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Atlanta at Washington

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Atlanta (12-14)010001001381
Washington (10-17) «00200040x6100

Zimmerman's bat propels Nationals past Braves

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- As Ryan Zimmerman's slump stretched on, the questions mounted.

Should he take a day off? Should he be dropped from No. 3 in the lineup? Why was he 2-for-31 with runners in scoring position? Had he really gone nearly 100 at-bats without a homer?

He provided some answers Tuesday night. Zimmerman delivered a season-high three hits, including a homer and tiebreaking two-run double, to lead the Washington Nationals past the Atlanta Braves 6-3.

"If a lot of people are counting on you, of course you want to perform, and that might drive you to do a little too much. ... I have to learn I can't do it all the time," said Zimmerman, who lifted his batting average from .222 to .241. "That's part of me growing up and me learning how to hit. I have a long ways to go."

Zimmerman and Nick Johnson hit consecutive solo shots in the third inning off Tom Glavine, who was coming off his first trip to the disabled list in a 22-season career.

"I wasn't sure what to expect when I got out there. I've never had a layoff that long," said Glavine, who gave up two runs in six innings and didn't factor in the decision. "I'm wondering if I am ever going to win a game."

Zimmerman hadn't homered since April 2 -- career-long droughts of 98 at-bats and 23 games.

"To go through what I went through," the 23-year-old third baseman said, "and to kind of break out like that and help us win -- it's nice to be able to win when you do that."

Suddenly, Washington is winning, following a 2-15 slide by going 5-2.

Atlanta has lost three in a row and five of seven.

"This is about the seventh or eighth game you're about to pull your hair out after," said Chipper Jones, who hit his eighth homer. "We are not swinging the bats well, we're not executing on offense. We're not hitting behind runners, getting runners in from third with less than two outs. We're not making the big pitch when we really need to."

The Nationals, meanwhile, know they often will go as Zimmerman goes.

"He's not going to struggle all year," teammate Lastings Milledge said.

In Washington's four-run seventh, Zimmerman hit his double off reliever Blaine Boyer (0-3) with the bases loaded.

"A bad pitch," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Here was the important part, as far as Zimmerman and the Nationals were concerned: It was a clutch hit with men on the basepaths.

"The home run," manager Manny Acta pointed out, "was with nobody on.

"The bases loaded probably could have gotten to him mentally. Like, 'Oh, here we go again. Here I've got the bases loaded again. Or a man on third, less than two outs. That's where I've been failing,"' Acta continued. "And he just put that behind him."

It might have helped that Zimmerman spent some time before the game with Barry Larkin, the former All-Star with the Reds who now is an assistant to Nationals general manager Jim Bowden.

Larkin didn't so much provide specific hitting tips as advice about not pressing too hard.

"Obviously," Larkin noted, "the team's struggling a little bit."

Only one major league club (San Diego) entered Tuesday with a lower batting average than Washington's .229, and the middle of the lineup has been having particular problems: Zimmerman, Johnson and Austin Kearns all were hitting below .230. That trio combined to go 6-for-12 against Atlanta.

"People don't know how smart (Larkin) is. He's more of a kind of mental guy that I talk to. He's helped me out a lot," Zimmerman said. "It just so happens that he gets here today and I get three hits."

Then, breaking into a smile, Zimmerman added: "So, I mean, I won't give him all the credit."

Saul Rivera (2-1) got the win by pitching a scoreless seventh. Luis Ayala threw a perfect eighth, although center fielder Milledge had to make a twisting while backpedaling on Brian McCann's fly ball.

In the ninth, though, the real trouble for Washington: Chad Cordero -- hoping to earn back his job as the closer -- threw only 13 pitches before motioning to the dugout. A team trainer came out and looked at Cordero, who raised his pitching arm and pointed to below his shoulder. Cordero left the game with what was initially diagnosed as a lat muscle problem and was replaced by Jon Rauch.

Rauch got the last two outs for his fifth save.

Notes

  • The Braves are 0-4 in Glavine's starts.
  • RHP John Smoltz went on the 15-day DL with an ailing right shoulder, though the Braves were told he can get over the problem without surgery.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Nationals catcher Johnny Estrada tags out Matt Diaz to save a run in the seventh inning.  (AP)
Nationals catcher Johnny Estrada tags out Matt Diaz to save a run in the seventh inning. (AP)

Players of the Game
Washington

R. Zimmerman
AB 4
R 2
H 3
HR 1
RBI 3
Atlanta

C. Jones
AB 5
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Atlanta Braves
Kelly Johnson, 2B5011001 .241
Yunel Escobar, SS4000112 .297
Chipper Jones, 3B5121004 .432
Mark Teixeira, 1B3110112 .267
Brian McCann, C4010001 .290
Jeff Francoeur, RF3000002 .286
Mark Kotsay, CF4111002 .267
Matt Diaz, LF3010111 .295
Tom Glavine, P2000000 .000
   a- Ruben Gotay, PH1010000 .235
    Blaine Boyer, P0000000 .000
    Royce Ring, P0000000 .000
    Jorge Campillo, P0000000 .000
   b- Brayan Pena, PH1000002 .200
Totals3538333  
a-singled for Glavine in the 7th
b-fouled out for Campillo in the 9th
Batting
2B - Mark Teixeira (8, Redding)
HR - Chipper Jones (8, Redding)
RBI - Kelly Johnson (12), Chipper Jones (21), Mark Kotsay (7)
SB - Mark Kotsay (1, 2nd base off Redding/Estrada), Matt Diaz (3, 2nd base off Rivera/Estrada)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
DP - Johnson-Escobar-Teixeira
E - Chipper Jones (3, Misplayed grounder)
Atlanta Braves
Tom Glavine 6622122 2.60
Blaine Boyer (L,0-3) 0.1344100 6.00
Royce Ring 0.1000010 8.31
Jorge Campillo 1.1100010 0.71
Pitches-Strikes - Tom Glavine 93-56, Blaine Boyer 19-10, Royce Ring 5-4, Jorge Campillo 15-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tom Glavine 11-5
Batters Faced - Tom Glavine 25, Blaine Boyer 5, Royce Ring 1, Jorge Campillo 5
Washington Nationals
Felipe Lopez, 2B3110112 .257
Cristian Guzman, SS4110001 .307
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B4233011 .241
Nick Johnson, 1B4121013 .231
Lastings Milledge, CF4012001 .278
Austin Kearns, RF4010001 .189
Johnny Estrada, C4000001 .194
Wily Mo Pena, LF2110100 .184
    Luis Ayala, P0000000 .000
   a- Rob Mackowiak, PH1000000 .059
    Chad Cordero, P0000000 .000
    Jon Rauch, P0000000 .000
Tim Redding, P1000001 .200
    Saul Rivera, P0000000 .000
   b- Willie Harris, PH-LF2000011 .143
Totals33610624  
a-flied out for Ayala in the 8th
b-flied out for Rivera in the 7th
Batting
2B - Ryan Zimmerman (6, Boyer), Lastings Milledge (8, Campillo), Austin Kearns (3, Glavine)
HR - Ryan Zimmerman (3, Glavine), Nick Johnson (4, Glavine)
SH - Tim Redding (2)
RBI - Ryan Zimmerman 3 (13), Nick Johnson (15), Lastings Milledge 2 (10)
2-OUT RBI - Lastings Milledge 2 (5)
Team LOB - 6
Washington Nationals
Tim Redding 6422221 3.55
Saul Rivera (W,2-1) 1100100 4.15
Luis Ayala 1000000 3.14
Chad Cordero 0.1211000 2.08
Jon Rauch (S,5) 0.2100010 4.38
HBP - Francoeur (by Tim Redding)
Pitches-Strikes - Tim Redding 107-64, Saul Rivera 17-8, Luis Ayala 7-7, Chad Cordero 7-4, Jon Rauch 15-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tim Redding 5-11, Saul Rivera 3-0
Batters Faced - Tim Redding 25, Saul Rivera 5, Luis Ayala 3, Chad Cordero 3, Jon Rauch 3
Game Information
Attendance - 25285
Game Time - 2:43
Temperature - 59
Umpires - Home - Jeff Nelson, First Base - Adrian Johnson, Second Base - Tim Tschida, Third Base - Jim Joyce