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07/15/09 1:31 AM ET

Zimmerman enjoys the experience

Nats' All-Star plays in game and spends time with family

ST. LOUIS -- A couple of hours before the All-Star Game started at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, it was obvious that Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was chipper about being a member of the National League squad.

Zimmerman even said he wouldn't get upset if he didn't play at all. All he wanted to see was the National League win its first game since 1996.

"It's just an honor to be here," Zimmerman said. "Obviously, everybody wants to play. But I think winning is important. It's just a pleasure to be here, be on a team with all these guys and experience all that I have so far."

The American League kept its winning streak alive as it defeated the National League, 4-3, but Zimmerman received more playing time than he thought.

Zimmerman entered the game in the fifth inning and went 0-for-2. The Nats' fourth-year slugger received his first at-bat in the bottom of the fifth against Tigers right-hander Edwin Jackson. Zimmerman took an 0-1 pitch and hit the ball to deep center field, but it was caught by Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton.

Facing Twins closer Joe Nathan in the eighth inning, with the AL leading by one, Zimmerman swung at the first pitch and flied out to Orioles right fielder Adam Jones for the second out of the inning.

Zimmerman said that being at his first All-Star Game was even more special because his mother, Cheryl, was in attendance. Cheryl has been afflicted by multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system, since 1995.

"She's had a great time," Zimmerman said. "My whole family came: my mom, dad and brother. They came to the Home Run Derby and all of that stuff. She really enjoys doing all of that stuff."

Zimmerman will now return to Washington in hopes that he helps the Nationals improve on their 26-61 record, the worst in baseball. The Nats begin an 11-game homestand at Nationals Park on Thursday against the Cubs.

Zimmerman said he would like to see the team improve its defense, which ranks 30th in the Major Leagues, and situational hitting.

"I think we're a lot better defensively than we've played," Zimmerman said. "When you're playing against teams at this level, if you give them extra outs, it's tough to win. We need to do better at that and with our situational hitting. We need to do a better job of driving in runs when we get the chance."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.