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Zimmermann falters late

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Zimmermann falters late

Through his first five starts this season, Jordan Zimmermann has looked like one of the very best pitchers in baseball, like he could be the ace of almost any staff in the league. But in Tuesday nights 5-1 loss to Arizona, Zimmermann finally showed some signs of imperfection, specifically in a rough seventh inning in which he gave up more earned runs than he had allowed in an entire game all season.

Zimmermann started the game as well as he had in his previous four, a stable stretch of five straight games allowing just one earned run through at least six innings pitched. But an aggressive approach throughout the game from the Diamondbacks finally paid off late.

Cody Ransom led off the seventh with a single to left off a slider Zimmermann threw after two fastballs. John McDonald then hit the next pitch, another single to left. Trevor Cahill then advanced the two into scoring position with a near-perfect bunt as Zimmermann had to dive to field the ball and throw him out. He intentionally walked the next batter then walked to the bullpen to watch two runs credited to him allowed by his replacement Ryan Mattheus.

I knew they swung early in the count and were pretty aggressive, I just had to make quality pitches earlier in the count and let them get themselves out, he said.

I was able to do that for the most part in the beginning of the game and later in the game I just missed on a few.

Zimmermann pitched in 80-degree heat with high humidity - his first start of the year in hot weather and acknowledged the conditions after the game. Arizona was also much more aggressive early in counts, but that is something Zimmermann believes should play in his favor.

I would rather have an aggressive team. If I can make my pitch I know they are going to put it in play and if they put it in play theyre not going to get a base hit every single time. Early outs are what Im looking for.

Zimmermanns statistics so far support his claim, he has only struck out 22 batters in 33.1 innings pitched but holds a .84 WHIP. Despite a two-run inning and eight hits allowed against Arizona he still has a 1.89 ERA a .207 batting average against. And on top of all that he has walked just three batters and allowed only one home run.

Overall it was another solid outing that should have earned him a win, but lately the Nationals lineup hasnt been able to produce much of anything. After six they were still without a run, not that Zimmermann is used to great run support, but pitching so well without any help can be wear old.

The pitching has been outstanding. Zimmermann was strong, he got a little tired late and the ball started coming up, but you cant put it straight on the pitching staff, manager Davey Johnson said.

We have to start scoring some runs. You cant just be that fine all the time.

The Nationals rotation is probably used to carrying the team at this point, Zimmermanns 1.89 ERA is actually above the staffs total average of 1.79. Johnson after the game was frustrated with the lack of scoring. Not scoring puts more pressure on the pitching staff and mistakes get magnified.

The pitchers know they gotta be pretty good, I think the last five or so games weve average two runs or something, he said. Thats just not gonna cut it.

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

WASHINGTON -- Presented with identical opportunities to ring up a big inning, the Washington Nationals took full advantage and Baltimore Orioles squandered the chance.

That goes a long way toward explaining why the Nationals are a contender and the Orioles own the worst record in the big leagues.

Trea Turner went 4 for 4 with a homer , Anthony Rendon drove in three runs and Washington extended its recent domination of the Orioles with a 9-7 victory Tuesday night.

The game was essentially decided in the fifth inning, which began with Baltimore leading 4-1.

In the top half, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs and scored only one run -- when Manny Machado hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half and batted around, scoring four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Adam Eaton contributed a two-run single, Rendon hit a sacrifice fly and Bryce Harper chased starter David Hess with an RBI double.

"They did a lot better job cashing in their bases loaded, nobody out situation than we did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter conceded.

For the game, Baltimore was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals were 5 for 10.

"This team is starting to become relentless," manager Dave Martinez said. "They kept pounding and pounding and pounding, had a couple of big innings there and scored some runs."

The Nationals trailed 6-5 before getting six hits in a four-run seventh. Rendon delivered a two-run double off Tanner Scott (0-1) that made it 7-6, and Turner capped his four-hit night with a double.

Both teams noted that more than a couple of Washington's hits were bloopers and seeing-eye grounders, but the Nationals certainly weren't about to apologize.

"I feel like all year we've been hitting balls right at people," Turner said, "so it's nice to get a bunch of those in one game and come out with a win."

Washington has won six straight over its neighboring interleague rival, including four games this season by a combined 20-8.

Pitching in his second big league game, Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez gave up five runs, four hits and four walks in five innings.

Justin Miller (5-0) pitched two innings of relief, newcomer Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect eighth and Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run to Joey Rickard while earning his 19th save.

Jace Peterson and Trey Mancini each hit two-run homers for the Orioles, who have lost 16 of 19.

This one can be blamed on an all-too-telling fifth inning.

"It's just one of those things where if they got hits they seemed to have found holes," Showalter said. "They hit some balls hard, too."

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