SAN FRANCISCO - Although Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game hitting streak ended right before he could carry it home to Washington, he thinks the monthlong experience will benefit him for years to come.
The Nationals’ rising star also got a less tangible prize: A whole new appreciation for the greatness of Joe DiMaggio.
“It makes you realize how much better 56 is than 30,” Zimmerman said, referring to the San Francisco native’s record hitting streak in 1941. “That’s a long time. ... To get a hit every single game, there’s got to be a little bit of luck involved.”
Zimmerman got no luck in the Nationals’ 6-3 victory over the Giants on Wednesday, going 0 for 3 with two walks. He never got the ball out of the infield, grounding into a fielder’s choice on his final chance in the ninth.
At least Zimmerman slid home with Washington’s sixth run moments later, allowing him to play a part in a rare victory for the frustrated Nationals, who have the majors’ worst record.
“I’m not relieved it’s over, because I would have liked to keep it going for as long as I can,” said Zimmerman, who fell just short of Vladimir Guerrero’s franchise-record 31-game streak with Montreal in 1999. “But it’ll be good to go back to the usual routine. ... I’ve said every day that I’d rather win. It’s been a tough year for us. I feel like we’re a lot better than our record.”
Zimmerman produced two groundouts and two walks against Giants starter Barry Zito, who walked Zimmerman intentionally to load the bases in the seventh after a wild pitch left first base open moments earlier. Both Zimmerman and Washington manager Manny Acta said they agreed with San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy’s decision.
“We had no choice,” Bochy said. “You’re behind in the count, and you have the hottest hitter in baseball up there. You’re trying to limit the damage. ... It’s impressive, what he did. We got caught the one time when we had to put him on, but he had four at-bats, and we pitched him well.”
Zimmerman grounded to shortstop against reliever Pat Misch in the ninth, but San Francisco’s fans gave him a standing ovation. His streak, the majors’ longest since Moises Alou hit in 30 straight for the Mets in 2007, ended right before Washington flew home for a 10-game homestand at Nationals Park, where the struggling club could have used something to celebrate.
“We all had fun, we all enjoyed it, and tomorrow is the next day to start a new one,” said rookie right-hander Shairon Martis, who allowed two hits over seven sharp innings to remain unbeaten this season.
Nick Johnson had an RBI double among his four hits, and Elijah Dukes drove in two runs with a broken-bat single in the seventh as the Nationals avoided a three-game sweep in San Francisco while snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Giants.
Martis (5-0), who walked four batters and hit another but didn’t allow a run until the seventh, is responsible for nearly half of the Nationals’ 11 victories this season. The former Giants farmhand also doubled and scored the game’s first run in the fifth.
Kip Wells earned his second career save.
Zito (1-3) gave up eight hits and four runs while pitching into the seventh, losing control of a tight game late in another tough loss on his 31st birthday. The former Oakland ace has been given just 2.29 runs of support in his seven starts this season, sabotaging his markedly improved performance after two disappointing years across the Bay.
“On the bright side, it keeps me focused on what I have to do,” Zito said. “It keeps me locked in. Of course, it would be great to come out and get five every time, but that’s not realistic in this game. Their guy on the other side was pretty good. He pitched out of some jams.”
The Giants scored 20 runs in the series’ first two games, including Pablo Sandoval’s game-ending three-run homer off Joe Beimel on Tuesday night, but couldn’t score against Martis until Rich Aurilia’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.
The Nationals’ bullpen struggled yet again, however. Sandoval added an RBI single in the eighth off Beimel, and Nate Schierholtz then tripled and scored in the ninth before Wells escaped trouble.
Notes: Giants OF Fred Lewis has a minor toe injury, but he drove home Schierholtz with a pinch-hit double in the ninth. ... Adam Dunn wasn’t in Washington’s starting lineup, but he popped out on one pitch as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.
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