(Sports Network) - One night after strengthening his case for a spot on the National League's All-Star team, Ryan Zimmerman will attempt to lead the Washington Nationals to a second straight victory over the San Diego Padres when the two clubs square off again tonight at Nationals Park.
Zimmerman, one of five candidates eligible to be voted in as the final man on the NL squad for next week's Midsummer Classic, belted a pair of home runs in last night's opener of this three-game series. His final blast came to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning and lifted the Nationals to an exciting 6-5 win.
The standout third baseman took an 0-1 pitch from Luke Gregerson (0-1) over the center field wall to end a see-saw battle that was played in a soaring heat wave, with the first-pitch temperature recorded at 99 degrees.
"It was a fastball away," Zimmerman told the Nationals' official site of his game-winning hit. "Gregerson has a great slider, and he threw a fastball and left it over the plate. "I knew I hit it well. You have to hit it well to get the ball out of center here."
Zimmerman also had a solo homer in the fourth inning and finished 3-for-4 for Washington, which kept the game tied by making a spectacular defensive play in the top of the ninth.
With two out and a runner on first, Scott Hairston doubled into the left field corner off Nats closer Matt Capps (3-3). Shortstop Ian Desmond then took Josh Willingham's throw from the outfield and made a perfect relay strike to home to gun down Scott Hairston for the final out and keep the contest knotted at 5-5.
The Padres drew even by scoring three times in the top of the eighth, with the final run crossing the plate on a Desmond throwing error with two out.
Desmond also homered for Washington in the thrilling win, while Mike Morse finished 3-for-4 with two RBI to help the Nationals prevail.
Jerry Hairston ended 3-for-5 for San Diego, with both Scott Hairston and Adrian Gonzalez collecting two hits and an RBI in defeat.
The NL West-leading Padres had a three-game win streak halted and now lead second-place Los Angeles by three games in the division race. The Dodgers topped Florida on Tuesday.
San Diego will try to get back on track tonight behind Jon Garland, who's had a first half worthy of All-Star consideration in his own right. The offseason acquisition has compiled an 8-5 record with a 3.24 earned run average over 17 starts and enters this evening's tilt having won his last two decisions.
Garland wasn't overly sharp his last time out, however, as the right-hander issued a season-high six walks and allowed three runs in a five-inning no- decision against Houston on Thursday. Five days earlier, he fired 6 2/3 frames of one-run ball versus Florida to notch his eighth victory of the season.
The 30-year-old faced the Nationals in San Diego on May 30 and yielded just two runs over seven innings in a no-decision. In five overall starts against Washington, Garland is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
Zimmerman also homered twice off Garland in that May 30 showdown and has three long balls in five lifetime at-bats against the Padres starter. He's homered seven times in his last 11 matchups with San Diego as well.
J.D. Martin gets the call for Washington tonight and takes another crack at an elusive first win of the year. The right-hander is 0-4 in six starts since being recalled from the minors in late May, despite pitching to a respectable 3.38 ERA over that stretch.
Martin's first major-league appearance of the year came against the Padres on May 29 and resulted in a loss, although only one of the four runs he surrendered in that six-inning stint was earned. He's 0-2 in three career meetings with San Diego, but has posted a 1.93 ERA in those games.
The 27-year-old last pitched on June 30 and gave up three runs in five innings of a loss at Atlanta.
San Diego took two of three games from the Nationals at Petco Park earlier this season and is 10-4 over the last 14 encounters between these teams.