Nationals hit 3 homers, Zimmermann goes 7 in 5-1 win

WASHINGTON (AP) Jordan Zimmermann has shown some improvement over his recent starts and on Saturday night he helped the Washington Nationals move closer to the first-place New York Mets.

Zimmermann pitched seven innings, Clint Robinson and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back home runs, and Washington beat the Miami Marlins 5-1.

The Nationals pulled within 5 1-2 games of New York in the NL East. The Mets dropped their second straight to the Boston Red Sox, 3-1. Washington gained ground on New York for the first time since Aug. 19.

''It seemed like every inning I had the leadoff guy on, either a walk or hit or something. I was able to work around it and get out of some jams,'' Zimmermann said after winning his third straight start.

Zimmermann (11-8) gave up a run and seven hits. He allowed baserunners in six of seven innings.

He had surrendered 10 runs, eight earned, and 17 hits (including five home runs) in his two previous starts, though he won both.

''Fastball was a lot better and slider was pretty good,'' he said of his latest effort. ''Still not where I want it, but better than the last start.''

Ryan Zimmerman also homered for the Nationals.

Justin Bour ended Zimmermann's shutout bid when he homered leading off the seventh.

Miami starter Tom Koehler (8-13) is still seeking his first win since July 23. He allowed five runs and nine hits over six innings in losing his seventh straight.

''I feel like I'm running out there and throwing the ball well,'' he said. ''I find a way to just kind of let the guys down at a certain point. That's the part that gets me.

''I expect more out of myself and I know they do, too.''

Robinson and Desmond connected off Koehler in the sixth. Robinson sliced a two-run shot into the Nationals' bullpen and Desmond, who went 2 for 3, followed with a blast to center, making it 5-0.

''After a loss last night we had to come out and get this win tonight,'' Robinson said. ''Had to do it the home run way. We'll take it if that's how it comes.''

It was Desmond's 17th home run, 10th since July 20.

''A changeup and a breaking ball, and they both stayed up,'' Marlins manager Dan Jennings said of the homers. ''And they punished the ball.''

The Marlins had at least one baserunner in each of the first five innings against Zimmermann.

Zimmerman led off the second with his 12th home run. He has 24 RBIs in his last 25 games

Washington made it 2-0 when Anthony Rendon's two-out single scored Danny Espinosa in the third.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Marlins: LHP Carter Capps (elbow strain) will throw a bullpen session early next week, Jennings said. ... OF Christian Yelich (bruised right knee) missed his third straight game.

Nationals: OF Michael Taylor (bruised right knee) and INF Yunel Escobar (right hand) were both held out of the starting lineup for a second straight game. Manager Matt Williams said Taylor was available off the bench, and that Escobar had done ''some hitting'' earlier Saturday. Taylor grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

UP NEXT

Miami LHP Brad Hand (4-3, 4.23 ERA) looks for his first career win against the Nationals in Sunday's series finale. He's 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA versus Washington in nine games, including seven starts. Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg is 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA, 32 strikeouts and three walks since returning from the DL on Aug. 8.

GLOVE SAVE

In the fourth, Martin Prado hit a liner toward Zimmermann's head. Zimmermann got his glove up and nearly made the catch, but the ball deflected off the glove for an infield single as he fell to the ground. Still lying on the mound, Zimmermann slammed his hand onto the ground in apparent frustration at not having made the difficult catch.

HE WHO HESITATES

Then in the third, Koehler singled with two outs and Dee Gordon doubled. When Zimmermann's 1-1 pitch to Ichiro Suzuki got by catcher J.T. Realmuto, Koehler hesitated, then broke for home and was tagged out by Zimmermann. ''That was definitely a change in momentum,'' Jennings said.

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