Zimmermann hit hard as Nats come up short

Zimmermann hit hard as Nats come up short

PHILADELPHIA -- Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann continues to have problems on the mound as the Nationals lost to the Phillies, 5-2, at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night.

It was a game in which the Nationals had opportunities to get Zimmermann at least a no-decision, but they left nine men on base. Wilson Ramos came to the plate twice with the bases loaded, and both times he left all the runners stranded.

"That is something that has been going on quite a bit," manager Jim Riggleman said. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get the runs in. We had them out there many times. It seemed like we have answered that same question many times. I guess my responds is always, 'I'm glad we got them out there.' I can't say at this point that if we keep putting people out there, we are going to get them in, because the season is almost over."

For the second straight night, Washington took a 1-0 lead after one inning. This time it was against right-hander Kyle Kendrick. With nobody out, Danny Espinosa scored on a triple by Ian Desmond.

The Nationals had a chance to score more runs in the inning, but couldn't take advantage of the situation. After Ryan Zimmerman was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and third with nobody out, Adam Dunn and Roger Bernadina struck out. After Mike Morse walked to load the bases, Ramos grounded out to end the inning.

"We helped him out by swinging at some bad pitches, but he pitched well," Dunn said of Kendrick. "It's the best that I've seen him when it comes to pitching against us. In the first inning, we had opportunities to really open it up, and we didn't do it."

After hitting Zimmerman with the pitch, Kendrick said he made adjustments.

"Stay aggressive. I just beared down after that," Kendrick said.

Zimmermann held the lead for just one frame. Jayson Werth led off the second with a solo home run over the left-field wall. Two batters later, Carlos Ruiz scored on a double by Wilson Valdez.

In the next inning, Philadelphia played home run derby. Zimmermann allowed a two-run homer to Ryan Howard, then gave up a solo shot to Raul Ibanez.

Zimmerman lasted three innings and allowed the five runs on nine hits. He threw 76 pitches, 45 strikes. Since returning to the big leagues in late August, Zimmerman has allowed 15 earned runs in 20 innings.

In his five starts this season, He has had one good outing, on Aug. 31, when he pitched six shutout innings against the Marlins.

"I just got too deep in some counts," Zimmerman said. "I hung a couple of sliders. The slider has been pretty flat lately. When it gets flat, it doesn't have depth and you get hit around a little bit."

Zimmermann has missed most of the season because of elbow reconstruction surgery, and pitching coach Steve McCatty believes rust is still a factor.

"I think command is probably the last thing that comes back, because he is feeling good," McCatty said. "There is no problem with his elbow. The velocity was good tonight. Commanding the ball and hitting his spots are something that will come the more he pitches. The more he throws, the better he is going to be."

The Nationals would score one more run, in the sixth inning off Kendrick, as Zimmerman scored on a single by Morse.

With Ryan Madson on the mound in the eighth, Washington had the bases loaded again. This time Ramos represented the go-ahead run at the plate. But ge hit a soft liner to short left field that was caught by Ibanez. Willie Harris followed and struck out to end the inning.

Before hitting the soft liner, Ramos said he missed his chance to drive in runs with a pitch earlier. Madson threw a fastball that Ramos fouled off.

"I didn't think I hit that ball hard," Ramos said about the soft liner. "The pitch before that, I missed that pitch. It was a fastball right down the middle. That was the pitch. I was looking to put the ball in play."

With the loss, the Nationals' fell to 62-86.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.