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ARI@MIA: Saunders shuts down Marlins in complete game

Looking at Joe Saunders' outstanding start to the regular season and his uninspiring spring performance, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson came to a conclusion Friday.

"He's a veteran guy and obviously doesn't like Spring Training," Gibson joked.

Saunders certainly liked the month of April, however, as he put together a 0.90 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 30 innings over four starts. He'll look to keep up his hot start Wednesday night as the D-backs meet Edwin Jackson and the Nationals, who are looking to get back to their winning ways.

"He's been very consistent," Gibson said of Saunders, who grew up about 15 miles away from Nationals Park. "He's taken the ball every fifth day and been just really dominant in his stuff."

That might even be an understatement. Saunders threw seven innings in each of his first three starts, then went the distance Friday in a spectacular three-hit shutout in Miami.

"I was making good pitches and I was just fortunate for them to hit the ball at my defense, and my defense was awesome," Saunders said Friday.

Jackson tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings of his own Thursday, giving up six hits and three walks while striking out six in San Diego, following his worst start of the year against the Astros.

"I was able to work out of some jams and had some great defense behind me," Jackson said Thursday. "A couple key strikeouts, but I got in some jams early in the game, and I was able to wiggle my way out of them."

The right-hander has managed to keep his walks relatively low (six on the year) while racking up 26 strikeouts, all of which has added up to a 3.16 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. The Nationals will need Jackson to be the stopper Wednesday. They're on a five-game losing streak, one that has brought them closer to the rest of the National League East after jumping out to a big lead in the division.

D-backs: Ransom to see more time at third
• Gibson said he will continue using Cody Ransom at third base, as Ryan Roberts is mired in a slump at the plate. Roberts has gone 1-for-28 recently, and Gibson said Ransom has done a "great job for us recently, and he's going to play more than he normally would."

As for Roberts, Gibson said, "I've watched the quality of his work, and he's tried to correct some things he's doing. This is a great situation: He's on the bench, he has the chance to come in and have an impactful at-bat."

• Paul Goldschmidt went 3-for-4 on Tuesday night, only hours after saying he'd like to reward Gibson's confidence in him. The young first baseman entered Tuesday's game hitting .193 with one homer, which came on Opening Day.

"I feel better," Goldschmidt said. "The last couple of games have been better. I've hit some balls hard, which has been nice."

Nationals: Harper could remain in Majors
• While Washington general manager Mike Rizzo has previously said there was no guarantee Bryce Harper would stay in the Majors once Ryan Zimmerman comes off the disabled list, he seemed to hint Tuesday that he very well could.

"If I'm satisfied with how he is developing, on how he is performing and how he is interacting -- if he is ready mentally, physically, emotionally to stay here -- then he will stay," Rizzo said. "He may change the developmental plan for us."

• Zimmerman, on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed right shoulder, threw without any difficulties Tuesday. He is scheduled to start taking batting practice Saturday and is eligible to come off the disabled list early next week.

Worth noting
• Nationals closer Drew Storen, on the disabled list because of a bone chip in his right elbow, is looking to start baseball activities in the next week or two.

• The D-backs went 12-11 in April, their first winning March/April record since they went 20-8 in 2008.

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