by Tyler Radecki, Staff Writer

After Saturday’s game, Jayson Werth said the most important thing was to get a win Sunday “any way we can.”

It wouldn’t be until the ninth inning that the Nats would find a way to take the lead and get that important win.

With one out in the ninth, Matt Stairs got his fourth pinch-hit of the year and Alex Cora followed with a hit of his own. Brian Bixler, pinch-running for Stairs, failed to advance to third. With the game tied at zero and the Nats having already squandered chances to score, it seemed like it would be a big mistake.

But Werth, batting leadoff for the second straight game, drew a walk, bringing Danny Espinosa to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. Espinosa worked the count full before driving a ball to deep right field.

Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia tracked the ball all the way to the wall and made a spectacular jumping catch to record an out and save extra bases, but the ball was hit far enough to allow Bixler to score and Cora to advance to third. Finally, the Nats broke the scoreless tie and led 1-0.

Laynce Nix followed up with a single of his own, giving the Nats what seemed like an enormous 2-0 lead.  Drew Storen came in and shut down the Padres in the bottom of the inning for his 15th save of the season, and the Nats -- squandered opportunities and all -- found a way to win.

They wouldn’t have even been in that situation if not for a fantastic start by Jordan Zimmermann, who threw seven innings of shutout ball with one walk, four hits and ten strikeouts. With the offense – especially Werth, Espinosa and Wilson Ramos – failing to drive in any support for him, Zimmermann was as good as any Nats starter this season.

Zimmermann, the 25-year old right-hander, has given up a total of two earned runs in his last three starts, going seven innings each time.  In fact, you'd have to go back to April 26 to find the last time he'd surrendered more than three earned runs.  Since the calendar flipped to May, Zimmermann hasn't had an outing where he's given up more hits than innings pitched, and hasn't walked more than two batters in his last ten games.

Werth and Espinosa left a combined eight men on base and Ramos had six of his own. In the fifth inning, Werth struck out with runners in scoring position and in the seventh he lined out with two men on. He is now 0-for-8 as a leadoff man, but his walk in the ninth was key.

Zimmermann also had the help of the Nats’ defense, which today broke a franchise record errorless streak, which was previously 97 1/3 innings. With the offense struggling on the road trip, the pitching and defense have more than picked up the slack.

And even though the final game was tortuous, the Nats battled and won their third straight game, capping off the west coast road trip with an encouraging 6-5 record, the first time since April of 2008 the Nationals have had a winning multi-city road trip.  Further good news was that face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman expects to play Tuesday when the Nats host the St. Louis Cardinals at Nats Park to open up a nine-game homestand.

THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann. From the get-go, you could tell Zimmermann was going to have a good day. With no run support, Zimmermann threw seven shutout innings with one walk, four hits and ten strikeouts. He was as good as any Nats starter this year.

THE BAD: Wilson Ramos. He left six runners on base, had a killer double play and ended up 0-for-4 at the dish with a strikeout. It was a day to forget for Ramos, though he did catch another baserunner stealing.

THE UGLY: The offense with runners in scoring position. The Nats combined to go 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and inning after inning they failed to drive runners in once they got on base. Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa had lots of chances, leaving a combined eight men on base. Werth had two big chances in the fifth and seventh innings – in the fifth, he chased a curveball and in the seventh he lined out. Espinosa managed a great sacrifice fly in the ninth, but before that inning, the top two hitters in the lineup had a bad day.

THE STATS:  Seven hits, four walks, six strikeouts.  1-for-13 with RISP, 10 LOB, two GIDP. No errors.

NEXT GAME:  Tuesday v. St. Louis Cardinals at Nats Park at 7:05 pm.  Yunesky Maya (0-1, 5.40) faces Jaime Garcia (6-2, 3.20).