Zimmermann keeps cruising, Harper keeps raking

VIERA, Fla. - Think Jordan Zimmermann is ready for games that actually mean something? The guy just finished off a stretch where he had retired 27 hitters in between base hits allowed.

Working through a stiff cross wind that is blowing around 25 mph, Zimmermann went the first three innings without surrendering a hit to the Braves this afternoon, facing the minimum over that span. The right-hander allowed a leadoff hit to open his last start, against the Tigers, only to then hold Detroit without a hit the rest of the way in his six-inning stint.

Until Andrelton Simmons singled to left leading off the fourth inning today, Zimmermann had recorded 27 outs since that Andy Dirks single leading off the game against the Tigers.

Zimmermann walked two through the first three innings today, but twice got double play balls immediately following the base-on-balls. He then was able to work out of a jam in the fourth by getting a smoothly turned 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.

The Nationals lead the Braves 6-1 going to the bottom of the fourth, with Danny Espinosa's three-run homer serving as the big blow so far.

Espinosa pushed a line-drive, opposite-field home run through the wind in the third, his first homer of spring.

Bryce Harper has gone 2-for-2 with two hard-hit singles and two stolen bases today. His spring average now sits at .421.

Not bad, I guess.

Harper doesn't look like he's using the foam protective ring around his sore left thumb today. He had taken batting practice with the ring earlier today, but wasn't sure if it would feel comfortable.

Regardless, Harper's thumb appears to be just fine. He continues to rake this spring.

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