Johnson on Zimmermann's rough outing, another Nats loss

If you thought there wasn't anything positive to take out of today's 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the Dodgers, a loss that wrapped up a three-game sweep, I've got something for you.

Jordan Zimmermann's health isn't a concern.

Zimmermann's neck had been bothering him for the last couple of months, but it appears that he might be over the soft tissue problem at this point. Both Zimmermann and manager Davey Johnson said the right-hander felt great today health-wise, even though he had the shortest outing of his career, allowing seven earned runs in just two innings of work.

"That's the good news today," Johnson said. "That was the best he's felt in a long time. I just talked to him. He feels like the long rest, he didn't have his command. Wasn't as sharp. But he said that was the best he's felt in quite a while.

"I just think 10 days in between pitching and he left a lot of balls right in the middle of the plate. His breaking ball didn't have a lot of break to it. He should be fine. We might be past that, hopefully."

Ross Ohlendorf relieved Zimmermann after his two innings and ended up pitching very well, saving the bullpen and keeping the game from getting even more lopsided. Ohlendorf worked six innings, allowed just two runs and struck out six.

Johnson officially announced after the game that Ohlendorf will get a spot start Friday when the Nationals have a doubleheader against the Mets. Zimmermann will start the other game.

"I mean, he saved the bullpen," Johnson said. "That was an outstanding effort. That was a good tune-up; he's going to have to start Friday. But he saved the whole bullpen. Bullpen was kinda beat up."

That about wraps up the good news, unfortunately.

The Nationals got smoked by the Dodgers today, losing by seven and getting outhit 15-4. The only two runs the Nats managed came on Jayson Werth solo home runs, both off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who allowed just those two hits over seven stellar innings.

The Nats went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, making them 6-for-72 in such situations over their last 10 games. Again, the lack of offense was the major topic after the game.

"I mean, they threw some pretty good pitchers at us," Johnson said. "The guy was using all his weapons today. I've got confidence in them. I don't want to keep talking about the offense. That's all we keep talking about, that and injuries. ...

"We could've won the first two games, just one hit here or there. Basically, I like the way the guys are throwing the ball in the bullpen, I like the way the starters have been pitching. And I talk to guys, there's a good attitude. I'm the one that's frustrated. I'm the one that has trouble sleeping. But I feel like we're going to be fine."

One reason that Johnson remains optimistic that things will turn in a positive direction is that he says he's seeing the type of effort he wants from his players. He feels the talent is there, and if the effort is there with it, Johnson is still of the mind the Nats will eventually start to play to their ability.

"I don't see any lack of concentration," Johnson said. "I look at each individual and see their work habits and the way they go about their business, and it's awfully professional. I have no complaints. It's just the frustrating part that it's not all coming together in wins.

"Nobody hates losing worse than me. Those guys feel it in there, too. Maybe it's pressing, I don't know. But I think the confidence is there."

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