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Thru 3: Zimmermann cruising, Nats up 5-0

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For the second straight night, a rookie Nationals starter has dominated the Red Sox for three innings. And this time, his teammates have rewarded him with a nice lead.

Jordan Zimmermann is off to a dazzling start, just like Craig Stammen last night. Zimmermann has tossed three scoreless so far, scattering three soft singles and striking out three. He’s thrown a whopping 39 of his 53 pitches for strikes.

The question now, of course, is whether the rookie right-hander can keep this up or whether the Red Sox will figure him out the second time around the order as they did with Stammen.

Zimmermann does have better stuff, so you’ve got to believe he’s got a good chance of sustaining his success. His pitch count, though, is already a bit high, so the Nats may not be able to get more than six innings out of him.

Fortunately, they own a 5-0 lead thanks to a first-inning onslaught against John Smoltz. In his Red Sox debut after missing more than two months with a shoulder injury, the future Hall of Famer has looked quite rusty. Five straight Nats reached base in the first, with Josh Willingham and Josh Bard each connecting for RBI singles. The big blow, though, came when Anderson Hernandez lined a bases-loaded single to left with two outs. Two more runs came around to score, giving Zimmermann a comfortable, four-run lead to work with.

The Nats then added another run in the third on another Bard base hit, this one scoring Willingham from second.

The Nats, of course, are playing without first baseman Nick Johnson, who came out after only one inning with a left shin contusion (believed to be sustained when Smoltz plunked him with a pitch in that first inning).

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Mark Zuckerman

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