GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Needing a win to avoid their first series loss in three weeks, the Nationals looked a big sluggish. Jordan Zimmermann was effective, tossing six scoreless innings, but wasn't especially sharp and had to be pulled due to a high pitch count. The lineup, meanwhile, scratched out a quick run off Jake Arrieta but then went into shutdown mode, squandering some golden opportunities to add insurance in the fifth and sixth innings.
That proved costly, because Drew Storen gave up the tying run in the seventh on a couple of singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly (with Denard Span's throw to the plate just a split-second too late). Storen's fourth run surrendered in 32 appearances this season left the game tied 1-1 and very much up in the air late.
Tyler Clippard, though, escaped a self-made jam in the top of the eighth, and that set the stage for the Nationals to rally in the bottom of the inning. Ryan Zimmerman's two-out single to left scored Span and gave the Nats the lead heading to the ninth. Rafael Soriano then closed it out to secure the series victory and move the Nationals to within 1/2-game of the Braves (whose 9-game winning streak was snapped) in the NL East.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: When in doubt, count on Span for a two-bagger. The Nationals' leadoff hitter had two more doubles today, including the big one in the top of the eighth to put himself in scoring position. That was Denard's 28th double of the season, matching his total from all of 2013. Zimmerman then delivered the clutch hit, roping a two-out single to left, bringing Span home to give the Nationals the lead for good.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was not a conventional Zimmermann start, not even close. He surrendered at least one hit in all six of his innings. He racked up a whopping pitch count of 105. He couldn't even get a bunt down in a big spot, usually a specialty of his. And yet, at the end of the day, the right-hander put nothing but six zeroes up on the scoreboard. Somehow, some way, he found a way to get the job done. In doing so, Zimmermann lowered his ERA over his last seven starts to a miniscule 1.26. Overall, he now sports a 2.79 ERA for the season. There hasn't been a whole lot of talk about him and the All-Star Game, but perhaps this dominant stretch over the last month-plus has been enough to get him to Minnesota.
KEY STAT: Wilson Ramos now has a 10-game hitting streak, tied with Adam LaRoche for the longest by a Nationals player this season.
UP NEXT: It's time for the Battle of the Beltways, a 4-game, home-and-home series with the Orioles. It starts at 7:05 p.m. Monday at Nationals Park when Stephen Strasburg takes the mound against Chris Tillman.