WASHINGTON -- For Wade Miley, it was a step forward after his recent struggles
For the D-backs, though, it was still a loss.
Miley threw seven quality innings, but it was not enough as the Nationals beat the D-backs, 3-2, on Wednesday night at Nationals Park.
"He pitched a solid game for us," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "Really good enough for us to win."
Except the pitcher the D-backs were facing, Jordan Zimmermann, is one of the game's better hurlers, and other than the first inning, he handcuffed the Arizona hitters.
The loss was the second in as many days for the D-backs, who will try to avoid a series sweep Thursday afternoon.
It will not get any easier for the Arizona offense with Stephen Strasburg getting the start for Washington.
"We've got another easy pitcher tomorrow," Gibson said with a smile.
The D-backs did give Miley a lead to work with in the first, as Aaron Hill drew a one-out walk and came around to score when Paul Goldschmidt doubled down the right-field line.
One out later, Martin Prado blooped a single to right to score Goldschmidt and give the D-backs a 2-0 lead on Zimmermann, who improved to 11-3.
"I just didn't feel very good in the first couple of innings," Zimmermann said. "The command wasn't that good. I threw a good pitch to Goldschmidt and he just stuck the bat out and got a hit. I just didn't feel that great. I finally felt a little better from the third inning on."
The Nationals, though, came right back in the bottom half of the first on Ryan Zimmerman's RBI double down the left-field line.
Washington tied the game at 2 on Tyler Moore's homer in the fourth
"I made some mistakes early and they capitalized on it," Miley said. "But that's baseball and you've got to make better pitches in those situations."
The deciding run came in the fifth thanks in part to a passed ball by Miguel Montero.
Denard Span led off the inning with a single, and he advanced to second when Miley's pitch to Anthony Rendon glanced off Montero's glove.
"It was a fastball that was a little bit below the knees," Montero said. "I don't know what happened there. That kind of stuff bothers me. I can't let that happen. But it's part of the game. It was one of those things that I don't know what happened. I don't know if I was trying to pull it up or if I took my eyes off the ball. I wasn't worried about the runner. Maybe I was trying to make that pitch look too good."
Rendon then singled to center, and instead of runners on first and second, the Nationals had runners on first and third. So when Zimmerman grounded into a double play, instead of having two outs and a runner on third, the D-backs couldn't keep Span from scoring on the play.
After the two-run first, the D-backs' offense could do little with Zimmermann, as he held them to just one hit over the next six innings before the righty gave way to Tyler Clippard in the eighth and Rafael Soriano in the ninth.
"We had some hits there," Goldschmidt said of the first inning. "We were able to score a couple of runs and then [Zimmermann] made a lot of good pitches, he got ahead, threw a lot of strikes, worked fast and we just weren't able to get anything going."
Miley (4-7) had allowed nine runs in his previous two starts, and in his last outing against the Reds, he lasted just 4 2/3 innings. On Wednesday, though, he managed to scatter seven hits over seven innings while allowing three runs (two earned).
No, he didn't come away with a win, but Miley did have an outing that he should be able to build on going forward.
"I had better location," Miley said. "Early, I was still kind of finding myself. As more of the game went on, I was able to get ahead, and then the pitches don't have to be good and you still get guys out. I was able to kind of establish the fastball, and I haven't been able to do that lately."
D-backs starters have not recorded a win since Miley did so on June 5, a span of 18 starts.
"We're facing some pretty good pitching and the guys are battling," Miley said. "We're still managing to win ballgames."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.