But Zimmermann allowed two one-out singles and was relieved by Ross Ohlendorf, who coughed up a three-run home run to Jesus Guzman three pitches into his appearance. Zimmermann lost his bid to become the second 13-game winner in the majors, was charged with three runs and tossed 101 pitches over 51
3 innings. It was only the third time in 18 starts this season Zimmermann hasn’t completed the sixth inning.
Other than Guzman’s home run, the Nationals’ bullpen reversed a recent stretch of inconsistency that made Johnson “gun shy,” in his own words.
Drew Storen tossed a powerhouse eighth inning, needing only five pitches to get three outs, the type of aggression Johnson has wanted from him. Then came the wild ninth inning.
Soriano, seeking his 24th save, allowed two one-out singles. Pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay drilled a ball back to Soriano, which hit him in the stomach, a potential double-play ball. Rendon quickly reversed direction, scooped up the ball and made a snap throw to nab a diving Kotsay at first.
Everth Cabrera, a speedy runner, then smacked a grounder toward the first base hole, seemingly headed toward right field to tie the game. LaRoche, the NL’s reigning Gold Glove first baseman, dove to his right to stop the ball. From his knees, he flipped the ball to Soriano racing to cover first, and he beat Cabrera by a step. “That’s the fastest I’ve seen him run,” Zimmerman said of Soriano.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Soriano said of his teammates’ defensive gems. “I know this team has great defense. And I know that any way they’re going to try to make the play. We have a great team, and it’s just about winning more games, and I know we can go far.”
Soriano pounded his glove and untucked his shirt after the win, joined by LaRoche. The Nationals slapped hands on the field, only the sixth time this season they have won three games in a row. This time, however, their lineup is healthy. And with Harper pulling out of his recent skid and in the lineup every day, the Nationals have perhaps found more hope.