Zimmerman, Taylor finally heating up at the plate (Nats lose 4-3)

LOS ANGELES - It took about three weeks, but Ryan Zimmerman and Michael A. Taylor have finally gotten hot at the plate. And at the same time, no less, much to the Nationals’ happiness.

Zimmerman and Taylor each delivered big extra-base hits early tonight to stake the Nats to a 2-0 lead over the Dodgers and continue their recent upswing.

Zimmerman led off the top of the second with a double down the right field line, eventually scoring on Pedro Severino’s sacrifice fly to center. That hit was his sixth in his last 12 at-bats, with five of the hits going for extra bases.

Because of that, Zimmerman has been able to raise his batting average from .111 to .183 in the last five days, his OPS from .390 to .650.

Taylor-Henley-shake-gray-jpgTaylor, meanwhile, is 2-for-2 with a single and then a towering home run into the left field bullpen to lead off the top of the fourth. With his first homer of the season, the center fielder is now 5-for-9 in this series, showing significant signs of life.

In the process, Taylor has raised his batting average from .160 to .213 in the last week, his OPS from .372 to .570.

Jeremy Hellickson, making his second start of the season, needed 25 pitches to navigate his way through a scoreless first inning, but he’s been much more efficient since. The veteran right-hander has retired 10 in a row, five via strikeout, and has completed four scoreless innings on 67 pitches.

Update: Taylor is having himself a night. He added a double in the sixth to improve to 3-for-3 and then worked his way around to score and extend the Nationals’ lead to 3-0. It didn’t stay that way for long, though. Hellickson, who had dominated and retired 14 in a row, couldn’t set the Dodgers down the third time through the lineup. Three straight batters reached with one out in the sixth, with Yasmani Grandal’s double bringing home two runs. So Davey Martinez summoned Sammy Solís to face a couple of lefties. It didn’t work out. Cody Bellinger ripped another double off the center field wall to leave the game tied, and when Solís walked pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández, there were two on with one out and Trevor Gott now on the mound to face Yasiel Puig. Gott, just summoned from Triple-A, came through with his biggest performance as a National. He struck out Puig with a 97 mph fastball, then caught Chase Utley looking at a 96 mph fastball on the inside corner. So it’s 3-3 heading to the seventh.

Update II: And now the Nats trail 4-3. After stranding the go-ahead runner at third in the top of the seventh, they gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning when Gott hit Austin Barnes with a pitch, allowed a seeing-eye single through the right side of the infield to Chris Taylor and then a sacrifice fly to Corey Seager. So the Nats will have to rally against the back end of the Dodgers bullpen to pull this one out.

Update III: There was no rally, not tonight. The Nats couldn’t push across the tying run against Tony Cingrani in the eighth or Kenley Jansen in the ninth (even though they had two on with nobody out). So they lose 4-3 and lose the series. There’s no shame in dropping two-of-three on the road here. But then again, they squandered a gem from Stephen Strasburg last night and held a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning tonight. That’s a couple of tough losses. On to San Francisco.

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