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Nationals 7-4 over Orioles: Danny Espinosa's three-run blast lifts Nats

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Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was not particularly sharp, but the Nats' bats came through in a big sixth inning with Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa homering off Baltimore Orioles' righty Miguel Gonzalez to make it a 7-4 game.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

5. Proud Papa vs the O's: After dropping three straight decisions, between June 7-17th, Washington Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann has gone (2-0) in his last three starts, posting a 0.40 ERA (1 ER in 22 ⅔), one walk, 17 strikeouts and a .183/.202/.232 line against in two starts against Atlanta and one against San Francisco. Last time out, the Nats' 29-year-old right-hander went seven strong against the Giants, giving up three hits, a walk and one earned run while striking out eight batters in what ended up a 3-1 win.

Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked after that start about what's been working for Zimmermann in his last few outings.

"He's just found both his slider and his curveball. Threw a couple of good changeups tonight as well, but he's locating and throwing his breaking balls for strikes when he needs to." -Matt Williams on Jordan Zimmermann's recent run of success

"I just think that he's got a feel for his breaking pitches that he didn't have necessarily early in the season," Williams said.

"It probably helps that it's gotten warmer and more humid and you can grip the ball a little bit better, but he's just found both his slider and his curveball. Threw a couple of good changeups tonight as well, but he's locating and throwing his breaking balls for strikes when he needs to."

With wins in two of his last three starts, Zimmermann improved to (7-5) on the year with a 3.04 ERA, a 3.00 FIP, 20 walks (1.69 BB/9) and 77 Ks (6.50 K/9) in 106 ⅔ IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .266/.306/.346 line.

He's struggled on the road, however, with a 4.35 ERA and a .315/.355/.396 line against in 39 ⅓  innings pitched as opposed to his 2.27 ERA and .236/.275/.314 line against in 67 ⅓ IP at home.

Zimmermann took the mound against Baltimore looking for his first win in four starts in Oriole Park, where he was (0-3) with a 5.12 ERA and a .286/.321/.545 line against in 19 ⅓ IP before tonight.

It didn't start well (though it could have been worse) with Manny Machado singling and taking third on a double to the right-center gap by Chris Parmalee that brought Adam Jones up with two runners in scoring position and no one out. Jones popped to short left for out no.1, but Jimmy Paredes brought in the first run of the game with a groundout to second, 1-0. Travis Snyder K'd swinging to end a 20-pitch frame.

J.J. Hardy singled to right field with one down in the second, and scored one out later when Caleb Joseph hit a 92 mph 2-1 fastball out to center for a two-run blast that made it 3-2 Orioles after two. 24-pitch frame, 44 total after two.

With some help from his defense on a sick 4-6-3 DP started by Danny Espinosa and a nice catch in right by Bryce Harper, Zimmermann completed a relatively quick, 16-pitch third that left him at 60 pitches total after three.

Steve Pearce hit a 1-2 curve out to left for a solo home run in the first at bat of the fourth, 4-2, and Caleb Joseph hit a two-out single to right, but was stranded at the end of a 22-pitch frame that left Zimmermann at 82 total.

Jimmy Paredes singled to left with two down in the Orioles' fifth, but Travis Snyder popped out to short to end a 13-pitch fifth by Zimmermann, who was up to 95 pitches.

When the Nationals took a 6-4 lead in the top of the sixth, manager Matt Williams went to the pen...

Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 95 P, 63 S, 3/3 GO/FO.

4. Gonzalez vs the Nationals: Miguel Gonzalez, 31, earned his seventh win of the season last time out with a six-inning start against the Chicago White Sox in which he gave up just four hits, a walk and one earned run in what ended up a 9-1 win for the Orioles.

The veteran right-hander bounced back from a rough-ish outing against the Texas Rangers which saw him give up eight hits, three walks and six earned runs in 4 ⅓ innings pitched in his first loss of the year at home in Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where he fell to (3-1) in seven starts this season with a 3.25 ERA and a .215/.285/.393 line against in 44 ⅓ innings pitched.

As the Orioles mentioned in their pregame notes, Gonzalez has struggled early in his starts this season, giving up 21 of the 39 runs he's allowed this season between the first and third innings. He'd also been able to limit the damage on the long ball, with nine of the 15 home runs he's allowed this season solo shots, a trend that's been a career-long one for Gonzalez, who's allowed 77 home runs total in the majors, 56 of them solo blasts.

Neither of those notes held up tonight.

His first career start against the Nationals tonight began with a scoreless 22-pitch first that ended when the Orioles collected their major-league leading 26th outfield assist of the season, with late-addition to tonight's lineup Steve Pearce throwing in from right to Ryan Flaherty at second, who threw home to Caleb Joseph at home, who tagged Yunel Escobar when the Nats' third baseman tried to score on a two-out line drive by Clint Robinson. 0-0 after one.

Given a 1-0 lead to work with, Gonzalez walked Wilson Ramos in the first at bat of the second and gave up a bunt single by Danny Espinosa that put two on in front of Tyler Moore, who lined a single to left to load the bases for Ian Desmond, who grounded into a 4-6-3 DP that did, however, tie it up at 1-1. A two-out walk to Matt den Dekker kept the inning alive and Michael Taylor's broken-bat single to center brought Espinosa in for a 2-1 lead. 19-pitch frame, 41 total after two.

With the Orioles up 3-2, Gonzalez retired the side in order in an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 third. 49 total. A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left him at 58. Another 9-pitch frame in the fourth left Gonzalez at 67 pitches with 10-straight Nationals set down.

Bryce Harper broke up Gonzalez's streak of retired batters with a line drive home run 380ft-ish to right-center for HR no.26 of 2015. Clint Robinson and Wilson Ramos hit back-to-back singles in the next two at bats, and Danny Espinosa brought them both in with a three-run blast to right that put the nationals ahead, 6-4. Gonzalez, out.

Miguel Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HR, 79 P, 51 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: The Orioles took three of four games with the Nationals in 2014, and with last night's walk-off win, improved to 30-21 overall since 2005, when O's owner Peter Angelos was kind enough to let Washington, D.C. have a team again.

• After going 1 for 4 in last night's loss, Bryce Harper has reached base safely in 72 of 79 games this season.

• Harper currently leads the majors in OBP (.469) and slugging percentage (.703) and is tied for fourth in HRs with 25, third in walks with 63 and fifth in runs batters in with 60.

• Last night's loss to the Orioles was just the third game the Nationals have lost when they've led after seven innings, leaving them 39-3 when they've led after seven innings this season.

• The Orioles' win last night, was their first in a game this seaon they trailed after seven innings, breaking an 0-36 streak in such games and an 0-42 streak that went back to last season and was the longest streak in the majors.

• After going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position last night, the Orioles' team average with RISP dropped from .297 to .294 though they still ranked second in the AL and third in the majors in AVG w/ RISP behind only the Colorado Rockies (.295) and Toronto Blue Jays (.297).

• Adam Jones' home run last night left him one behind former Nats' skipper and HOFer Frank Robinson on the Orioles' all-time home run last with 178 in an O's uniform.

2. Turning Point(s): Jordan Zimmermann managed to limit the damage to one run in the first after giving up back-to-back hits by the first two batters he faced, then the Nationals rallied in the top of the second, loading the bases with no one out and scoring one run on a double play grounder off Ian Desmond's bat and another on a two-out, broken-bat single to center by Michael Taylor that made it 2-1 Nats after one and half in OPACY.

• Zimmermann left a 2-1 fastball up for Orioles' catcher Caleb Joseph with one on and two out in the O's second and the backup backstop hit a two-run blast to center field in Oriole Park to put Baltimore back up, 3-2 after two.

• Steve Pearce hit a hanging curve out to left field in the fourth for a 4-2 lead. It was his second HR in nine career at bats vs Zimmermann to go along with two doubles.

• Bryce Harper made it a one-run game in the sixth with a solo blast to right-center on a 1-0 fastball that got out in a hurry. No.26 for Harper. 4-3 Orioles, and Danny Espinosa put the Nationals ahead with a three-run blast that made it 6-4.

1. The Wrap-Up: Chaz Roe took over for the O's in the sixth inning with the Nationals up 6-4 and retired two batters before Matt den Dekker tripled to right, but the Nats' left fielder was stranded one out later.

Blake Treinen came on in the bottom of the sixth and issued a one-out walk to J. J. Hardy before he got an inning-ending 4-6-3 out of Ryan Flaherty. Seven-pitch frame.

Roe retired the Nationals in order in the seventh to send it to the stretch.

Treinen came back out for the bottom of the seventh inning an issued a leadoff walk to O's backstop Caleb Joseph as Felipe Rivero warmed up in the bullpen. A second straight walk to Manny Machado brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Chris Parmalee... but Parmalee dropped a bunt in front of home and Wilson Ramos made a super aggressive throw to third to cut down the lead runner. Adam Jones sent a grounder to first to move both runners left on into scoring position.

Williams went to the pen for Felipe Rivero with Jimmy Paredes up, and Rivero got a fly to center for out no.3. Still 6-4 Nationals.

Tommy Hunter took over for the Orioles in the eighth and retired the Nationals in order.

The Nationals went to Casey Janssen when Travis Snyder came on as a pinch hitter in the Orioles' eighth. Janssen got back-to-back Ks from the first two batters he faced, and got a one-hop liner to third that Yunel Escobar handled for out no.3.

Ian Desmond walked, stole second, took third on a sac bunt by Matt den Dekker and scored on an opposite field single to right by Michael Taylor, 7-4. Tommy Hunter held the Nats there.

Drew Storen came on in the bottom of the ninth looking for save no.26 of 2015 and gave up a one-out single to right-center by Matt Wieters. Manny Machado stepped in next and worked an eight-pitch walk to bring Chris Parmalee to the plate as the potential tying run. A pop fly to right got Storen out no.2. Adam Jones stepped in with two down and fell behind 0-2 before popping out to second. Ballgame.

Nationals now 47-39