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Nationals 6-0 over Padres: Jordan Zimmermann flirts with perfection, settles for complete game shutout

Jordan Zimmermann was perfect through 5 1/3 IP in the series finale with the San Diego Padres before he finally gave up a hit. The Washington Nationals took a 6-0 lead early and took 2 of 3 from the Padres in Petco Park. Next stop San Francisco...

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Petco Park Rubber Match Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Denard Span hustled around to second with a leadoff double on a ground ball that went by the right side of second and into center field in Petco Park. After the two-base hit, Span's 17th of 2014, the Washington's 30-year-old outfielder stole third off San Diego Padres' starter Eric Stults and catcher Yasmani Grandal and then scored on an RBI groundout to short by Kevin Frandsen that gave the visiting Nationals a 1-0 lead after a half-inning in the series finale with the Padres.

Ryan Zimmerman singled to start the Nationals' second, then came home the easy way when Ian Desmond hit an 87 mph 1-0 fastball to center field for a two-run home run and a 3-0 lead. HR no.13 for Desmond. Second in the last two days.

The Nationals' third started with three straight singles by Kevin Frandsen, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche, with LaRoche's driving in run no.4, 4-0. Danny Espinosa faced a new pitcher, Tim Stauffer, when he stepped in with one down and the bases loaded and Espinosa took a first-pitch fastball to right for a two-run single and a 6-0 Nats' lead.

Jordan Zimmermann was perfect through 5 1/3 IP in Petco Park before Padres' second baseman Alexi Amarista singled to right for the first hit of the game for San Diego, but Zimmermann set down the next two batters in the home-half of the sixth, after which he had retired 18 of the 19 batters he faced.

Zimmermann was at 100 pitches and 11 Ks after a 13-pitch eighth and he came back out for the ninth to finish the complete game shutout.

6-0 Nationals.

4. Zimmermann vs the Friars: Having put a rough month of May behind him, recently-turned 28-year-old Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann got off to a good start in June with eight scoreless innings on the mound last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies in Nationals Park. The difference, Nats' skipper Matt Williams said, was the right-hander getting better results with a pitch he struggled with through the first two months of the season.

"He threw a lot of sliders today for strikes. He has not really found it as we talked about, he throws some good ones, but it hasn't been consistent." -Matt Williams on Jordan Zimmermann's last start vs PHI

"I think it was the slider," Williams said. "He threw a lot of sliders today for strikes. He has not really found it as we talked about, he throws some good ones, but it hasn't been consistent. Tonight it was really consistent, so he worked his changeup a little bit. Worked his sliders to the right-handers and was able to throw it for a strike, which was good."

Wiliams said he thought it was important that Zimmermann put a strong start together after struggling in his previous outings last month.

"He's kept us in games," Williams explained, "and we've had chances to win and all of that, but tonight was a really good step for him because he was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes and he commanded the zone really well, so it's good."

"He's kept us in games, and we've had chances to win and all of that, but tonight was a really good step for him..." -Matt Williams on Zimmermann's outing vs the Phillies

With the win over the Phillies, Zimmermann improved to (4-2) on the year with a 3.59 ERA, a 3.18 FIP, 14 walks (1.86 BB/9) and 54 Ks (7.18 K/9) in 12 starts and 67 2/3 IP.

As the Nationals' pregame notes before today's outing mentioned, some of the Nats' '07 2nd Round pick's issues this year can be tied to bad "luck" in the form of a Batting Average on Balls in Play (.394 BABIP) that is 74 points higher than his BABIP in 2013 (.275). Zimmermann's BABIP on the year heading into this afternoon's start, was the second-highest amongst major league starters, behind only teammate Stephen Strasburg's .358 BABIP.

Zimmermann faced the Padres earlier this season, receiving no decision in a 4-3 loss in which he gave up five hits and three earned runs over six innings. In six career starts against San Diego before today, the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born starter was (1-2) with a 2.35 ERA, four walks (0.94 BB/9) and 35 Ks (8.22 K/9) in 38 1/3 IP, over which he held Padres' hitters to put up a combined .214/.247/.329 line.

This afternoon in Petco Park, where he was (1-1) with a 0.86 ERA, one walk (0.43 BB/9) and 22 Ks (9.43 K/9) in three starts and 21 IP over which he's held San Diego's bats to a .200/.231/.293 line, Zimmermann started the game with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Denard Span's double, stolen base and run scored in the opening frame...

1st: Everth Cabrera went down swinging at a high 1-2 heater outside. Seth Smith chased a 95 mph 1-2 heater that was knee-high outside for out and K no.2. Carlos Quentin's fly to left fell into Ryan Zimmerman's glove and ended a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 opening frame by Jordan Zimmermann.

2nd: Chase Headley took a 79 mph 1-2 curve for a called strike three. Yonder Alonso got sawed off at the handle on a 94 mph 0-1 heater that resulted in a weak groundout to short. Yasmani Grandal took a 95 mph 1-2 heater knee-high outside for a called strike three, out no.3 and K no.4 in two scoreless.

3rd: Cameron Maybin grounded weakly to short where Ian Desmond made a barehand grab and throw that Adam LaRoche picked out of the dirt. Zimmermann covered first on a groundout to first by Alexi Amarista, who was out no.8 to start the game. Tim Stauffer battled for eight pitches before striking out to end an 18-pitch frame which left Zimmermann at 38 pitches after three scoreless.

4th: Everth Cabrera grounded to short. Ian Desmond bounced the throw to first, but LaRoche picked it. Seth Smith grounded out to Kevin Frandsen at third. Carlos Quentin fell behind 0-2 and went down swingign at a 94 fastball outside. 12 up, 12 down. 13-pitch frame, 51 overall after four.

5th: Chase Headley was first pitch swinging and he grounded out to first. 13. Yonder Alonso popped out to Kevin Frandsen in foul territory off third. 14. Yasmani Grandal went down swinging at a 93 mph 2-2 heater. Foul tip strike three. 15 up, 15 down after a nine-pitch frame. 60 pitches total, seven Ks after five.

6th: Cameron Maybin flew out to Jayson Werth down the right field line. 16. Alexi Amarista got to a 2-2 count and took a 94 mph fastball to right for a soft liner and the Padres' first hit of the game. 16 of 17 set down. Pinch hitter Tommy Medica K'd swinging through a 94 mph 2-2 heater. Everth Cabrera K'd swinging at a 2-2 change to end an 18-pitch frame after which Zimmerman was up to 78 pitches with 18 of 19 batters set down.

7th: Seth Smith lined to right to start the seventh, and it got under Jayson Werth's glove for a leadoff triple. Carlos Quentin grounded out to third for out no.1. Chase Headley popped out to third for out no.2 and Yonder Alonson lined out to center to end a nine-pitch seventh. 87 pitches overall for Zimmermann.

8th: Yasmani Grandal flew out to deep center to start the Padres' eighth. Cameron Maybin took a 93 mph 1-2 heater for a called strike three and K no.10. Alexi Amarista fouled strike three into Jose Lobaton's mitt to end a 13-pitch frame with Zimmermann's 11th K. 100 pitches total.

9th: Will Venable popped out to second. Everth Cabera K'd swinging. No.12. Seth Smith fell behind 0-2 and grounded out to short. Ballgame. 14-pitch frame. 114-pitch complete game.

• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 Ks, 114 P, 83 S, 8/3 GO/FO.

3. Eric Stults, Not Stoltz: Eric Stults, 34, gave up 10 hits but just two earned runs in 5 1/3 IP against Washington in the nation's capital back on April 24 in a 4-3 Padres' win over the Nationals in which he received no decision. It was his second career start opposite the Nats, against whom he was (1-0) with a 2.03 ERA, two walks and eight Ks in 13 1/3 IP in which Nationals' hitters put up a .286/.308/.347 line heading into today's series finale in Petco Park.

On the year, before today, the veteran of eight MLB seasons was (2-6) with a 5.03 ERA, 5.26 FIP, 13 walks (1.87 BB/9) and 32 Ks (4.60 K/9) in 12 starts and 62 2/3 IP.

He was facing a Nationals team today that came into the game with a .280/.341/.414 line vs left-handed pitchers, good for second in the NL in AVG vs LHP, behind on the Rockies' .297 AVG, third in the National League in OBP, behind the Rockies (.345) and Braves (346) and seventh in SLG.

Stults gave up leadoff hits in each of the first two innings this afternoon, with Denard Span doubling to start the first and scoring, 1-0, and Ryan Zimmerman singling in the first at bat of the second. Ian Desmond followed Zimmerman's single with a two-run home run to center in Petco Park. 3-0 Nats.

Kevin Frandsen reached base safely on a hard-hit grounder to third that jumped on and bounced off Chase Headley, putting the leadoff hitter on in each of the first three frames. Jayson Werth singled to left in the next at bat to put two on for Adam LaRoche, who hit the third straight single and drove in the Nats' fourth run. One out later, Ian Desmond singled to right to load the bases with one down and Stults was done for the day...

Tim Stauffer took over with the bases loaded and Danny Espinosa at he plate and gave up a two-run single to right that made it 6-0 Nats after three in the series finale.

• Eric Stolts' Line: 2.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 48 P, 33 S, 1/1 GO/FO.

2. If Clutch Existed: Ian Desmond's seventh inning home run off San Diego reliever Nick Vincent last night traveled 437 ft to center field in Petco Park and lifted the Nationals to a 3-2 lead after they trailed 2-0 through six innings and were almost completely shut down by Padres' starter Andrew Cashner. As several reporters, including CSN's Mark Zuckerman noted, Desmond's 12th home run of the year was the sixth that put the Nats ahead:

If clutch existed, Ian Desmond might be it.

"That's hit a long way," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said when asked about Desi's 12th long ball of 2014, which was made more impressive by the fact that it was hit out of the Padres' notoriously homer-hating park.

"It's difficult at night here to hit a homer," the former major leaguer-turned-manager said. "[Yonder] Alonso's the same way, so it's difficult to play long ball here at night. Much better during the day, but at night it's very difficult."

The home run by Desmond was his only hit in a 1 for 4 game which left him with a .227/.297/.427 line on the year in 59 games and 249 plate appearances in 2014.

Desmond started the series finale with HR no.13 of 2014, taking Eric Stults deep to center field for a two-run home run and a 3-0 Nationals' lead early in the series finale.

1. The Wrap-Up: San Diego right-hander Tim Stauffer retired the Nationals in order in the fourth for the first 1-2-3 frame of the day by the Padres. Jayson Werth singled to start the fifth, but three outs later he was stranded at first as Stauffer struck out the side. Stauffer issued a one-out walk to Jose Lobaton, but nothing else in a scoreless top of the sixth.

Kevin Quackenbush gave up a leadoff double and a two-out walk, but completed a scoreless seventh inning vs the Nationals.

Troy Patton pitched around a leadoff single by Danny Espinosa (who was 3 for 4 on the day after the hit) before finishing up a scoreless top of the eighth.

Alex Torres threw a scoreless ninth, stranding two Nationals.

Jordan Zimmermann came back out for the ninth and threw a scoreless frame for the complete game.

6-0 Nationals.

Nationals now 32-29