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WSH@LAA: Bixler gets Hunter at second base

ANAHEIM -- Jordan Zimmermann pitched in his final start of June on Wednesday the same way he did the rest of the month -- masterfully. The only problem for him and the Nationals was that Dan Haren's performance was even better.

Zimmermann established a club record with his 11th consecutive quality start, allowing just one unearned run on four hits and one walk in eight innings. But his effort was outmatched by Haren's, who threw 7 1/3 shutout innings and surrendered only two hits and one walk, and Washington fell to the Angels, 1-0.

The 25-year-old's eight-inning complete-game loss is his first defeat since May 28, and he hasn't given up more than three runs in a start since April. Wednesday was the first time in his career he went more than seven frames.

Despite the loss, manager Davey Johnson still wore a look of amazement at his young starter's outing. Zimmermann needed just 93 pitches to record 24 outs.

"I've seen a lot of good-pitched ballgames, and that was one of the better ones I've ever seen," said the 68-year-old Johnson, who is in his 15th season as a big league manager and has skippered the likes of Dwight Gooden, Frank Viola and David Cone. "They didn't hit hardly any balls hard. He got ahead in the count all the time. It's a manager's joy to watch that kind of pitching."

The Nationals' defense -- not Zimmermann -- was responsible for the Angels' sole run, though that runner originally reached base courtesy of a Zimmermann walk. Bobby Abreu came in on a double-play grounder after going from first to third on a throwing error from Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman's error was his second in as many days.

"You never want to walk guys," Zimmermann said solemnly afterward.

He looked completely exasperated, his arm resting in an ice wrap after a formidable yet wasted performance.

"Most of the time, they come around and end up scoring. That's baseball, and it happens, I guess."

Zimmerman tried to make amends by slapping a one-out double down the right-field line off Angels closer Jordan Walden in the ninth inning, but Walden retired the next two batters to end the game.

Bryan Bixler's fourth-inning bunt single and Ivan Rodriguez's line drive to center in the seventh -- which came on Haren's 120th pitch and knocked him out of the game -- were Washington's only hits until Zimmerman's double.

"[Haren's] a smart pitcher, and he pitched a heck of a game," Johnson said.

Much like Haren has gained infamy for a lack of run support throughout his career, Zimmermann has experienced similar tribulations. He entered Wednesday's outing averaging 3.1 runs of support per nine innings -- the sixth-lowest in the National League -- and Washington's doughnut on the scoreboard at Angel Stadium won't improve that.

"I ran into a pretty good pitcher today," Zimmermann said. "He had our hitters off balance all day. It was a battle for both teams to score some runs."

Matt Stairs followed Zimmerman's double in the ninth by grounding out to first, allowing Zimmerman to advance to third and giving Michael Morse -- who homered in the series opener on Monday -- an opportunity to tie the game.

But the 6-5, 230-pound Morse was overpowered by the even more colossal 6-5, 235-pound Walden, and he whiffed on a 100-mph heater to end the game.

Abreu's run was scored when Howard Kendrick hit into a double play in the fourth. Abreu had reached first on a leadoff walk but advanced to third after Zimmerman misfired Vernon Wells' grounder past second base and into the outfield.

The Angels' only other true threat against Zimmermann came in the third, when Peter Bourjos led off with a single through the middle infield, but Zimmermann rebounded to induce three straight flyouts.

Rodriguez's hit off Haren in the eighth put him on first with one out, but reliever Scott Downs struck out pinch-hitter Jayson Werth on a called strike, then drew a popout from Roger Bernadina to stifle the rally.

Bernadina went 0-for-13 in the series and is hitless in his last 16 at-bats.

Werth was bothered by a hip pointer on Tuesday prompting Johnson to hold him out of Wednesday's starting lineup. Johnson said that Werth was begging to be put into the game, and he eventually was.

"I'm good. I could have played today. ... My hip tightened up last night during the game, and it was pretty stiff this morning. I told him if he needed me I'd be able to go," said Werth, who slowly walked back to the dugout after striking out. "I'll be fine."

The loss sends the Nationals home with a 2-4 record on the road trip, and they are 0-3 under Johnson. Washington had won 13 of 15 before Johnson began his tenure on Monday.

"It's like I told the guys -- you win games, I lose them," Johnson said. "I've got three. I plan on rectifying that.

"We've just got a few things we need to straighten out, and we'll be fine. It was a tough series. They played good, and we didn't get it done. But it's a long season. We kind of got hit with some injuries, but hopefully, they'll be better by Friday." Comments