By The Sports Xchange
WASHINGTON — Ryan Zimmerman has been dealing with a bad back for about the past week and missed his third game in a row Monday, though he felt he was good enough to play.
His manager, Dusty Baker, wanted to give Zimmerman an extra day and explained that facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Tuesday would be easier that having to rotate his hips at the plate against someone throwing 95 miles per hour.
The strategy worked as Zimmerman had three hits, including two homers, and drove in three runs as the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 10-5 on Tuesday to snap a four-game losing streak.
“It was a smart move,” Zimmerman said before the game.
It was the second night in a row the Nationals scored 10 runs against the Braves. This time they won.
“He looked fine to me,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “You talk about a quality person; a true pro. He is just a wonderful person. He is one of those boring pros (who just does his job).”
Zimmerman hit a two-run homer off starter R.A. Dickey during a five-run sixth inning to give the Nationals a 6-5 lead. His homer came after Bryce Harper had an RBI single to pull Washington to within 5-4.
The second homer by Zimmerman was his 19th of the year and tied Vladamir Guerrero for first on the all-time franchise (Montreal/Washington) list with 234 career homers.
“It is great,” Nationals starting pitcher Joe Ross said of having Zimmerman back. “He kind of picked up where he left off.”
Later in the sixth, Matt Wieters had a two-run double to score Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, who scored just steps back of Murphy as the Nationals led 8-5. Murphy had his third hit, an RBI double in the seventh, to make it 9-5 and Trea Turner drove in a run with a single in the eighth for a 10-5 lead.
Rio Ruiz gave the Braves a 4-3 lead with a two-run homer to right in the sixth. It was the second career homer for Ruiz, who went deep against Max Scherzer of the Nationals on May 20 for his first MLB homer.
Ross threw a season-high 102 pitches and gave up nine hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings. The winning pitcher was Trevor Gott (1-0), who retired one batter in the sixth. Enny Romero pitched two scoreless innings for the Nationals.
Dickey (4-5) allowed eight runs and eight hits (three homers) with six strikeouts in five innings plus five batters.
“He went out in the six and just lost (the knuckler). It was just one of these feel things,” Snitker said of Dickey. “He just flattened out. It didn’t long to figure that out either.”
Ryan Raburn and Michael A. Taylor each had two hits for the Nationals. Dansby Swanson was 3-for-3 with a walk for the Braves. Brandon Phillips had three hits and Ender Inciarte and Matt Adams each had two for Atlanta.
Dickey had trouble keeping his knuckleball in the park early on.
The Nationals scored three runs in the first as Bryce Harper drove in a run on a groundout and Zimmerman and Murphy hit back-to-back homers.
Swanson had a two-run double in the fourth to trim the lead to 3-2. The drive to right-center scored Adams, who had singled, and Ruiz, who reached on a walk with one out.
Swanson entered the game hitting .333 this month after batting .156 in April and .216 in May.
Washington entered Tuesday leading the National League in batting average (.274), homers (94) and was second in runs scored (343) to Colorado’s 344. But the Nationals bullpen had the worst ERA in the league at 5.11 after giving up five runs in four innings in an 11-10 loss Monday to Atlanta.
But Zimmerman helped alleviate any angst about the bullpen Tuesday.
“He caught up to a good fastball (against Ian Krol) for his third hit,” Baker said. “It was good to have Zim back. Rayburn had a good game, too. Our offense bailed Joe out tonight. His location was off. He battled and battled.”
NOTES: Braves RHP Julio Teheran (5-4, 5.08) will face Washington RHP Tanner Roark (6-3, 3.87) in the series finale Wednesday, though rain is in the forecast. … Washington manager Dusty Baker was drafted in the 26th round by the Braves in 1967 and played eight years with Atlanta. … Braves C Kurt Suzuki (2012-13) and LHP Ian Krol (2013) are former Nationals. Krol had retired 18 batters in a row over seven games before 1B Ryan Zimmerman singled in the seventh. … Washington is the only National League team that has not been shut out this year.