Ryan Zimmerman stays hot as Nationals rout Braves 15-1
WASHINGTON (AP) With a series loss in St. Louis behind them and a showdown with the New York Mets beginning on Monday, the Washington Nationals enjoyed a breather Thursday night.
Ryan Zimmerman continued his torrid stretch with three hits and four RBIs, Jordan Zimmermann pitched six solid innings and the Nationals opened a seven-game homestand with a 15-1 rout of the Atlanta Braves.
Washington moved within six games of the first-place Mets, who were off Thursday, in the NL East.
''Power and patience,'' Nationals manager Matt Williams said after his team collected 18 hits and eight walks.
The Braves have lost nine straight and 16 of 17.
Clint Robinson was 2 for 4 and had four RBIs, while Yunel Escobar had three hits and drove in three runs.
Bryce Harper didn't swing his bat and tied a career high with walks in all four of his plate appearances, and he scored four runs. He joined Larry Doby (1951), Joe Morgan (1973) and Rickey Henderson (1989) as the only players to score four runs without an official at-bat since 1914, according to STATS.
''He's got confidence in the rest of our lineup that when he gets on base we're going to drive him in,'' Robinson said.
Over his last 11 games, Zimmerman, who was 3 for 3 hitting behind Harper on Thursday, is 17 for 42 (.405) with seven homers and 23 RBIs.
''That's why Bryce didn't swing at a pitch and scored four runs,'' Williams said. ''There's your proof in the pudding right there.''
Zimmermann (12-8), who has won four straight, allowed a run and two hits over six innings.
Matt Wisler (5-6) allowed seven runs, five hits and three walks in 1 2-3 innings.
Wisler's 14th start turned out to be his shortest. The rookie hasn't won since July 26, going 0-5 with a 9.49 ERA in his last seven starts.
''It's been a rough month,'' he said. ''Every fifth day, I try to go out there and improve on what I did, but I haven't been.''
Atlanta pitchers began play with a 4.45 ERA, 13th in the National League. They have given up 15 or more runs three times in the last seven games.
''These guys are professional, they're major leaguers. Some of these guys have a lot of years playing in the minor leagues,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Atlanta's group of young pitchers. ''And for them to get hit around like that is not really acceptable.''
Zimmermann improved to 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA against Atlanta this season.
''We've been swinging the bat great lately,'' Zimmermann said. ''It takes a lot of pressure off us. We can just go out there and don't have to be perfect.''
The 14-run margin of victory is the largest in Nationals' franchise history (2005-present).
Zimmerman received a standing ovation in the first inning in honor of his 200th career homer, hit Wednesday in St. Louis. The cheering continued when he doubled, sending Harper to third.
Robinson then singled and Washington led 2-0.
The Nationals broke it open during a five-run second inning that included a bases-loaded walk by Harper and was capped by Escobar's two-run single.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session Thursday and is expected to rejoin the rotation next week against the New York Mets. ... OF Michael Taylor (right knee soreness) was out of the lineup for the second straight game, but was available off the bench according to Williams.
Braves RHP Julio Tehran (9-7, 4.62) allowed eight earned runs in 4 1-3 innings last week against the Yankees. He's 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 career starts versus Washington. Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.54) goes in place of Strasburg. Roark is 3-1 with a 5.65 ERA in six starts this season.
Zimmerman isn't the only Washington hitter on a tear. Anthony Rendon extended his hitting streak to 12 games and Wilson Ramos has hit in 11 straight, while Ian Desmond has hit safely in 16 of his last 19 games.