Zimmermann, Nationals beat Reds 2-1

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) Even in their finest moments, the Nationals can't keep from getting hurt.

Jordan Zimmermann extended Washington's streak of dominant starts, and Danny Espinosa homered for the second straight game Saturday night, leading the Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that was overshadowed by another significant injury.

Catcher Wilson Ramos left the game in the seventh inning after his right knee buckled while he chased a passed ball. He was in a lot of pain when he was helped off the field and taken for an MRI to discover the extent of the damage.

''I have a bad feeling he tore something and it's going to be a while,'' manager Davey Johnson said. ''He's really down and still in a lot of pain. He can't put any weight on it. Not good.''

The Nationals already have sent 10 players to the disabled list. Outfielder Jayson Werth broke his left wrist and needed surgery on Monday, sidelining him for several months.

Now, the Nationals have lost one of the best young catchers, perhaps for the season.

''It's going to be a big loss,'' Zimmermann said.

Jesus Flores replaced Ramos in the seventh and will become the primary catcher while he's out. Washington was looking to bring in another catcher for the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon.

''We've got pretty good depth and a lot of talent here, but I think we've had enough,'' Johnson said. ''Losing one of the top catchers in the league, that hurts.''

Zimmermann (2-3) gave up five hits and struck out nine. Washington's starters have allowed one earned run or fewer 19 times this season, keeping the Nationals in first place in the NL East despite all those injuries and an offense that ranks near the bottom.

Espinosa hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the sixth off Jose Arredondo (2-1). Ramos also had a solo shot off Mat Latos.

Nationals rookie Bryce Harper was back in right field with a large bandage above his left eye, covering a 10-stitch gash from slamming his bat against a wall on Friday night. He went 0 for 4 and struck out.

Johnson decided to leave Harper in the lineup so he could take his frustrations out on the opposing pitcher instead of the dugout wall. Instead, he came away 0 for 9 in the series with four strikeouts.

The Reds gave away Joey Votto bobbleheads and drew 42,294 fans, their third capacity crowd of the season. For the second night in a row, Cincinnati couldn't do much against the major leagues' stingiest pitching staff.

Washington's starters have 17 quality starts in the past 18 games, taking the pressure off an offense that doesn't score a lot of runs.

Zimmermann struggled when he threw in the bullpen between starts, but had few problems on Saturday night.

''That's the best I've felt all year,'' he said. ''I had command of everything. My slider was really tight tonight.

''My bullpen (session) this week was not very good. When I started warming up before the game, I was pretty pinpoint on everything and took it out to the mound.''

The Reds got only one runner into scoring position after the first inning.

''He was keeping his fastball down and throwing his breaking ball in the same location, so it looked like the same pitch,'' manager Dusty Baker said. ''He didn't make many mistakes, and he got strikeouts when he needed them.''

Henry Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his eighth save in 10 chances, fanning three batters on 10 pitches.

The Nationals had a chance to break it open in the fifth with their young, bandaged star at the plate. The Reds intentionally walked Adam LaRoche to load the bases with two outs and bring up Harper, who hit a grounder up the middle.

Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips made a backhand stop, then flipped the ball behind his back for a forceout at second, raising his arm and pounding his chest three times in celebration.

Nothing Harper could do about that.

Latos gave up three hits in five innings. He also walked five, matching his career high.

Cincinnati put Scott Rolen on the 15-day disabled list shortly before the start of the game with more pain in his left shoulder, a chronic problem the past few years. The 37-year-old third baseman had surgery on the shoulder last August.

NOTES: RH Bronson Arroyo tries for his second straight win in the final game of the series. Washington starts Edwin Jackson, who has faced the Reds only twice in his career. ... Shirley Larkin, mother of Reds SS Barry Larkin, will throw a ceremonial pitch on Sunday for Mother's Day. ... Cincinnati called up 3B Mike Costanzo from Triple-A Louisville to take Rolen's spot. Costanzo has split time between Double-A and Triple-A.

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