Nationals beat the Mets

March 4, 2009 2:57:29 PM PST
Another effortless outing behind him, Jordan Zimmermann is making a strong push for a spot in the Washington Nationals' rotation. The right-hander pitched three perfect innings in Washington's 6-4 victory over the New York Mets on Wednesday and has not allowed a base runner in five innings covering two spring training starts.

"It's fun to see a kid just grab the ball, be aggressive in the strike zone and keep the defense on their toes," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "It's pretty impressive. Electric stuff, actually."

Efficient, too. Zimmermann threw 34 pitches in three innings, 25 of them strikes. He lowered his pitch count from 13 in the first inning to 11 in the second and 10 in the third.

If Zimmermann is concerned about winning one of the two vacancies at the back end of the Nationals' rotation, he isn't showing it.

"I'm not really thinking about it at all," he said. "I just try to go out there and perform when I'm out there. Whatever happens, happens."

After striking out three of the first four hitters he faced, he got four straight ground balls before a flyout.

"Once you get ahead of hitters, then you got them right where you want them and you can throw what you want to throw. If you get behind, you've got to come with the fastball and you work a lot harder," said Zimmermann, who was 10-3 combined at Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg last year. "I got ahead for the most part today and put them away with the slider and off-speed stuff."

Mike Pelfrey wasn't as fortunate for the Mets, who have lost 15 players - including 11 off their 40-man roster - to the World Baseball Classic.

Pelfrey gave up a two-run homer to Nick Johnson, his second in three games, in the first inning. The right-hander allowed three runs and five hits over three innings, walking one and striking out three.

Fastball command was Pelfrey's problem early, but he wasn't concerned with anything mechanical. Unlike Zimmermann, he's locked into the Mets' rotation.

"Does anybody remember the last time I pitched good in spring training?" Pelfrey joked. "I had (an 8.14 ERA) last year and they gave me a job. You want the results, you're trying to go out there and get guys out, but if the results don't come right now, it's not a big deal. ... It's something to build on for next time."

Fernando Tatis and Ramon Castro homered off Collin Balester in the fourth, helping New York take a 4-3 lead. Castro's was a towering shot to center that cleared the 35-foot batter's eye.

But Balester, another candidate for the rotation, picked up the victory when the Nationals touched Livan Hernandez for three runs in the sixth. Hernandez got two quick outs but the next six runners reached base, including Alberto Gonzalez's two-run single and Corey Patterson's RBI single.

Jesus Colome worked the ninth for the save.

Notes: Mets LHP Johan Santana threw a bullpen session in Port St. Lucie on Wednesday morning and said he wants to start the team's April 6 opener in Cincinnati. Santana, who has been slowed by an irritated triceps tendon that causes pain in his left elbow, threw 46 pitches. ... Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner arrived at camp Wednesday morning and watched the game from box seats behind home plate. ... Washington 1B Dmitri Young is day-to-day with a tight back.