- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2011

With trade rumors swirling around closer Drew Storen at Nationals Park on Sunday, manager Davey Johnson was quick to point to a different pitcher after Washington’s thrilling 3-2 win over the New York Mets.

“It’s just a shame that we couldn’t save that for Jordan Zimmermann,” he said. “Great game he pitched - he deserved to win that ballgame, and I thought we could handle it for him. It was a hot day, and he threw about as many pitches as he’s ever thrown this year [107], and they were all quality, too.”

Zimmermann epitomized Washington’s walk-off win with a bounce-back performance. After allowing six earned runs in each of his past two starts, the young starter sneaked out of a few jams while notching six strikeouts over six scoreless innings. Sloppy base running helped the Nationals defense pull an inning-ending double-play in the third inning, and back-to-back strikeouts after a balk in the sixth helped him leave the game on a bright note.

“Yeah, I was a little fired up that I had a balk there. It might have been my first-ever balk,” Zimmermann said. “I just had to buckle down, make some pitches and I was able to get a couple strikeouts.”

Zimmermann, who had Tommy John surgery last year, will make just four more starts this season before being shut down as a precaution. Johnson, though, said Zimmermann, may be in the best shape of anyone on staff.

“I was working down in the zone, the fastball was down in the zone and the misses that I did have were off the plate,” Zimmermann said. “That was big for me - if I miss over the plate with two strikes, that’s when I get in trouble.”

The Nationals had to overcome a slow start at the plate to give Zimmermann the support that he deserved. They did so in the sixth when Ian Desmond, Zimmerman and Michael Morse hit consecutive doubles to start the inning and give Washington a 2-0 lead.

But New York’s Scott Hairston responded in the seventh with a pinch-hit home run, his first of two homers on the day.

His second came off Storen with two out in the ninth inning, tying the game 2-2 and forcing Washington to pull out another late one-run victory. Catcher Jesus Flores, who also threw out two runners in the game, singled to right and Rick Ankiel was hit by a pitch. After a botched sacrifice bunt by Brian Bixler, Mets reliever Bobby Parnell’s wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third. Ankiel was told to run on contact, giving him the necessary jump to score on a slow chopper over Parnell’s head.

“Ball on the ground, I’m going,” Ankiel said. “He’s going to have to make the play, and if he does, he does.”

He didn’t, and the Nationals escaped with just their fifth win since the All-Star break.

“I was talking last night about how it seems like we’re kind of a streaky club,” said right fielder Jayson Werth. “Hopefully this will get us going and take us into the next series, and even further than that.”

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