Found September 11, 2012 on The Nats Blog:

 

The Washington Nationals had to face off against one of the best starters in the National League, R.A. Dickey, on Tuesday. Dickey is considered by many to be a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award with Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, and Johnny Cueto, and he was looking to tie Gonzalez for the MLB lead in wins at 19. The Nationals offense and pitching came through once again with a 5-3 victory, leaving Gio as the game’s only 19-game winner, giving the Nats their 88th win of the season, and reducing their magic number to 13 after the Braves fell to the Brewers.

Jordan Zimmermann hasn’t exactly been elite lately. He had an atrocious game against St. Louis two starts ago where he gave up eight runs in three and two-thirds innings, and a season-low 2.28 ERA at the end of July slowly ticked up to 2.99 before Tuesday’s game. Now, a 2.99 ERA is an impressive number any way you look at it, but it’s also a pretty big increase in just over a month.

He wasn’t elite against the Mets this time around either, but he was able to elude most serious trouble. He went just five innings for the fourth time in his last eight starts, but he only gave up two runs on six hits and managed to keep the Nats in the game for their impressive bullpen to lock it down. Zimmermann’s latest outing can be accurately described as effectively wild, and he now sports a 3.01 ERA.

Tom Gorzelanny managed to pitch a three up, three down sixth inning to allow Christian Garcia to come in to work his magic. Garcia, a September call up with superior stuff and two Tommy John surgeries to his name, was absolutely remarkable. He pitched one and  one-third innings and left the opposing hitters totally baffled, and he struck out the side in the seventh.

Garcia fell behind 3-0 to Jordany Valdespin, but came back and struck him out on a fantastic change up. He may have the second- or third-best change up on the Nats pitching staff, behind Stephen Strasburg and possibly Tyler Clippard. It almost looks like a sinker.

Valdespin, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy in the seventh and David Wright in the eighth were no contest to Garcia’s stuff. Davey Johnson showed confidence to put the rookie in a game with a one-run lead, and he came through in a big way. This outing will be remembered down the stretch.

Michael Gonzalez and Drew Storen each faced a batter to end the eighth, and Tyler Clippard earned his 31st save after giving up a home run to Scott Hairston. He did allow another base runner to reach and brought the tying run to the plate but averted disaster. It’s rarely easy with Clippard, but he does get results.

Some thoughts:

- In 13 of their last 14 games, the Nats have hit a home run, and in that time It was a big one for the Nats in the top of the seventh when Tyler Moore took R.A. Dickey deep on the first pitch he saw from him. It was a two-run shot that gave the Nats a 3-2 lead.

- Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 15 games, which is the longest active streak in baseball.

- With the magic number of 13, the Nats could clinch the NL East Division Title as early as September 20th, but that would require the Nats to win their next seven games and for the Braves to lose their next seven games.

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