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WSH@NYM: Zimmerman's RBI single puts Nats back on top

NEW YORK -- Ryan Zimmerman and Craig Stammen played a role in helping the Nationals edge the Mets, 3-2, at Citi Field on Tuesday night.

The game was tied at 2 when Washington took the lead in the top of the seventh inning off two Mets relief pitchers. With Dale Thayer on the mound, manager Davey Jonson never thought about pinch-hitting for Stammen, who was a career .217 hitter in the big leagues entering Tuesday's game. Johnson wanted to have a long look at Stammen, who has a chance to make the club as a reliever next year.

"I just wanted to see a little more of him. I want him to throw the sinker to the next couple of hitters he faced in the next inning," Johnson said.

Johnson's strategy paid off as Stammen came to the plate with one out and singled to right field, then later advanced to second on a single by Ian Desmond.

After Rick Ankiel hit into a force play, reliever Bobby Parnell entered the game and allowed a single to Zimmerman, scoring Stammen, who ended up winning his first big league game since August of last season.

Swinging the bat is not the only thing that impressed Johnson when it comes to Stammen. The skipper likes the way Stammen has been throwing on the mound.

"That is the second time I've seen him since the callup," Johnson said. "I've really been impressed with the way he is throwing the ball. I gave him a couple of days rest. He was sharp. I'm pleased with what I'm seeing."

Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang started for Washington and recorded a no-decision. He didn't put together a clean inning, but he completed five frames and allowed two runs on nine hits.

The two runs scored in the fifth. With runners on first and second, Lucas Duda singled to right field, scoring Jose Reyes. On the same play, the ball went by right fielder Jayson Werth for an error, which allowed Ruben Tejada to score.

"I thought Chien-Ming pitched a good ballgame," Johnson said. "I know he gave up a bunch of hits. He kept us in the ballgame. I might have left him in there if [his spot in the batting order] wasn't coming up. ... That was his ninth start and I'm pleased what I'm seeing. He was a little quicker today. I know he could have gone further, but we are right in the ballgame and we had a chance to win it."

Ankiel prevented the Mets from doing further damage in the same frame. Before the two runs scored, New York had runners on second with one out when Reyes singled to center fielder. It looked like Josh Thole was going to score easily, but Ankiel threw a strike to the plate to nailed Thole. It was Ankiel's ninth assist of the season.

"That's one there -- it was a laser and right on the money. It was unbelievable. Great," Johnson said.

Ankiel said throwing out a runner is just like hitting a home run.

"That is the second time I threw out Thole -- and I really like Josh, too -- and it makes it that much better," Ankiel said.

The Nationals were able to tie the game in the top of the sixth inning off right-hander Dillon Gee. Desmond scored all the way from first on a double by Ankiel, while Ankiel scored on a double by Michael Morse.

"He thought he had to be perfect. He started nibbling too much and fell behind, and got himself in trouble," Mets manager Terry Collins said about Gee.

After Stammen left the game, the Nationals used four more relievers to shut down the Mets the rest of the way, with Drew Storen picking up his 36th save of the season.

"I like the way we are pitching, I like the way we are swinging the bats. It fun," Johnson said.

With the victory, the Nationals improved their record to 69-77. The 69th victory topped last season's win total.

For Zimmerman, that means the Nationals are on the verge of winning more games. He would like to see the team finish the season at .500. They have go 12-4 to reach that milestone.

"The key is to win," Zimmerman said. "I think if we continue to get better and improve each year, then we are going to win more. Obviously, to win more games is the goal. Anytime you can do that and improve on the year before, it's obviously good.

"We just want to finish the season strong and have some momentum going into next year and carry that with us."

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