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By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange September 12, 2013 5:14 PM
NEW YORK -- Ryan Zimmerman continued his power surge Thursday afternoon when he hit a solo homer in the first inning and delivered an RBI double in the eighth inning of the Washington Nationals' 7-2 win over the New York Mets. The Nationals (77-69) swept the four-game series -- and never trailed the Mets, whom they outscored 25-5 -- as they kept their slim wild card hopes alive. Washington, which is 17-5 since Aug. 20, is 5 1/2 games behind the idle Cincinnati Reds (83-64). Zimmerman's homer was his eighth in his last 10 games. The double was only his 10th hit in that span and his first hit other than a single or a homer. Adam LaRoche, Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon also hit solo homers for the Nationals, who crushed 13 in the series. Every Nationals player who played in all four games had at least one homer except shortstop Ian Desmond. LaRoche finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored while Rendon had two RBI, including a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Tanner Roark improved to 6-0 as he won for the second time in as many big league starts after allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out three over six innings. Roark's ERA rose from 0.94 to 1.29. Anthony Recker was 2-for-3 with an RBI single in the fourth for the Mets (64-81), who lose for the ninth time in 11 games as they clinched a fifth straight non-winning season. Eric Young had two singles, a run scored and a stolen base while Daniel Murphy had an RBI double in the first. Aaron Harang took the loss in his Mets debut after allowing three runs -- all on solo homers -- on four hits and one walk while striking out 10 over six innings. Harang signed with the Mets on Sept. 2, a day after he was released by the Mariners, for whom he went 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA in 22 starts. NOTES: Both starters remained in the game despite a 56-minute rain delay following the first inning. ... Nationals manager Davey Johnson, 27 years removed from managing the Mets to their most recent world championship, admitted he grew sentimental during his pregame walk around Citi Field. Johnson is stepping down as the Nationals' manager at the end of the season. He is the Mets' all-time leader in wins (595), winning percentage (.588) and games managed (1,013) and was inducted into the franchise's Hall of Fame in 2010. ... Nationals CF Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 23 games with an eighth-inning double. ... Harang's 10-strikeout game was his second double-digit strikeout game of the season but just his fourth in the last six seasons. ... Young has 21 stolen bases since the All-Star Break and 37 for the season, three behind the Brewers' Jean Segura for the league lead.