WASHINGTON -- Jordan Zimmermann's afternoon of brilliance was in question in the seventh when he faced a bases-loaded situation with one out and a two-run lead. He induced a double play to wiggle out of it unscathed and added one more scoreless inning after that in the Nationals' 2-0 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday afternoon in Game 1 of a split doubleheader.
"I know we're a little short in the bullpen, and I was just going to go as deep as I could," Zimmermann said. "Basically threw the ball over the middle and let them put the ball in play. Ball's not carrying at all today, so they have to hit it pretty good to hit it out. And I was able to do that."
Zimmermann ignited the offense as well, leading off the fifth with a single off Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey and scoring the game's first run on a Bryce Harper RBI single. Ryan Zimmerman batted in the game's only other run with a one-out sacrifice fly to score Yunel Escobar.
Dickey worked six solid innings, allowing only the two runs in the fifth. He struck out six and walked one, falling to 2-6 on the year.
"R.A. was great, he really was," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They had that one inning when they plated two and that was the difference. Both sides pitching was outstanding. We really couldn't mount anything against Zimmermann. In the seventh inning we had a shot but he's pretty good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Striking first: The Nationals broke the scoreless tie in the fifth inning, when Zimmermann helped his own cause with a leadoff single to center. After another base hit and a sacrifice bunt, Harper netted his 44th RBI, tying him for the MLB lead. Zimmerman followed Harper with a sacrifice fly to give the Nats a 2-0 advantage.
Martin misses the mark: The Blue Jays' best opportunity to score off Zimmermann came in the top of the seventh inning. Chris Colabello and Josh Thole singled while Edwin Encarnacion walked to load the bases with one out. Russell Martin entered the game as a pinch-hitter, but he promptly hit into an inning-ending double play.
The finisher:Drew Storen continued his dominant 2015 as the Nationals' closer, working a perfect ninth inning. He notched his 17th save of the season.
"It's the way he's always been," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "He relishes the opportunity to be the closer. He enjoys it and is fired up about it when he comes in there. He's doing a nice job."
"The biggest thing was keep Jose Reyes off the bases. Those guys in the middle aren't going to hurt you if Reyes isn't on base, and I was able to do that tonight." -- Zimmermann, on attacking the Blue Jays' potent offense
"I don't know if it takes any more of a toll than losing games by five or six runs. One thing I feel like it does do, it's going to even out. You're not going to lose every one-run game, it's going to start turning. But we have to be proactive in making it turn around. Today, we ran into a guy who threw a great ballgame. That's all there is to it." -- Dickey, on the Blue Jays' last 10 losses all coming by two runs or fewer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Prior to Tuesday afternoon's game, Toronto was the only team in the Major Leagues that hadn't been shut out this season. The 52 consecutive games without a shutout was the second-longest streak to open a season in franchise history. Toronto went its first 78 games of the 1993 season without being held scoreless.
BAUTISTA RETURNS TO RIGHT Jose Bautista played his first game in right field since April 21. Bautista had been limited to getting his at-bats in the designated-hitter spot because of a strain and an impingement in his right shoulder. He was tested in the first inning when Zimmerman hit a deep fly ball to right field. Bautista caught the ball but Escobar tagged up from second and advanced to third.
The Blue Jays and Nationals play the nightcap of their doubleheader, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET. The Blue Jays will send Marco Estrada, who has back-to-back starts of at least seven innings, against Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who fanned 13 over seven scoreless innings against the Cubs his last time out.