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Posted at 05:31 PM ET, 03/17/2012

Zimmermann excellent in third spring start

Roughly halfway through spring training, the Nationals are starting to push their starting pitchers’ pitch-counts into the mid-70s, and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann breezed through four scoreless innings in 76 pitches on Saturday, looking as if he could have gone even deeper.

“Zim was great. He threw the ball exceptionally well,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He was really strong at the end, too. A good day of work for him.”

The Nationals-Miami Marlins game was called a tie, 1-1, after nine innings, when the Nationals ran out of pitchers. The Nationals’ Grapefruit League record is something straight out of an early-season NHL standings: 5-7-3.

The only run the Nationals’ allowed was given up by minor-leaguer Rafael Martin (a homer by Marlins catcher John Buck), while Zimmermann, Ryan Mattheus and Henry Rodriguez combined for seven shutout innings. The Nationals scored their only run in the first, when Chad Tracy’s grounder to first scored Danny Espinosa, who had drawn a one-out walk.

The Nationals failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, despite having runners on the corners with nobody out. Catcher Jhonatan Solano hit a grounder to first that the Marlins turned into a double-play, with Jason Michaels freezing at third base. Then, Roger Bernadina grounded out to end the game.

Zimmermann’s strong outing — five hits, no walks, three strikeouts — comes on the heels of a less-than-stellar one in his previous trip to the mound, when he gave up seven hits and four earned runs to St. Louis. The most notable improvement Saturday was in Zimmermann’s command — he threw 52 strikes among his 76 pitches.

“I felt better today than last time,” Zimmermann said. “I had good control with all my pitches... I’m trying to throw strikes and get early contact.”

A few other notes to wrap up a lovely Saturday at Space Coast Stadium:

*Rodriguez’s scoreless inning was his fourth in a row, although the notoriously wild flamethrower did issue his first walk of the spring.

“He was a little wild, but not much,” Johnson said. “He’s picking up right where he left off last year.”

*Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was drilled in the left hip by a pitch in the fifth inning and was immediately removed for a pinch-runner, but Zimmerman was only scheduled to play five innings anyway, and afterward he pronounced himself fine.

*Playing center field again, Bryce Harper collected his first extra-base hit of the spring, an opposite-field double down the left-field line off Marlins right-hander Steve Cishek. Harper is now hitting .304 this spring (7 for 23) with a .708 OPS.

*The Nationals are back home again Sunday to face the Detroit Tigers, at 1:05 p.m., with Edwin Jackson facing Doug Fister.

By  |  05:31 PM ET, 03/17/2012

 
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