It looked like the Nationals were in for a long night. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann started the game for Washington and had serious problems in the first inning. After striking out leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal, Zimmermann couldn't get the next six hitters out. The first run scored on an RBI single by James Loney. Four batters later, Matt Kemp took Zimmermann's 0-1 pitch and hit a grand slam over the right-center-field wall.
Casey Blake followed and hit what looked like a routine fly ball to right-center field, but center fielder Elijah Dukes and right fielder Adam Dunn did not communicate on who was catching the ball, which dropped in for a triple. Dunn said that a fan in the stands called for the ball, and Dunn and Dukes thought the other called for the ball. Blake then scored on a sacrifice fly by Dodgers starter Randy Wolf.
"Everything was high and this is the big leagues. [Zimmermann] had good stuff, but it was still belt high and guys just hit him," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "There were a couple of plays that we couldn't make for him."
After that, Zimmermann retired the next nine hitters he faced. He went on to pitch six innings and give up the six runs.
"The biggest start of the night was Jordan Zimmermann," Acta said. "It was special what he did today. He was able to get the ball down a little bit too late after giving up the six runs, which wasn't entirely his fault. That fact that he went out there after that and gave us five shutout innings just says a lot about this kid."
Most young pitchers would have called it a night after giving up six runs in the first inning. Not Zimmermann. He decided to change his game plan.
"The first inning, I was throwing way too many fastballs," Zimmermann said. "I started mixing my pitches. I got a lot of ground balls and fly balls. I wanted to keep the team in it as much as I could. Unfortunately, we were down, 6-0, but I knew with that offense we had, they were going to come around sooner or later."
Wolf was better on the mound, throwing six innings, while giving up one run on a Josh Willingham homer in the sixth inning.
The Nationals then scored 10 more runs against the Dodgers' bullpen. In the seventh inning, Washington scored three runs. The biggest blow came when Dunn took a Will Ohman pitch and doubled down the right-field line to bring home two runs.
An inning later, the Nationals batted around and scored a combined six runs off Cory Wade and Brent Leach. With Wade on the mound, pinch-hitter Austin Kearns hit a two-run double over the head of Kemp in center field.
Leach was on the mound when Nick Johnson doubled near the left-field line to score Anderson Hernandez and Kearns. Dunn and Dukes also had RBI hits in the inning.
"With six runs [down], we'll take our chances," Dunn said. "It's kind of the trend. It seems everybody's bullpen seems to be kind of shaky. We take our chances with our offense."
The Nationals' bullpen is no exception. It's more than shaky. It's the No. 1 reason the Nationals are in fifth place in the National League East. On Thursday, the relievers had their problems, starting in the eighth inning.
The Nationals entered the bottom of the inning with a 10-6 lead, but left-hander Joe Beimel made it interesting. He threw 40 pitches and gave up a run. With two outs, Blake doubled, scoring Russell Martin to make it a three-run game.
"It's just one of those days where things weren't easy," Beimel said.
Washington then added insurance in the ninth inning to make it a four-run game. Kip Wells came out to close the game for the Nationals, and it wasn't easy. Los Angeles scored two runs before Wells was able to get Blake to fly out to end the game.
"[The bullpen is] struggling, but we came out on top and that's the good thing about it," Acta said. "It could build a little bit of confidence."
The Nationals have won three of their past four games to improve their record to 8-18.
"We were able to stop a Dodgers' winning streak. I think that counts for a lot, especially after we were already down, 6-0," Acta said. "It's a huge comeback. It's a very good win for us."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less