Zimmermann, Nats fall behind early (Nats lose 2-1)

Jordan Zimmermann has been doing an exceptional job keeping opponents in the ballpark of late, which made Yonder Alonso’s blast to start the second so striking.

Alonso’s fifth homer gave the Padres a 1-0 lead over the Nationals, making him the first player to clear the fence against Zimmermann since April 21. The Nats right-hander pitched 36 2/3 innings and four full starts in between homers allowed.

Zimmermann came into the game as hot as can be. Overall, he started the year 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA, but he’s been even better recently. He went 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA (three earned runs in 31 2/3 innings) over his four starts coming into Saturday.

The Nats have the right man on the mound as they look to secure their third straight win and lock down the four-game series against the Padres.

But they’ll need to come from behind to do it with San Diego out to a 1-0 lead.

The Nats are threatening right now, however, with runners on second and third with one out in the third after a fielding error by Jedd Gyorko at first.

Update: The Nats were unable to take advantage in the third after a bizarre sequence. Denard Span hit a liner off starter Eric Stults, and the ball went to first. But that awkwardly froze Kurt Suzuki between third and home with Zimmermann trying to advance from second.

Suzuki was officially ruled out at home, after the Nats essentially were caught with two players on the same bag.

Update II: Zimmermann appears well on his way to another long start, needing just 52 pitches to get through five innings. He has held the Padres to one run on three hits while striking out four.

Zimmermann has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last four starts and in six of seven.

He isn’t getting much help from his offense, however. The Nats have yet to record a hit against Stults as the sixth gets under way.

Instant Update: Just had to open my mouth.

Suzuki led off the sixth with a single to right for the Nats’ first hit and is now on second after Zimmermann’s sac bunt. Now let’s see if Span or Steve Lombardozzi can bring the catcher home.

Instant Update II: Lombardozzi got it done, knocking an RBI single the opposite way to right, scoring Suzuki and tying the game at 1-1.

Update III: After starting the night 0-for-2, Adam LaRoche extended his career-long hitting streak to 15 games with a single to right in the seventh.

During the streak, he’s gone 20-for-51 (.392) to raise his average from .129 to .228.

Update IV: The Padres threatened to take the lead in the seventh, putting two men on with no outs against Zimmermann.

But thanks to two baserunning blunders by Chase Headley, the teams head to the eighth still tied 1-1.

After Headley started the inning getting hit by a pitch, Alonso singled to right. Headley could’ve easily made it to third on the play, but stopped at second.

Zimmermann then induced a couple of flyouts, and with two outs, Chris Denorfia singled deep to the hole at short. Ian Desmond tracked the ball down with a dive, and made a heads-up play to end the inning. Headley wandered a bit past the third base bag and Desmond threw behind him to start a rundown.

Instead of a bases-loaded situation, the Nats escaped the jam to maintain the status quo.

Update V: The Padres didn’t waste their chance in the eighth with the help of the Nats’ major league-leading 36th error.

John Baker singled to start the frame before pinch hitter Alexi Amarista grounded into a fielder’s choice, where Suzuki cut Baker down at second.

With Everth Cabrera batting, Zimmermann fired an errant pickoff throw past first, letting Amarista move up to second. Cabrera then drove in the speedy Amarista with a single to center, giving San Diego a 2-1 lead.

The Nats head to the ninth with Lombardozzi, Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche due up. If they can’t come through, the Padres will hand Zimmermann his first loss since April 21.

Update VI: Zimmermann’s winning streak has been snapped at four despite another strong start from the right-hander.

Zimmermann allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits and no walks while striking out six in an eight-inning complete game.

In the ninth, Lombardozzi drew a leadoff walk from Padres closer Huston Street. But he was eliminated on a strikeout-throwout double play before LaRoche drew Street’s second free pass of the frame. But Desmond then popped out to end the game.

Padres 2, Nationals 1.

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