Zimmerman looks to extend the longest hitting streak in the majors this season to 23 games as the Nationals go for their season-high third straight win Tuesday night against the Houston Astros (11-15) and ace Roy Oswalt.
Zimmerman went 0-for-5 in Washington’s second game this season, an 8-3 loss at Florida on April 7. Since then, he’s gone 33-for-93 (.355) with five homers, 18 RBIs and 18 runs scored during the franchise-record streak.
The Nationals (7-17) haven’t given Zimmerman a lot of help during his run. They’re in the bottom half of the majors with 4.63 runs scored per game and near the top with 201 strikeouts.
However, Zimmerman got plenty of support in a 9-4 win in the opener of the two-game series on Monday. He was one of five Washington players with at least two hits as the club recorded a season-high 15 to win consecutive games for the second time this season.
“You got to give credit to Zimmerman for staying in there and kind of giving us hope,” said outfielder Elijah Dukes, who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. “He was hitting, hitting and everybody was (thinking) they might as well join him. We’re not going to let him just hit by himself. He’s just kept going and we kind of feed off of him.”
Zimmerman was 4-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored but said he got more pleasure from the win than his big night at the plate. So did Nationals manager Manny Acta.
“When we get into that part of our lineup where we have guys who are so patient at the plate - the (Nick Johnsons), the (Adam Dunns) and the Dukes and right now, Zimmerman - there’s a very good chance we can do some damage,” Acta said.
Zimmerman is 3-for-8 with two homers and three strikeouts in his career against Oswalt (0-2, 3.82 ERA).
Though Oswalt is still looking for his first win, the right-hander did his part in a 4-1 victory over Cincinnati last Monday, allowing one run over seven innings.
“I want (my team) to win, like everyone else,” said Oswalt, who pitched an inning of relief against Atlanta on Saturday. “I’m not pitching 20 years to go to the Hall of Fame. As long as the team wins, that’s what I’m here to do.”
Oswalt is 3-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 10 career games - eight starts - against the Nationals franchise. He’s 1-0 with a 0.55 ERA in four games - three starts - in Washington, D.C.
The Nationals will hand the ball to Scott Olsen (1-3, 6.08), who’s calmed down after a rocky start to his first year with the club. Acquired from Florida in the offseason, the left-hander posted a 14.63 ERA over his first two starts - both losses. In his last three outings, he’s gone 1-1 with a 2.41 ERA.
Olsen held Philadelphia to one run while striking out six in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-1 victory Wednesday.
“He didn’t back down,” Acta told the Nationals’ official Web site. “That was a good example there that he was determined to pound the strike zone and not giving in to hitters and give up home runs with guys on base.”