WASHINGTON (AP) Jordan Zimmermann pitched a two-hitter and picked up his NL-leading 19th win Friday night, leading the barely-still-alive Washington Nationals to an 8-0 victory over the Miami Marlins.
Zimmermann (19-8) took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, struck out nine and faced only three batters above the minimum. He passed the 200-inning mark for the season and lowered his ERA to 3.18 for the Nationals, who have essentially hit must-win mode in their late push for the playoffs. They began the day trailing the Cincinnati Reds by five games with nine to play for the NL's second wild card berth.
Zimmermann had a one-hitter this season, on April 26 in a 1-0 win over the Reds.
After hovering near .500 for most of the season, the defending NL East champs have won 12 of 14 and 29 of 40. With Zimmermann so effective, they got all the offense they needed - and then some - when they sent 11 batters to the plate in a seven-run sixth against Marlins starter Jacob Turner (3-8) and reliever Chris Hatcher.
It was obvious from the get-go that Zimmermann had his best stuff. Nearly every pitch seemed to have out-of-this-world movement, making it an unfair fight against most anyone holding a bat.
He needed only nine pitches to get through the first inning, eight of them strikes. He struck out the side in the second, getting Logan Morrison to flail at a high 96 mph fastball to end the inning. The perfect game ended with a two-out, five-pitch walk to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth, but the next hitter, Justin Ruggiano, was left so clueless by a two-strike, 88 mph slider that the centerfielder's left hand came off the bat during a halfhearted swing.
Second baseman Anthony Rendon made two nice plays on sharply hit one-hoppers - to his right in the fifth, to his left in the sixth - to allow those in the ballpark to start pondering the possibility of the franchise's first no-hitter since the move from Montreal in 2005.
Donovan Solano rendered such hopes mute with a solid single to center with two outs in the sixth, eliciting an "awwww" of disappointment and then a nice ovation from the crowd.
Until then, Turner had been nearly as stingy, allowing three hits and no runs through five innings. The Nationals broke the scoreless tie by opening the bottom of the sixth with four consecutive hits, including back-to-back doubles by Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. Denard Span, whose 29-game hitting streak came to an end Thursday night, had two hits in the inning, including a two-run triple.
Turner has lost seven consecutive decisions and remains winless in his career on the road (0-8). The Marlins are 0-8 this season at Nationals Park.
NOTES: The Nationals wore blue and yellow patches on their jerseys in memory of the victims of the mass shooting Monday at the nearby Navy Yard. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg played catch with no apparent ill effects before the game and is expected to start Saturday for the Nationals. Strasburg's scheduled start Thursday was pushed back two days because of tightness in his forearm. ... RHP Tom Koehler, the Marlins' scheduled starter Saturday, cut a finger on his left hand while lifting weights but is expected to pitch. "He should be fine," manager Mike Redmond said. "It's his glove hand." Redmond smiled and added: "It might affect his swing a little bit" - not much of a development given that Koehler has three hits in 36 at-bats this season. ... Nationals manager Davey Johnson was all smiles before the game, having defended his member-guest title over 18 holes at Congressional Country Club. "So a win's a bonus tonight," he said.
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