Tigers offense struggles against Zimmermann; Harper homers as Nationals defeat the Tigers 3-1

The potent Detroit Tigers offense had a difficult time against Washington's Jordan Zimmermann on Wednesday night.

Bryce Harper hit a solo homer and drove in another run with a sacrifice fly, Zimmermann won his NL-leading sixth game and the Nationals beat the Detroit Tigers 3-1.

Zimmermann (6-1), whose scoreless streak was snapped at 20 innings in the third, allowing a run and seven hits over seven innings. He struck out seven and lowered his ERA to 1.59 in winning his third straight start.

"We didn't get much off a hot pitcher even though I thought we had pretty good at-bats off him to be honest with you." Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Miguel Cabrera singled in the Tigers only run in the third after Torii Hunter doubled.

"The plan tonight was not to let Fielder and Cabrera beat me and (Cabrera) got that ball through the hole," Zimmermann said. "He's a great hitter and you're going to give up hits like that once in a while."

Cabrera is 11 for 16 with runners in scoring position over his past 11 games.

Jhonny Peralta had two hits for the Tigers, who had won four straight and nine of 10.

Detroit's Anibal Sanchez (3-3) allowed three runs, two earned, and eight hits and struck out eight.

"It wasn't like they roughed him up," Leyland said. "He gave up a few hits, but I thought he probably got better as the game went on to be honest with you."

It was Washington's first win against Sanchez, who was 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA in 19 starts against the Nationals while with the Marlins.

"He kept us in the game, but we were unable to come back and score runs," Cabrera said.

Tyler Clippard walked two with two outs in the eighth inning, but pitched out of it for Washington. Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save.

"Both starting pitchers were good and the bullpen did a good job," Leyland said. "Zimmermann has been really hot and Sanchez has been pitching very well, and they both do that night. They just got a couple more than we did."

Zimmermann's consecutive wins have come against the Reds, Braves and the Tigers.

The Nationals took a 2-1 lead on an unearned run in the fourth. Adam LaRoche led off with a single and Danny Espinosa singled him to second with one out. Kurt Suzuki flied to right and LaRoche tagged and went for third. Torii Hunter's throw hit LaRoche, eluded Cabrera and went out of play. LaRoche was awarded home and Espinosa third.

"That's baseball for you. There's nothing I did wrong, nothing Miguel did wrong, (it's) just . crazy," Hunter said. "I hate it though, trust me."

Harper made it 3-1 when he hit Sanchez's first pitch over the wall in right center with two outs in the fifth for his 10th home run.

"It was a 0-0 curveball, a pitch he hadn't seen yet in the game, and it was a good 0-0 pitch," Tiger catcher Alex Avila said. "A lot of guys just take that pitch, or if they do swing, they don't hit it out of the park normally. That was pretty impressive."

Washington tied it in the bottom half when Denard Span tripled and scored on Harper's sacrifice fly.

NOTES: Cabrera appeared to grab his right hip after grounding out in the sixth. "My back was tight, a little sore, my low back," he said. "But no big deal. I was able to play nine innings, so, hopefully tomorrow, it will work out, regular stretch and ready to play." . Detroit's RHP Doug Fister (4-0, 2.48) and RHP Dan Haren (3-3, 5.01) will start Thursday's finale. ... The start of the game was delayed 57 minutes by rain. ... Managers Johnson and Jim Leyland were meeting for the first time since Sept. 19, 1999, when Johnson's Dodgers defeated Leyland's Rockies, 5-2.