A little extra rest, a friendly crowd and a struggling opponent helped the Nationals put their struggles in Atlanta behind them and move to the verge of the postseason. Jordan Zimmermann allowed just one run over six innings and a rested bullpen shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers the rest of the way in a 3-1 victory Wednesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
Bryce Harper tripled and scored, and Danny Espinosa had two hits in his first game back after taking a cortisone shot for a shoulder injury to help the Nats hit the 90-win milestone and move within one game of clinching only the second postseason berth in Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise history and the first for a Washington team in 79 years.
The only postseason appearance for the current franchise came when the team played in Montreal in 1981. The last postseason games played in Washington were in the 1933 World Series.
Harper scored the go-ahead run in the fifth, after tripling for his lone hit of a 1-for-4 afternoon. Ryan Zimmerman followed a groundout to bring him home and put the Nats ahead 2-1. Kurt Suzuki drove in the first Nats run in the second with a sacrifice fly off loser Aaron Harang (9-10) to score Michael Morse, who led off with a single.
Sean Burnett worked out of a minor jam in the seventh after Morse misplayed Nick Punto‘s leadoff fly ball off Ryan Mattheus into a double. Mattheus left after retiring Mark Ellis on a groudout. Burnett struck out Ethier, but walked Matt Kemp to put men on first and third. But he fanned Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Champ of the Game: Zimmermann, who avoided overthrowing on the extra day’s rest and lowered hsi ERA to 2.96.
Chump of the Game: Morse stranded four runners and made a fielding miscue that turned out to be harmless. He may still be feeling the effects of a bone bruise in his left wrist that kept him out of the Atlanta series.
Unsung Hero: Suzuki. With two more hits this afternoon, he has six in his last five games and is making the bottom of the order dangerous.
Next Game: September 19, vs. LA Dodgers at Nationals Park (Game 2 of doubleheader). Lannan, (3-0, 2.41) vs. Beckett (1-2, 3.38).