Dodgers-Nationals Preview

The Associated PressJuly 21, 2013

The surging Los Angeles Dodgers have a chance to take over sole possession of the NL West lead if they can record their first sweep in the nation's capital.

Having Clayton Kershaw on the mound appears to give them a good chance after his recent performance against the Washington Nationals, but the Dodgers ace will be opposed by NL wins co-leader Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday.

The Dodgers (49-47) moved to within a half-game of Arizona with a 3-1 win in 10 innings Saturday and the Diamondbacks' 4-3 defeat in San Francisco.

Mark Ellis hit a tying single in the seventh inning and Hanley Ramirez had a tiebreaking double to help send their team to its 19th victory in 24 games.

"We're winning all kinds of different ways as the momentum has started to go our way,'' manager Don Mattingly said. "We lost of lot of these early in the year, but now it seems like we're hanging in there, feeling like we're going to win these."

Kershaw (8-6, 1.98 ERA) will try to follow with his third victory in as many starts against Washington, losers of seven of nine. The Nationals (48-49) have scored 22 runs and gone 6 for 67 with runners in scoring position in that stretch, including 1 for 12 on Saturday.

Kershaw has allowed two runs over 16 2-3 innings in his past two matchups with Washington. He finished one out shy of a five-hitter in his lone one this season, a 2-0 victory May 14.

The major league ERA leader had a three-game win streak snapped in his final start before the break, giving up three runs over seven innings and striking out 10 in a 3-0 defeat to Colorado on July 12. Kershaw allowed a combined three runs in his three prior outings for a 1.08 ERA.

"It's frustrating because we want to give our boy the win," outfielder Skip Schumaker said. "More times than not our ace is a little bit better (than the opposing pitcher). It feels like we run into a good pitcher every time Kershaw throws."

That's certainly the case Sunday with Zimmermann (12-4, 2.58) set to take the ball. The right-hander, though, is on the verge of his first three-start stretch without a win this season after a 3-1 loss in Philadelphia on July 11.

After his first defeat in eight starts, Zimmermann skipped the All-Star game because of tightness in his neck.

"I rather be healthy than go out there and just pitch one inning and then have the whole second half shot," he told the team's official website. "I think taking a few days off, no throwing and rest, we'll be good to go."

The well-rested Zimmermann will try to earn his third win in as many matchups with the Dodgers (49-47). He's posted a 1.98 ERA in his past two and gave up two runs in 7 2-3 innings during his only one this season, a 6-2 victory in Los Angeles on May 13.

He'll try to prevent the Dodgers from taking sole possession of first place for the first time since Aug. 19.

Los Angeles' most recent road sweep of the Nationals franchise was May 24-26, 1996, when the team was the Montreal Expos.