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Acutely aware that Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez had led the Nationals pitchers in 18 scoreless innings to open the season, Zimmermann wanted to keep the streak going.

“I was thinking it’d be nice if I could put up six, seven innings, no runs,” Zimmermann said. “But, second inning, that kind of fell apart. … Obviously those guys pitched great games and I wanted to try and match what they did or try and do a little better. I’ll take six innings and one run.”

The Nationals allowed just one runner to reach third base all day, outside of Ruggiano’s homer, and have allowed the fewest runs of any team this season. And their starter was playfully chastising himself for being unable to carry on the tradition set by the two before him.

“Every day’s going to be a test,” Johnson said. “But I like the talent and I like the way they approach their job. It’s good to get off to a good homestand before we go on the road. Cincinnati came from behind a couple times, won a couple ballgames against a good club. Should be fun.”

They packed up the clubhouse at Nationals Park for the first time this season and set out on the road.

Maybe the challenge ahead will be tougher. Maybe it’ll just look tougher. For the time being, the Nationals are the first team in the major leagues to three wins, and they look to be every bit the monster many predicted.