Nationals 6, Diamondbacks 1

Washington manager Jim Riggleman calls Jordan Zimmermann’s

return from reconstructive elbow surgery a work in progress.

The way the right-hander’s been pitching over the past month,

he’s got to be pretty close to being all the way back.

Zimmermann pitched seven impressive innings in his sixth

straight solid start and Wilson Ramos helped give him an early

three-run cushion, lifting the Washington Nationals to a 6-1 win

over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night.

”I’ve felt good the whole season and I’ve just been stringing

some good starts together,” said Zimmermann, who had Tommy John

surgery in 2009. ”Hopefully, it continues.”

Washington roughed up Arizona starter Zach Duke (1-1) in the

first inning and had 13 hits to open an 11-game road trip with its

first win in six tries away from Nationals Park.

Ramos matched a career high with three RBIs, Michael Morse had

four hits to extend his hitting streak to 11 games and drove in

two, and Drew Storen got four outs for his 11th save in 12

chances.

Zimmermann (3-6) was the beneficiary after a frustrating run,

allowing six hits to win for the first time in five starts despite

allowing three earned runs or less in each.

”I’m happy for him and what he’s done for our ballclub, coming

from where he did after that surgery and everything, to just keep

coming back from it,” Riggleman said. ”He’s just a horse.”

Washington’s horse put an end to Arizona’s comeback ride.

The Diamondbacks had won eight straight one-run games after

losing six in a row, the latest coming Wednesday night, when they

rallied from a four-run deficit and beat Florida on a game-ending

hit.

Arizona couldn’t complete another D-back comeback against the

Nationals, unable to get many chances against Zimmermann while

going hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position.

”We didn’t play very good,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson

said. ”Not a lot went right for us.”

Zimmermann was solid his last outing, giving up two runs in six

innings against San Diego, only to be pegged with the loss after

the Nationals managed just one run. He had the Diamondbacks off

balance most of the night by keeping the ball down, working around

a handful of baserunners over the first six innings without much

trouble.

He got some defensive help, too.

Second baseman Danny Espinosa made a diving stop in the outfield

grass to rob Miguel Montero of a hit in the fifth inning, then

first baseman Morse made a pair of hit-robbing plays in the

seventh, ranging left to get a ball by Gerardo Parra and right to

snare one along the line by Juan Miranda that scored Arizona’s only

run.

”Mike Morse saved me big time at first with a couple of diving

plays,” said Zimmermann, who also chopped out a pair of singles at

the plate.

Duke was stellar in his debut after missing the first two months

with a broken hand, throwing seven shutout innings and hitting a

three-run homer. That, according to information provided to the

Diamondbacks by the Elias Sports Bureau, makes him one of two

players – along with Colorado’s Jason Jennings in 2001 – since 1900

to throw seven or more scoreless innings and hit a homer in his

first with a team.

Duke’s encore didn’t go so well.

Washington scored three runs off the left-hander in the first

inning, one on Morse’s hard single up the middle and two more on a

double by Ramos that hit high on the extended wall in center. Duke

managed to scrape through traffic over the next few innings before

giving up another run in the fifth on a fielder’s choice by Ramos

that made it 4-0.

Duke was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom half after

allowing four runs on 10 hits with six strikeouts.

”I wasn’t able to command the fastball the way I wanted to,”

Duke said. ”It caused me to get into hitter’s counts and throw a

lot more pitches and more damage was done.”

Washington added a pair of cushion runs in the ninth inning off

Aaron Heilman, on Roger Bernadina’s run-scoring triple and a bloop

single by Morse.

Notes: Ramos’ double in the first inning was just his fourth hit

in 27 at-bats over nine games. … Arizona’s Kelly Johnson was 0

for 3 with three strikeouts to end an eight-game hitting streak.

… Arizona signed RHP Yhency Brazoban to a minor league contract

on Thursday. He will report to Triple-A Reno.