HARVEY VALENTINE,Associated Press
Washington (AP) — Washington pitcher Jordan Zimmermann allowed a run. Still, the result was the same in the end.
After pitching 17 shutout innings in his prior two starts, the right-hander allowed one run in seven innings in a 3-1 win over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night.
“Zim was spectacular, pitched a great ballgame,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Bryce Harper hit a solo homer and drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to back Zimmermann’s NL-leading sixth win.
Denard Span added a triple and a single for Washington, which has won five of six.
Zimmermann (6-1), whose overall scoreless streak was snapped at 20 innings in the third, allowed seven hits over seven innings. He fanned seven and lowered his ERA to 1.59 in winning his third straight start.
“He didn’t change his game plan. He just mixed his pitches up and basically went right after them with the fastball,” Johnson said. You could tell he was pumped up. I don’t think I’ve seen him throwing that hard all the way through.”
Zimmermann’s start was pushed back by Tuesday’s rainout and then a 57-minute delay prior to the start of Wednesday’s game.
“It was a good outing. I didn’t feel as good as I have in the past,” Zimmermann said. “The curveball wasn’t very good and the changeup wasn’t good, but the slider was really good tonight and (I) had a really good fastball, so we pretty much stuck with those two pitches.”
Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save.
Jhonny Peralta had two hits for the Tigers, who had won four straight and nine of 10.
“We didn’t get much off a hot pitcher even though I thought we had pretty good at-bats off him to be honest with you.” Tiger manager Jim Leyland said.
Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez (3-3) allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits and struck out eight.
It was Washington’s first win against Sanchez, who was 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA in 19 starts against the Nationals while with the Marlins.
Zimmermann’s consecutive wins have come against the Reds, Braves and now the Tigers. Detroit began play tied with Colorado for first in the majors in hitting (.285) and third in runs scored.
“He doesn’t show a lot of outward expression, but there’s big fire burning there. He likes any just about any challenge,” Johnson said of Zimmermann.
Tyler Clippard walked two with two outs in the eighth inning, but pitched out of it for Washington.
The Nationals took a 2-1 lead on an unearned run in the fourth. Adam LaRoche led off with a single and Danny Espinosa singled him to second with one out. Kurt Suzuki flied to right and LaRoche tagged and went for third. Torii Hunter’s throw hit LaRoche’s shoulder as he slid, eluded third baseman Miguel Cabrera and went out of play. LaRoche was awarded home and Espinosa third.
“That’s baseball for you. There’s nothing I did wrong, nothing Miguel did wrong, (it’s) just . crazy,” Hunter said. “I hate it though, trust me.”
Espinosa and LaRoche had two hits apiece. Hitting .129 after going 0 for 4 on May 1, LaRoche is seven of his last 13 with six walks.
Harper made it 3-1 when he hit Sanchez’s first pitch over the wall in right- center with two outs in the fifth for his 10th home run.
“It was an 0-0 curveball, a pitch he hadn’t seen yet in the game, and it was a good 0-0 pitch,” Tiger catcher Alex Avila said. “A lot of guys just take that pitch, or if they do swing, they don’t hit it out of the park normally. That was pretty impressive.”
Zimmermann’s scoreless inning streak, which matched a career high, ended in the third. With two outs, Hunter doubled down the third base line and Cabrera followed with a sharp single between third and short to make it 1-0.
“The plan tonight was not to let Fielder and Cabrera beat me and (Cabrera) got that ball through the hole,” Zimmermann said. “He’s a great hitter and you’re going to give up hits like that once in a while.”
Cabrera is hitting .688 (11 for 16) with runners in scoring position over his last 11 games.
Washington tied it in the bottom half when Span tripled and scored on Harper’s sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Cabrera appeared to grab his right hip after grounding out in the sixth. “My back was tight, a little sore, my low back,” he said. “But no big deal. I was able to play nine innings, so, hopefully tomorrow, it will work out, regular stretch and ready to play.” . Detroit’s RHP Doug Fister (4-0, 2.48) and RHP Dan Haren (3-3, 5.01) will start Thursday’s finale. . Washington RF Jayson Werth (strained right hamstring) missed his fourth straight game and will have an MRI on his hamstring Thursday. Johnson said Werth, who has had muscle spasms, has a stomach virus which is causing dehydration. “I have a good feeling if they can get rid of the bug, he’ll be all right,” Johnson said. . Managers Johnson and Jim Leyland were meeting for the first time since Sept. 19, 1999, when Johnson’s Dodgers defeated Leyland’s Rockies, 5-2. … Carol Anderson, wife of the late Hall of Fame manager of the Tigers and Reds, Sparky Anderson, passed away Tuesday night in her Thousand Oaks, Calif., home.
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