationals handed the Mets their sixth straight loss and dropped them eight games back in the NL East.
Hitting highlight: No, he's not raking at the plate the way he did during the season's first six weeks when he looked like a candidate for National League MVP. But LaRoche continues to come through with clutch hits on a regular basis for the Nats. The veteran first baseman delivered big-time in the sixth inning tonight, belting a 1-2 pitch from Chris Young into the Red Porch for his 16th homer and 54th and 55th RBI of the season. This may not turn out to be a career year for LaRoche, but he's basically doing exactly what the Nationals wanted him to do all along: Provide power, clutch hits and smooth defense at first base.

Pitching highlight: Just another quality start for "Mr. Consistency." Zimmermann was at it again, churning out six more scoreless innings and plowing through the Mets lineup with relative ease. He allowed only four hits, didn't walk a batter and in the process lowered his ERA to 2.35. That now ranks fifth in the majors. Perhaps most impressively, Zimmermann is getting better and stronger as this season plays out. Remember how the opposite seemed to be true last year as he made his comeback from Tommy John surgery? This is why the Nats limited him to 160 innings, and it's why they'll do the same with Stephen Strasburg later this season. You can't dispute the positive effect it's had on Zimmermann in 2012.
Key stat: Though he finally got his run support in the sixth, Zimmermann did go into the fifth inning without his teammates having plated a single run. That's the seventh time this season that's happened to the right-hander.
Up next: The series concludes with a fantastic showdown of the NL's only two 12-game winners: Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey. They'll square off in Thursday's 12:35 p.m. matinee at Nationals Park.