KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Maybe the second time is the charm.
The Washington Nationals used a big fourth inning -- the second time through the lineup -- for the second straight night to defeat the Kansas City Royals 7-2 Saturday night in front of 28,023 at Kauffman Stadium.
"I guess when we've seen the pitcher one time we get more comfortable," said Tyler Moore, who had an RBI double as part of the Nationals' four-run fourth. "I don't care what inning it is as long as we keep the momentum going."
Chad Tracy's two-run single capped the big inning for Washington, who put a seven-spot on the Royals in the fourth inning Friday night.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Washington's starting pitcher was on his game. Jordan Zimmermann (15-7) picked up the win for the Nationals, who moved above .500 for the first time since the last game before the All-Star break. The 15 wins ties him with the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright for the National League lead.
"Zim pitched a heck of a ballgame," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "He saved the bullpen. It was a sterling effort. He was making good pitches with his fastball and had a good slider. But he really used his change-up better than I've seen him all year."
Even Zimmermann was a little surprised how effective he was.
"I had four pitches working," he said. "When I have that going, usually it's going to be a fun night out there. Our offense got some runs early and allowed me to settle in. From the third inning on I really had a good change-up. They were getting hits through the hole on the fastball. From the third inning on the change-up was definitely the best pitch."
Zimmermann gave up two runs on eight hits (all singles) over 7 2/3 innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. He retired 11 in a row at one point.
Wade Davis (6-10) gave up seven runs on eight hits in six innings to take the loss.
"The fourth inning did him in," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "He got in a position with Moore with two strikes on him and gave up the double. Then there was the blooper to left and they score four runs. The home run to Desmond was a pitch up and we couldn't get anything going against Zimmerman. He was outstanding."
The Royals and Nationals seem headed in opposite directions. The Royals fell back to .500 for the first time July 28. They've lost seven straight and 10 of 12 since reaching a season-high eight games over on Aug. 12.
"It's frustrating. I don't like losing streaks and I don't like losing streaks after we've been playing so well," said Alex Gordon, who went 0-for-5 for Kansas City. "We're professionals. We'll keep playing and grinding."
When asked how the team breaks out of the slump, he said. "If I knew the answer it would be easy to fix."
Meanwhile, the Nationals have won five straight and 11 of their last 15.
"The bats have come alive," Johnson said.
The Nationals scored their four runs in the fourth after Kansas City had tied the score in the bottom of the third. Davis had recorded seven straight outs and momentum seemed to have switched.
In the sixth, Ian Desmond hit a two-run home run to put the game out of reach.
"We know we have the talent to do what we've been doing," Desmond said. "I think it's just been a matter of time. We're starting to get hot. Guys are starting to see the ball better."
The Royals got a second run in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Mike Moustakas. But a night after scoring 10 runs, the Royals scored just two runs with no extra-base hits.
Davis got help from his defense to avoid major damage in the first. He gave up singles to the first three batters, but Alex Gordon's AL-leading 11th outfield assist gunned down Ryan Zimmerman at second after the second hit. Bryce Harper's single scored Denard Span, but a nifty 4-6-3 double play ended the inning.
That settled Davis for a while, as he retired the next seven batters, including three strikeouts.
The Royals' offense, meanwhile, finally had some success against Zimmermann in the third. Alcides Escobar led off with a single. With one out, Emilio Bonifacio legged out an infield hit. Eric Hosmer lined a single up the middle, scoring Escobar with the tying run. Billy Butler grounded into a double play to end the threat.
But the Nationals unloaded with the four runs in the top of the fourth. Zimmerman led off with a walk and Harper followed with a single, moving Zimmerman to third. Wilson Ramos scored Zimmerman with a sacrifice fly. Moore drove in Harper with a double, followed by the two-run single by Tracy.
NOTES: OF Jayson Werth was held out of the Nationals' lineup with an infection between the fourth and fifth toes on his right foot. ... The seven runs the Nationals scored in the fourth inning Friday were the most in an inning this season. ... C Salvador Perez was out of Kansas City's starting lineup, but manager Ned Yost said it was only a day off. Kansas City is in the midst of 44 games in 44 days. They had their only day off Aug. 19, but played a doubleheader at Detroit on Aug. 16.