Johnson, Zimmerman on 3-2 victory over D-backs (with Harper update)

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said the early matchup between starter Jordan Zimmermann and Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill was a battle that helped the Diamondbacks score first.

Hill walked in front of Paul Goldschmidt, who slapped a run-scoring single to give the Diamondbacks an early 1-0 advantage.

“We had a really tough at-bat with Hill, an 11-pitch or 12-pitch at-bat,” Johnson said. “But (Zimmermann) misses so many bats. He just kind of settled down. He used all of his pitches again and got some easy innings. If he hadn’t gone as many pitches as he did last time, I would have stayed with him.”

Zimmermann allowed another RBI hit to Martin Prado that staked Arizona to a 2-0 lead.

Zimmermann was able to shake off the early troubles and was eventually able to settle in. From the second inning through the seventh frame, he held the Diamondbacks to a two-out single by Jason Kubel in the fourth.

“I just didn’t feel very good in the first couple of innings and the command wasn’t that good,” Zimmermann said. “I threw a good pitch to Goldschmidt and he just stuck the bat out and got a hit. I just didn’t feel that great. I finally felt a little better from the third inning on.”

Nationals youngsters Anthony Rendon and Tyler Moore helped to ignite the offense. Rendon had three hits and Moore smacked the game-tying solo shot, his third of the season, in the fourth inning.

Ryan Zimmerman added an RBI double and grounded into a double play that he wasn’t thrilled about, but it plated the go-ahead tally. The Nationals ended up beating Arizona 3-2 to take the series and get back above .500 again.

“That’s terrible,” Zimmerman said, shaking his head about the double play. “I hate that. That is the worst thing right there. It gets the run in, but obviously not what I wanted to do. But I’ll take it.”

With Bryce Harper going 1-for-3 as the designated hitter, including a solo homer, in his rehab game in Potomac, and catcher Wilson Ramos working his way back from a hamstring injury at the Viera, Fla., team facility, Johnson is close to having all the pieces back in place.

Harper tweeted after the game: “Another great night in Potomac! Thank you all for the hospitality, it’s always appreciated! One step closer! #blessed”

There is a very good chance that Harper will be scheduled to play a full nine-inning rehab game in Bowie Thursday night as Double-A Harrisburg begins a series with the Baysox.

“I love our pitching staff, bullpen and starters,” Johnson said. “I have been more concerned all year long to get the offense going. We struggled like this early last year. And some guys came back. That is basically what is happening this time. We are really close to getting a couple of key players back. That is going to really help, a shot in the arm.”

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