WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang had an OK outing as the Nationals defeated the Reds, 6-4, at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.
Wang, who won his second game of the season, pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. However, one had to wonder if he would get through the first inning, in which he allowed two runs on three hits, including RBI singles to Jay Bruce and Ramon Hernandez. He would stay in the game much longer.
It helped that the Nationals came back and took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first inning off Reds right-hander Mike Leake. Michael Morse had an RBI double, while Ian Desmond drove in two runs with a single.
Wang settled down after the first inning. At one point, he retired 12 consecutive hitters.
"[The Reds are a] pretty good hitting ballclub. He pitched a heckuva ballgame," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "I probably let [Wang] go one batter too long."
Wang said he was grateful to have his teammates behind him even though he didn't have his best outing.
"I'm appreciative of all my teammates today because they really backed me today with a lot of good plays on defense," Wang said.
The right-hander was also given run support as the game went on. In the top of the third inning, with Leake still on the mound, Morse hit his 21st home run of the season, a solo shot over the right-field wall.
Morse ended up going 2-for-4 in the game and raised his batting average to .323.
"He's been really consistent all year," Johnson said about Morse. "Since I've been here he really hasn't had a bad game. He missed one day [after being hit by a pitch] and came back and hit ropes the next day. I don't know where we'd be without him. He's been awfully good."
An inning later, Wilson Ramos scored when Joey Votto couldn't handle a grounder hit by Rick Ankiel.
In the fifth inning, Ryan Zimmerman made it a 6-3 game when he hit a monster home run over the left-field wall. Before going to the plate, Zimmerman turned into Babe Ruth and predicted that he would hit a home run off Leake.
According to Johnson, Zimmerman noticed that Leake was throwing fastballs on the inside part of the plate early in the count. Zimmerman had a feeling that he would his seventh home run and he did just that.
"He said, 'If he comes in there, I'm going to hit it out of the ballpark.' It didn't surprise any of us. I asked him if he got all of it and he said, 'No, it kind of jammed me,'" Johnson said about Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was humble about the home run and denied such a prediction.
"If Davey said I did, I might [have made the prediction]. I don't know. We'll see," Zimmerman said "Leake mixes it up pretty well -- four or five different pitches. They were pounding me in a little bit. I had a feeling leading off the inning that he would pitch me a certain way."
The Reds would score two more runs off Wang before relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen blanked the Reds the rest of the way, with Storen picking up his 32nd save of the season.
"I had Clip ready for [Edgar] Renteria, but Wang threw a lot of great pitches. Wang actually threw more breaking balls tonight and I was really pleased with his effort," Johnson said. "I didn't think he had his really good sinker tonight, but he threw a lot of strong innings. I had a lot of confidence in him, but I had my All-World setup man out there ready pretty much after two hitters in the seventh."
Since July 30, the Nationals are 9-6, and Zimmerman would like to see his team finish the season strong unlike in years past.
"The last couple of years we have done whatever our record is, but the last month and a half has always been bad and I think we need to concentrate on kind of finishing on an upswing instead on a downswing," he said. "Not that it really matters once you get to Spring Training, but for our confidence, and for our team chemistry, to know that we can continue to win is important to us. To be able to win late in the season is important."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.