Nats & Johnson swept by Angels

June 29, 2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Three up, three down for Davey Johnson.

Dan Haren pitched two-hit ball through 7 1/3 innings and the Los Angeles Angels beat Washington 1-0 Wednesday on an unearned run to sweep Johnson’s team in his first series as Nationals manager.

“I’ve loved this team from spring training on, and I love them even more now,” Johnson said. “It’s a great ballclub. We’ve just got a few things we’ve got to straighten out, and we’ll be fine.

“It was a tough series, and we got hit with a few injuries. But it’s a long season. I told the guys earlier: ‘You guys win games, I lose them.’ So I’m 0 for 3. I’ve got three in my column, and I plan on rectifying that.”

The 68-year-old Johnson took over the Nationals this week, returning as a major league manager for the first time since 2000. Washington had won 13 of 15 going into the series at Anaheim, with most of the wins coming before manager Jim Riggleman resigned last Thursday.

“Davey’s a good baseball man and he’s going to be a good manager of this club,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “I guess you could call this a bump in the road, or however you want to define it. It’s a new situation for him, but everybody is comfortable and the transition was smooth. It was a tough series, dropping three here, but we’ve been playing good baseball.”

Brian Bixler’s bunt single in the fourth and Ivan Rodriguez’s eighth-inning single were the only hits against Haren (8-5) Despite the loss, the Nationals finished the month 17-10. It’s the first time they’ve had a winning record in June since 2005, the club’s first season after leaving Montreal.

The Nationals were swept in a three-game series for the third time, all on the road. Philadelphia and Baltimore also did it to them. The Angels swept a three-game set for the second time this season, the other one coming against the White Sox at Chicago.

“It’s good just to finish off a series, no matter who it is against,” Angels left fielder Vernon Wells said. “We’ve had a couple of opportunities to do that, and for us to be able to it in our first series at home for a while, it’s huge.”

The only run came in the fourth inning after a throwing error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Howie Kendrick’s double-play grounder drove it in.

Jordan Zimmermann (5-7) allowed four hits over eight innings in his first career complete game in 38 starts. The 25-year-old right-hander struck out four and walked one.

“What a great ballgame. It was one of the better ballgames I’ve ever seen pitched,” Johnson said. “I left Zim out there because he deserved every chance to get a win. We just couldn’t get it done. You have to tip your hat to Haren. He pitched a heck of a ballgame also.”

Zimmermann is 4-2 with a 2.63 ERA over his last 11 outings, and has given up just three home runs in 73 innings during that stretch.

“I’m throwing the ball pretty well right now and I just want to keep it going. It’s always good to throw well and have confidence going into the next start,” Zimmermann said. “I felt like I could throw a fastball and slider whenever I wanted to and wherever I wanted to. I knew I had pretty good control today and was able to get through the eighth inning. “

Zimmermann, who had walked no more than two batters in any of his previous 15 starts, walked Bobby Abreu to open the fourth. Zimmerman tried for the force at second on Vernon Wells’ grounder and threw the ball past second baseman Danny Espinosa for an error. Abreu made it to third on the play and scored on Kendrick’s bouncer.

“I went up against a pretty good pitcher today and he had our hitters off-balance all day,” Zimmermann said. “It was a battle for both teams to score some runs. One little mistake, and they got that one run. You never want to walk guys, because most of the time they end up scoring, and that was the ballgame.”

The Angels, who had 31 hits in the first two games, were impressed with the way Zimmermann shut them down.

“He’s got good stuff,” Wells said. “His ball was moving and his slider and cutter were both deceptive. He threw his fastball when he needed to and had a good moving curve ball. I faced him before, and his stuff for a young guy is as good as there is in this game.”

Haren threw 120 pitches, striking out struck out six and walking one. The three-time All-Star lowered his ERA to 2.85 against a patchwork lineup, as Johnson rested Werth, left fielder Laynce Nix, catcher Wilson Ramos and shortstop Ian Desmond — all of whom played in the first two games.

Werth had a sore left knee and tightness in his hip, Desmond had a sore left quadriceps, Nix had a problem with his right Achilles’ tendon and Ramos came to the ballpark feeling under the weather. Desmond entered in the fifth as a pinch-runner and Werth struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh after Scott Downs replaced Haren.

Downs got the last two outs in the eighth, and rookie Jordan Walden got three outs for his 18th save in 24 chances after blowing three straight save opportunities in a six-day span. Walden struck out Michael Morse on a high fastball with a runner at third base to end it.

Nats outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr. left the game because of a bruised right hand after he was plunked by Haren as he tried to check his swing.

“The initial reports I got, I thought for sure it was broken,” Johnson said. “But I haven’t gotten the results of the X-rays yet. I thought it hit him in the part of the wrist where the metacarpal is. I’ve been hit a bunch of times like that.”

NOTES: Washington signed free agent LHP J.C. Romero to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Syracuse. The 13-year veteran, who won two games in relief for Philadelphia in the 2008 World Series, was released by the Phillies after getting designated for assignment on June 16. ... David Eckstein, the shortstop on the Angels’ 2002 World Series championship team, stopped by the ballpark to visit his brother, Rick — the Nationals’ hitting coach. ... The Angels are 8-5 against the Washington/Montreal Expos franchise. They haven’t played in the nation’s capital since Aug. 26, 1971, when they beat Ted Williams’ Washington Senators 4-3 in 10 innings at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The Halos did, however, make one visit to the White House after winning the World Series in 2002.

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