"It's finally starting to get back to where I want to be." -- Ryan Zimmerman, after two-home run performance

Ryan Zimmerman receives congratulations for his game-winning blast,
his second home run of the night and 16th of the season.
(Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network)

THE RESULT:  Ryan Zimmerman, as he has done so often in the past, lifted the Washington Nationals from the brink of loss to the joy of victory with one swing of the bat.

The game-winning home run -- his 16th of the season -- gave the Nats a 6-5 victory over the San Diego Padres, before an annouced crowd of 14,039 at steamy Nationals Park.

It was Zimmerman's second home run of the game, and since being placed on the ballot for the final fan vote for the N.L. All-Star team, the gold glove third baseman has gone 6-for-9 with three homers and six RBI, along with a walk, in two games since being named to the ballot.

The win brings the Nats back to 10 games below .500 at 37-47. 

The heroics were necessary because of a bullpen collapse and defensive miscue in the top of the eighth.

Livan Hernandez pitched a very strong seven innings (7 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks), but Manager Jim Riggleman sent him out to start the eighth inning leading 5-2, a move he rued in his post-game press conference. 

"If I'd had it to do over, I wouldn't have done that," Riggleman said.  "That's one that I wouldn't have slept too good tonight if we didn't win that ballgame." 

Livan Hernandez acknowledges crowd response leaving 5-2 game.
(Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network)

Hernandez put the first two runners on in the frame and at that point Riggleman pulled his starter and inserted Tyler Clippard.

Clippard only added fuel to the fire, allowing hits to the first two batters he faced to make the score 5-3 with the bases still loaded.  After a sacrifice fly to plate another run to make it 5-4, Clippard's night was over.

Sean Burnett entered and got pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar to ground to second for a potential inning-ending double play.  Cristian Guzman made a slow, low feed to Ian Desmond at second to get the lead runner, but the rookie shortstop still tried to get two, and ended up skipping the throw past first base into the netting in front of the Nats' dugout, allowing the runner to walk home with the tying run.

It was Desmond's league-high 21st error of the season.

"Once he got that type of feed he probably should have ate the ball," Riggleman lamented in the post-game.

Desmond made up for it in the ninth though.  With Jerry Hariston at first against All-Star closer Matt Capps (W, 3-3) with two outs, Scott Hairston laced a double to the left field corner.  Josh Willingham fished it out of the corner and fired to Desmond in short left field, and Desmond unleashed a terrific one-hop relay throw to catcher Pudge Rodriguez to nail Hairston at the plate to retain the tie game.

Pudge Rodriguez nails Jerry Hairston at the plate off relay from Desmond.
(Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network)

The next batter, Zimmerman, broke the tie in a big way.

THE GOOD:  Zimmerman.  He went 3-for-4 with two solo homers and a double.  Michael Morse had three hits and two RBIs, and Desmond went 2-for-4 with a solo home run as well.

THE BAD:  Nyjer Morgan and Cristian Guzman went a combined 2-for-10 with three strikeouts in the Leadoff and second spots in the order.

THE UGLY:  Desmond's error.  His throw in the ninth is why the Nats have to keep running him out there every day.  The Nats simply don't have anyone else in the organization that can make that throw.  But he needs to learn when to put the ball in his back pocket, like he should have on that play in the eighth, and that really lousy throw to second a few nights ago after the diving stop.

THE STATS:  Despite getting out to a 5-2 lead, the Nats only went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.  They struck out eight times and drew four base on balls.

NEXT GAME:  Wednesday, 7:05 pm: RHP J.D. Martin (0-4, 3.38) v. RHP Jon Garland (8-5, 3.24)

NOTES:  Paid attendance was 14,039, but looking through the stands, it appeared half that announced crowd was actually in the stadium.  The game-time temperature was 99 degrees, the hottest starting temperature for the Nationals since their move from Montreal.

The Racing Presidents implore fans to vote for Ryan Zimmerman for the final spot on the NL All-Star team.
(Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network)