Zimmerman delivers as Nats outlast Marlins

Many times over the last four years, Ryan Zimmerman was the only reason to pay attention to the Washington Nationals. On Sunday, with his team riding its worst losing streak of the season, he made some noise again.

For the fifth time in his career, Zimmerman ended a game with a home run. There was the familiar scene, his right arm aloft as he circled the bases, waiting to be mobbed at the plate, this time after a two-run shot gave the Nationals a 5-4 win over the Florida Marlins.

“Zim doing what Zim does,” teammate Willie Harris said. “Coming through.”

Zimmerman’s homer snapped an eight-game skid for the Nationals, who at this point in the season have modest goals – such as avoiding 100 losses. For the Marlins, the loss was an especially tough one – they twice blew a two-run lead, and thus a chance to keep pace in the NL playoff race. They fell five games back of wild card-leading Colorado.

“This time of year, all of them are tough,” Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “especially when you have leads in the eighth and ninth inning.”

Zimmerman’s homer capped a furious finish to a game that, for the longest time, was looking like a sleepy 2-0 shutout in favor of the Marlins. The Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with the help of a pair of bottom-of-the-order walks and Mike Morse‘s two-out, two-run single – a hit that tripled his RBI total for the season – off reliever Kiko Calero.

“That’s the inning I’m more upset about,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got two outs and we walk a couple of guys and they get a couple of hits.”

In the top of the ninth, the Marlins responded with Nick Johnson‘s two-out, two-run single off Mike MacDougal (1-0), who got the win only because his ninth-inning performance was less miserable than that of Leo Nunez (4-5).

Nunez threw only five pitches. Willie Harris opened with a first-pitch homer to make the score 4-3. Then came a first-pitch infield single by Cristian Guzman, who hustled to beat the throw in a close play at first.

Then, with a 1-1 count to Zimmerman, Nunez went to the change-up.

“He’s got a good change-up. He throws it a lot,” Zimmerman said. “It’s hard to trust yourself and look change-up when a guy throws 94, 95 (mph), but they’d been throwing soft stuff to me all day, so I was kind of looking for it. And he left it up.”

The ball landed in the red seats beyond left-center field.

Hanley Ramirez hit his 100th homer for the Marlins, who wasted a solid start by Anibal Sanchez. The right-hander allowed four hits in six sharp innings.

Ramirez’s 20th homer of the season leading off the fourth inning landed some 20 rows back in the left-field bleachers. It was the only run of the game until the seventh.

Rookie starter J.D. Martin matched his career high by throwing 6 2-3 innings for the Nationals, allowing six hits.

Florida’s Chris Coghlan finished with two hits, giving him a 14-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this season by a rookie. He jammed his ankle sliding into the catcher’s shin guard on a play at the plate in the eighth, but he said he didn’t think he would miss any playing time.


Ramirez’s 100th homer came in his 595th game, making him the fourth fastest player who primarily plays shortstop to reach the century mark, behind Alex Rodriguez (470), Nomar Garciaparra (491) and Ernie Banks (500), according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. … The Marlins will activate RHP Brendan Donnelly from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. He’s been out since Aug. 22 with a strained right calf. … Washington RHP Craig Stammen had surgery Sunday morning to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. “He now is already is able to extend his arm better than he was before he went in,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “They expect him to fully recover over the winter and be ready for spring straining.” … The Marlins recalled LHP Andrew Miller from New Orleans. He was optioned to the Triple-A club on July 20 with a record of 3-5 and a 4.81 ERA. … The Nationals fired director of player development Bobby Williams, who had been overseeing the team’s farm system since 2007.