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WSH@SD: Zimmermann fans 10 Padres in seven innings

SAN DIEGO -- The Nationals had several scoring opportunities fall short Sunday at PETCO Park, but they finally took advantage of the situation in the ninth inning and blanked the Padres, 2-0. Washington ended up winning three out of four games in San Diego.

Prior to the final inning, the Nationals' offense was anemic, going 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth left a combined 10 runners on base.

Washington's biggest chance to score came in the first inning. It had the bases loaded with one out against right-hander Tim Stauffer. Unfortunately, Ramos hit into a double play to end the frame.

"We went through this early in the year, where we would get people on and not drive them in," manager Jim Riggleman said. "And I felt like, let's keep getting them on. I would rather have that than not even getting them on."

Washington put two runs on the board against Padres closer Heath Bell in the ninth. With the bases loaded, Danny Espinosa hit a fly ball to deep right field. At Nationals Park, it's a grand slam. On this day, Chris Denorfia leaped to make a great catch against the wall, but Brain Bixler tagged and scored.

"I wasn't sure [if I hit a grand slam]," Espinosa said. "The field plays so big. It kind of got to that short wall. I thought it might have a chance, but it was a great play [by Denorfia]."

Laynce Nix followed and singled to right field to score Alex Cora and make it a two-run game.

"It was very rewarding to come through in the ninth," Riggleman said. "... We had some poor at-bats and then we had some good at-bats with no luck. Even Danny's ball -- it's a grand slam at home. We got one [run] out of that fortunately. Nix got a big hit for us. We just have to keep putting them out there."

Closer Drew Storen pitched the ninth and picked up his 15th save of the season. The Nationals ended up going 6-5 during the 11-game road trip. They won their first multi-city road trip since May 2008.

"I'm just proud of the way we played," Riggleman said. "I'm glad we got rewarded with a win. When you play hard, intense ... and you do a lot of little things, you come away with a win. It's a good reward for the ballclub."

The Nationals return to DC to begin a nine-game homestand starting with the Cardinals. It will also mark the return of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who missed more two months because of abdominal strain.

"It would be great. He is a great player," Espinosa said. To have him back would be huge."

And there is that other Zimmermann: Jordan Zimmermann. He wasn't rewarded with a win Sunday, but he is becoming one of the top pitchers in the National League. He had another dominating performance, delivering seven shutout innings, while allowing four hits and striking out 10. It marked the second time in his career that Zimmermann has had 10 or more strikeouts in a game. In his last eight starts, he has allowed 13 runs in 51 2/3 innings and lowered his ERA to 3.10.

"It's early in his career," Riggleman said about Zimmermann being one of the best pitchers. "I just like for him to do his thing and he is a pretty low guy. He doesn't get too high, too low. He just really does all his work. The No. 1 thing is health, and I'm just really proud of the way he has battled through the adversity. He worked so hard to get where he is at. It's a great example for [Stephen] Strasburg to follow. Stras sees what Zim is doing. Stras knows if he puts the work in, it can happen for him, too."

Zimmermann's most troubling innings came in the second and fourth. The Padres had the bases loaded with one out in the second, but Zimmermann struck out Alberto Gonzalez and pitcher Tim Stauffer to end the inning.

Two innings later, San Diego had runners on first and second with one out, but Wil Venable struck out and Gonzalez flied out to Rick Ankiel in center field.

"I felt great all day," Zimmermann said. "First time through, I threw just fastball/slider pretty much. Then I had to break out the curve for the second time through the lineup. I kept them off balance all day."

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