- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - For a combined 38 2-3 innings spread over six weeks, New York Yankees pitchers Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances were as good as it comes in late-inning relief.

With setup man Betances, a righty, usually assigned the eighth, and closer Miller, a lefty, the ninth, neither had allowed an earned run in 2015.

And Miller had not been charged with any sort of run at all, going 13 for 13 in save chances.

Until Tuesday night.

Until Ryan Zimmerman’s career-long knack for game-ending homers trumped Miller’s season-long ability to avoid allowing opponents to score.

Zimmerman’s two-run shot off the right-field foul pole with two outs in the 10th inning off Miller lifted the surging Washington Nationals to an 8-6 comeback victory Tuesday night over the Yankees and into a first-place tie in the NL East.

“He’s not going to be perfect,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Miller. “You know, he gave up his first run. And the two guys at the back end of our bullpen have been really special.”

As if the loss in a game New York led 6-2 weren’t bothersome enough, the Yankees also found out afterward that they would need to put center fielder and leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list with a sprained right knee.

Ellsbury, who entered the game with a team-leading .327 batting average, left Tuesday’s game in the fourth inning after Girardi noticed the player seemed hurt while batting. Ellsbury walked that inning, went to second on a groundout and wound up scoring.

While Ellsbury was on second, Girardi visited him and temporarily left him in.

“I went out and talked to him and said, ‘Are you in a lot of pain?’ And he said, ‘No, not really.’ And then I said, ‘Can you run?’ And he said, ‘Let me see. Let me get through this inning and let me see.’ And when he got in the dugout,” Girardi recounted, “we just said, ‘That’s it.’”

Zimmerman’s fifth homer this season - and 10th game-ending homer of his career - made a winner of Matt Grace (2-0), who threw the 10th and was helped by center fielder Denard Span’s sprinting, diving, tumbling catch of Brett Gardner’s sinking liner.

Bryce Harper hit one of Washington’s three solo shots, giving him an NL-high 15 homers this season, as the Nationals improved to 13-4 in May.

After being 7-13 and eight games out of first place on April 27, they have moved to 23-17, even with the New York Mets in their division.

“We’ve really stayed with it and trusted what we’re doing,” said Drew Storen, one of five Nationals relievers who combined for five scoreless innings.

That helped set things up for the 10th, when Yunel Escobar walked. Miller struck out Harper, bringing up Zimmerman.

After Zimmerman stayed away from Miller’s tough slider, what was the lefty trying to throw?

“Not a fastball up and away. That’s kind of what he hits. And I knew that going into it. I just threw a really poor pitch,” said Miller, who as a pitcher for Miami in college faced Zimmerman’s Virginia team. “And, you know, it stinks. I let everybody down.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: OF Slade Heathcott will be called up from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday to take Ellsbury’s spot on the roster. … RHP Masahiro Tanaka is slated to throw about 45 pitches in a minor league rehab start at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre on Thursday. … RHP Chase Whitley had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, less than a week after leaving a game because of elbow pain.

Nationals: LF Jayson Werth went on the 15-day DL with a bruised left wrist. Washington recalled INF Wilmer Difo from Double-A Harrisburg. Difo made his major league debut in the seventh inning, delivering a pinch-hit single.

UP NEXT

In the 11th start of his career, and first against the Nationals, Yankees RHP Adam Warren (2-2, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to become the latest pitcher to try to slow down Harper. Warren goes up against Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann (3-2, 3.66).

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