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Zimmerman, Nationals end Padres' three-game win streak

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman is putting a June swoon behind him -- and making a strong case to join the National League All-Star team.

Zimmerman's second homer of the game, a shot to center field off Luke Gregerson leading off the bottom of the ninth, lifted the Washington Nationals to a 6-5 victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

"We all know Zim's an All-Star. He's playing like an All-Star, he's always played like an All-Star. We all are just hoping that he gets in," said Mike Morse, who matched a career-high with three hits for the Nationals.

Zimmerman, trying to secure the final spot on the NL All-Star team in an Internet vote, hit an 0-1 pitch from Gregerson (2-4) over the wall in center.

Gregerson thought he could sneak a fastball away past Zimmerman, but he caught too much of the plate.

"Right pitch, bad execution," Gregerson said.

Zimmerman had earlier homered in the fourth and has three homers in two games since All-Star rosters were announced Sunday. He has two multiple-homer games this season -- both against the Padres, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

"I've been working hard the last week or so and I've been struggling the last three weeks, four weeks, however many weeks it is," said Zimmerman, who hit .245 with two homers and eight RBIs in June. "It's frustrating. Nobody wants to do that. ... It's finally starting to get back to where I want to be."

Padres manager Bud Black was already a believer in the Nationals third baseman.

"He's a very good player -- no doubt. I voted for him for the All-Star Game -- that's what I think of Zimmerman," Black said. "My write-in vote's going to go to [San Diego closer Heath Bell], but that's besides the point. Zimmerman's a good player."

Ian Desmond also connected, giving the Nationals their fourth three-homer game of the season.

But it was Desmond's right arm that almost threw the game away for Washington, then nabbed the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the ninth.

Desmond's throwing error on pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar's eighth-inning grounder allowed the Padres to score the tying run. In the ninth, his relay of left fielder Josh Willingham's throw cut down Jerry Hairston Jr. at the plate for the final out.

Matt Capps (3-3) worked the ninth for his third victory in six days. Washington claimed its 10th victory in its last at-bat.

The game-time temperature was 99 degrees, making it the warmest game since the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, D.C., before the 2005 season.

Morse broke out of a 2-for-22 slump and drove in two runs for the Nationals, who have won three of five.

Scott Hairston's sacrifice fly put the Padres ahead in the first, but Washington rallied for three runs in the bottom of the inning. With the bases loaded, Ivan Rodriguez hit a hard bouncer off Padres starter Clayton Richard's right foot, tying the game on the infield hit, and Morse slapped a two-run single to center.

In the San Diego third, Adrian Gonzalez snapped a season-worst 0-for-17 skid with an RBI single to make it 3-2.

Zimmerman hit his 15th homer of the year to left with one down in the fourth.

"When you make a mistake, [Zimmerman] makes you pay for it," Richard said. "That's [been] proven to us over and over again."

Desmond followed an inning later with his fifth homer, a solo shot into the Padres' bullpen in left.

Nationals starter Livan Hernandez departed with a three-run lead after allowing singles to Gonzalez and Scott Hairston to lead off the eighth. Chase Headley singled off reliever Tyler Clippard and Yorvit Torrealba's line drive to left made it 5-3. Aaron Cunningham hit a sacrifice fly to left.

Sean Burnett relieved and Salazar, batting for pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, hit a grounder to second. Cristian Guzman's shuffle to Desmond at short got one out, but Desmond's relay was wide of first, allowing Headley to score the tying run on his major league-high 21st error.

Hernandez allowed four runs and nine singles in seven-plus innings. Richard yielded five runs and nine hits over six innings.

Game notes
The previous warmest game-time temperature at a Nationals home game was 94 degrees on June 6, 2008. ... Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg chatted pregame with his former San Diego State coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who was in town as part of San Diego's TV broadcast team. ... Desmond's last home run came 31 games ago on May 28, also against Richard.