Zimmermann will attempt to collect his 18th victory and help Washington's rebound from the end to a season-high win streak in Sunday's series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies .
The Nationals (78-70) pulled within 4 1/2 games of Cincinnati for the NL's final wild card berth on Friday after their seventh straight win but couldn't keep that run going Saturday. Washington's rally from a four-run deficit came up short in a 5-4 defeat to Philadelphia.
The loss also ended a five-game home win streak against the Phillies and was the second in the last eight overall meetings.
"We're still fine. We've just got to win the games," manager Davey Johnson said. "Just got to keep winning."
The Nationals are now 5 1/2 games back of the Reds with 14 to play, and Zimmermann (17-8, 3.36 ERA) will try to help cut that deficit while earning a third straight win. He recorded the first of his back-to-back victories Sept. 4 against Philadelphia (69-79).
Zimmermann gave up two runs over seven innings in that game and improved to 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in three matchups this season. He allowed three runs over five innings Tuesday in a 6-3 victory over the New York Mets despite admittedly not having his best command.
"As long as the team wins, I don't care how many wins I have," he said. "We want to finish strong. We want to show everyone that we're not going to roll over and quit. We're going to fight until the end. We've got a veteran club that gives 100 percent every day. We're going to take it one game at a time and see what happens."
Denard Span will try to aid the right-hander while extending his career-best 25-game hit streak, which is also the second-longest in the majors this season. Colorado's Michael Cuddyer had a 27-gamer from May 28-June 30.
Span, batting .387 during his streak, is 12 for 29 (.414) in his last seven games against Philadelphia but has never faced Tyler Cloyd (2-4, 4.56).
The Phillies right-hander was tagged for seven runs and nine hits over four innings in his return to the majors Tuesday, an 8-2 loss to San Diego. Cloyd is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in his last two starts.
"I was leaving pitches up and made a lot of mistakes," Cloyd said. "My pitches were getting a lot of the plate. ... I got off the game plan and didn't throw enough off-speed pitches."
Cloyd also struggled in his only start against Washington on Sept. 27. He gave up six runs and six hits, including three homers, in a 7-3 loss.
Bryce Harper went 2 for 3 with a solo home run against the right-hander in that game.
Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz , 10 for 20 with 10 RBIs in his last five games, is 1 for 5 versus Zimmermann this season.
|August 30, 2013||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right Achilles|
|August 28, 2013||Cody Asche||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|August 26, 2013||Casper Wells||15-Day DL||Vision complications|
|August 17, 2013||Michael Young||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore left ankle|
|August 15, 2013||John Lannan||60-Day DL||Left knee tendinitis|
|August 14, 2013||John Lannan||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|September 08, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left hip soreness|
|August 22, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|August 17, 2013||Taylor Jordan||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 13, 2013||Wilson Ramos||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|August 11, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Right knee|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Denard Span was in the middle of discussing his 26-game hitting streak when cheers, claps and whoops erupted from out-of-sight sections of the Washington Nationals clubhouse.
"I think Gomez must have robbed a homer," Span said. "OK, that's good for us."
That would be Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez , who kept Jay Bruce 's drive in the park in the ninth inning of a tied game against the Cincinnati Reds . The Brewers went on win, a result that combined with the Nationals' 11-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday to trim Washington's deficit to 4 1/2 games for the NL's second wild-card berth.
Jordan Zimmerman (18-8) scattered two runs and seven hits in seven innings for his NL-best 18th win, and Wilson Ramos had four hits and five RBIs on the day he became the 2013 version of the iron man catcher. The Nationals have won eight of nine and 25 of 35.
"I'd trade all those wins," Zimmermann said, "for a shot in the playoffs."
Put Ramos near the top of the list of reasons for the Nationals' late surge. He started his 23rd consecutive game, passing St. Louis' Yadier Molina for most starts in a row behind the plate in the majors this year. He tied career highs for hits and RBIs, and he has 49 RBIs in 54 games since coming off the disabled list.
"He's been hitting the heck out of the ball, catching good, throwing people out. He's hard to take out of the lineup," Johnson said. "We've missed him for two years, so we're going to ride him."
Ramos tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last year and was hindered this season by a bothersome right hamstring. He's been close to being tagged with an injury-prone label, so his recent streak has answered at least a few of the questions about his durability.
"That was very important for me," said Ramos, who has 14 homers and 50 RBIs in only 67 games. "That's a good test for my knee, for myself, to show everybody that I can play every day."
The Nationals' other noteworthy games-in-a-row watch continued when Span singled up the middle in the third, putting him one shy of Colorado's Michael Cuddyer for longest hitting streak in the majors this season.
Washington took the lead for good with three runs in the fourth off Tyler Cloyd (2-5), starting with back-to-back doubles by Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond . Harper added his third outfield assist in the three-game series when he caught Darin Ruf trying to stretch a single off the left-field wall into a double in the sixth.
Washington added five runs in the seventh off Joe Savery and Mauricio Robles .
The Nationals' recent run has come in a soft part of the schedule. Next comes at three-game series against the Atlanta Braves , who have a chance to clinch the NL East at Washington's ballpark.
"We don't want that," Johnson said.
The Nationals are 4-12 against the Braves this season.
"We need to at least send a message these next three days that we're better than them," the manager said.
The Nationals' long day came at the expense of Cloyd, who allowed five runs and 10 hits.
"He has to be real good with his command, and it seemed like today as the game got into the fourth it looked like balls started to be elevated a little bit and caught a lot of the plate," Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg said. "And against that lineup, and the way they're swinging the bat, it's a tough combination."
NOTES: Every player in the Nationals' starting lineup had at least one hit. ... Washington went 9 for 13 with runners in scoring position; the Nationals began the day with a .239 RISP average, 25th in the major leaguers. ... Phillies LF Domonic Brown , returning from a right Achilles tendon injury, doubled and scored in the second inning in his first start since Aug. 30. He came off the bench Friday and Saturday. ... The Nationals' 18 hits tied their season high. ... The Phillies have not won a series on the road since the All-Star break. ... A pigeon wandered near the pitcher's mound, shortstop and second base for several innings. During warmups at the start of the eighth, the bird had a staredown with first base umpire Jim Wolf on the edge of the outfield grass. The crowd cheered whenever the pigeon attempted to fly, but the bird appeared to be injured and couldn't stay airborne for more than a few yards. "You could walk right up to him, and he wouldn't budge," Nationals 2B Steve Lombardozzi said.
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