Before the Washington Nationals took the field Saturday night in the nation's capital, they knew they had a chance to pick up a game on the NL East-leading New York Mets, who dropped their second straight game to the Boston Red Sox.
They also knew they had an opportunity against a struggling pitcher in the Miami's Tom Koehler, who dropped six starts in a row and eight of his last nine and a Marlins' team that had lost seven of their last ten to fall to 25 games under .500.
The Nationals were able to jump on Koehler early with a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman in the second, an RBI single by Anthony Rendon in the third, and homers by Clint Robinson, who hit a two-run blast to left, and Ian Desmond, who hit a solo shot to center, in the home-half of the sixth.
Jordan Zimmermann got all the support he needed when Rendon put the Nats up 2-0 and he gave up just one run in seven innings of what ended up a 5-1 win that left the Nationals 5.5 games out of first with 34 games to play.
Zimmermann, Nats' skipper Matt Williams said, was "really good."
"Fastball velocity was really up the first three innings, touched 96 [mph]. It was really good. So he's feeling good. He got us through seven. He gave up the homer [by Justin Bour], but at that point he was just going after guys and above 100 pitches, felt good throughout, so good outing from him."
Zimmermann gave up seven hits, a walk and the one earned run, struck out seven and induced nine ground ball outs.
"I think he had good feel for his curveball tonight," Williams said, "and he was throwing it where he wanted to, so once again he pitched really well for us."
The Nationals attacked Koehler early in the count, with Zimmerman hitting a 1-0 fastball out to left-center, Robinson hitting a first-pitch change to left and Desmond clobbering a first-pitch curve that cleared the center field fence.
"Koehler is going to throw fastballs, we know that," Williams told reporters.
"He's going to try to get ahead and use his breaking stuff later. Desi picked on a curveball, first-pitch curveball. Zim got a fastball to hit and Clint got, I think it was a [first-pitch] changeup to hit, so they stayed the middle of the diamond. Desi hit the homer to straight away center. Clint went the other way. Zim got one out, over that he was able to hit to left-center, so good approach tonight."
Asked if they were scoreboard watching, or at least aware of what happened in Citi Field before they started play, Williams said that everyone knows what's going on.
"Everybody knows. Everybody understands that at this point we have to win games. We can't control anything else. So if we win, we have opportunity to do that, if we don't then we don't. So, tomorrow is another opportunity, so if we can win that one then we can have that same chance tomorrow as well."
Stephen Strasburg takes the mound tomorrow in the series finale with the Fish, facing left-hander Brad hand at 1:35 PM EDT in D.C.
Strasburg will try to continue a streak of eight straight starts in which he's allowed two earned runs or less.