Zimmerman drives in five to spark Nats

Zimmerman's big night leads Nats

PHILADELPHIA -- Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman continued to show why he is a strong candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year award. He drove in a career-high five runs and helped the Nationals defeat the Phillies, 6-4, in front of 30,123 fans at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

When the Nationals drafted Zimmerman in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, it was his defense that received all of the hype, with general manager Jim Bowden comparing Zimmerman's glove to Scott Rolen and Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.

But Zimmerman's bat is just as lethal. By driving in the five runs on Friday, Zimmerman now has 83 RBIs, tying a franchise rookie record set by third baseman Coco Laboy in 1969 for the Expos. Zimmerman, 21, also has a .288 batting average with 17 home runs.

"He continues to put [together] good swings," said catcher Brian Schneider. "Being as young and not playing as many games, you think he is going to get tired at the end of August, but this guy keeps opening up your eyes every day. I'm done thinking something is going to happen. I tell people every day that it's fun coming to the ballpark and seeing him."

Even Alfonso Soriano, the Nationals' MVP thus far, is amazed how productive Zimmerman has been.

"Oh, man. It's unbelievable," Soriano said. "It's his first year in the league. What he is doing is very special. [When] I was a rookie ... with the Yankees, I didn't play the way he plays. He plays like he already has five or six years in the league. I'm so happy for him and I'm so glad [he's progressing so quickly]."

It was Zimmerman who played a big role in the Nationals scoring six runs in the first four innings.

Washington didn't waste time as it scored three runs in the first inning off Phillies right-hander Brett Myers.

Soriano, who later reached the 30-30 plateau for the fourth time with his 30th steal, started things off by hitting a monster home run over the left-center-field wall. The ball landed near Tony Luke's, a cheesesteak restaurant on the concourse.

For Soriano, it was his 39th home run of the season, matching a career high. He hit 39 homers for the Yankees in 2002. It was also his ninth leadoff home run of the season.

After Felipe Lopez singled, Zimmerman hit a two-run homer over the left-field wall to give the Nationals a 3-0 lead.

In the next inning, Zimmerman did more damage against Myers by hitting a double down the third-base line to drive in Soriano and Lopez.

Washington scored its final run of the night against Myers in the fourth, when Soriano scored on a bloop single by Zimmerman.

"My fastball was flat tonight, and it's been that way for the past couple of starts," Myers said. "I tried to correct it and maybe tried to hard, and it was up even more."

Zimmerman ended up going 3-for-5 and was a triple short of the cycle.

Asked what he thought about his game, Zimmerman said, "I started off good and ended bad for me [with strikeouts in his last two at-bats]. But we won, and that's all that matters. My first two at-bats, I hit the ball pretty hard. The third at-bat, I got pretty lucky. There were lots of people [on base] for me."

Although his team had a 6-0 lead, manager Frank Robinson didn't like the fact that the Nationals couldn't put the Phillies away. The Nationals ended up leaving 13 runners on and were 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

"We don't make it easy on ourselves," Robinson said. "We don't take advantage of the opportunities that we need to put clubs away."

The winning pitcher was Tony Armas Jr., who pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on six hits. All three runs came in the sixth. Pat Burrell had an RBI single, while Mike Lieberthal had a two-run double.

Saul Rivera entered the game after the Lieberthal hit and stopped the bleeding. He lasted 1 2/3 innings and struck out three.

Robinson thought Armas, who had problems throwing first-pitch strikes, struggled throughout the game.

"It was a struggle out there. He wasn't sharp," Robinson said. "At one point, he had more balls than he had strikes. He just makes it a little tougher on himself. He threw a lot of pitches. Somehow he held them off for [five-plus] innings. It wasn't an easy night for him."

Nationals reliever Jon Rauch gave up a homer to Lieberthal in the bottom of the eighth, while closer Chad Cordero picked up his 23rd save, improving the Nats to 54-68.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.