WASHINGTON – All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond hit his 14th home run, and the Washington Nationals became the latest team to beat up on Tim Lincecum, pounding the struggling right-hander hard early and often Tuesday night in a 9-3 victory.
The opener of the three-game series between first-place teams was barely a contest. Jordan Zimmermann (5-6) pitched a rain-shortened six innings and again enjoyed the generous run support that had evaded him for so long, ensuring the Nationals would wake up on the Fourth of July with a 3½-game cushion over the New York Mets atop the NL East.
Lincecum (3-9) allowed eight runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings. Seven runs were earned, making it the worst start ERA-wise in his major league career. The two-time Cy Young Award winner started to look his old self again in his previous two starts, but Tuesday's effort ballooned his ERA to 6.08.
Desmond, one of a trio of players the surging Nationals are sending to the All-Star game next week, hit a two-run shot to left field in the third. He had already topped his best power season in the majors, and now he's surpassed the 13 homers he hit with Single-A Potomac in 2007. He also has an eight-game hitting streak, including extra base hits in six of those games.
Washington scored two in the second, three in the third and three in the fourth. Every player in the starting lineup had at least one hit except catcher Jesus Flores, with even Zimmermann contributing an RBI double in the second inning.
Zimmermann was one of four players to double off Lincecum, who was removed after sandwiching walks around Bryce Harper's double to load the bases with one out in the fourth. Reliever George Kontos allowed all three inherited runners to score, putting the Giants in an 8-0 hole.
Zimmermann has become known as the hard-luck Nationals starter who never gets any help. He leads the team with 14 quality starts, but the team is only 9-7 when he pitches. The tide has turned in his last two starts, an 11-5 win over Colorado to go with Tuesday's knockout of the Giants, his first win at home since last August. He had been winless in his last eight starts at National Park, with his team giving him a combined 10 runs of support while he was in the game.
The Giants scored a pair on Zimmermann in the fifth, but it took a summer storm to send him to the showers. He was on the mound when rain started to fall in the seventh inning and was replaced by reliever Ryan Mattheus after an 85-minute delay.
Notes: The teams have an 11:05 a.m. first pitch for the Fourth of July. Someone with a sense of humor added a 6 a.m. batting practice to the schedule written on the whiteboard in the Nationals clubhouse. ... Desmond is 9 for 12 lifetime against Lincecum. ... The Nationals placed RHP Chien-Ming Wang on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hip and reinstated RHP Henry Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who went on the DL on June 7 after slamming his right index finger in a bathroom door, came on in the ninth to retire the game's final batter.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP