Nationals-Braves Preview

AP - Sports

The struggles and injury concerns surrounding Stephen Strasburg are making the most headlines, but in the meantime, Jordan Zimmermann quietly has been the most consistent starter in the Washington Nationals' rotation.

A lack of consistency on offense has caused the club some headaches, though.

Zimmermann takes the hill as Washington looks to avoid a 10th straight loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night at Turner Field.

Strasburg has gotten off to a disappointing 1-4 start and may have an irritated nerve in his right arm after throwing six innings of Monday's 3-2 loss to Atlanta in the opener of this four-game set.

While it's uncertain if Strasburg will miss any time, he remains in the news much more than teammates like Zimmermann (4-1, 2.00 ERA), who has gotten off to a fantastic start.

Zimmermann allowed one hit and tossed his first career shutout in Friday's 1-0 victory over Cincinnati. It marked his second complete game in three starts after throwing one through the first 83 of his career.

Manager Davey Johnson said Zimmermann's latest outing was the best pitching performance he's seen since taking over the Nationals in 2011.

"He knows how (opponents) react to his stuff," Johnson told the team's official website.

The right-hander, who has not allowed more than three runs in any of his five starts, is giving up an average 0.86 walks and hits per innings pitched.

"He pitches his butt off every time he goes out there," Bryce Harper said. "He is a competitor. You are going to get a great performance out of him every night."

Zimmermann, 2-1 with a 3.81 ERA in five starts against Atlanta, may be hoping his team's offense can put together a solid performance as well.

Washington (13-14) mustered only three hits in Tuesday's 8-1 loss to the Braves and has scored two runs or fewer in eight of its last 10 contests - seven resulting in losses.

"We're off to a slow start," said Gio Gonzalez, Monday's losing pitcher. "Once we turn it around it's going to be a big change."

Atlanta (17-9) has won the first five meetings of the season with the Nationals after Andrelton Simmons homered and Freddie Freeman went 3 for 5 with three RBIs on Tuesday.

The Braves, who were coming off a 3-7 road trip prior to this series, will send Paul Maholm to the mound Wednesday as he looks to get back on track.

Maholm (3-2, 3.30) won his first three outings while pitching 20 1-3 scoreless innings. However, he's lost two straight since allowing four hits and striking out seven in 7 2-3 innings of a 9-0 win over Washington on April 14.

The left-hander gave up three runs in six innings in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh on April 20, then allowed eight runs and 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings of Friday's 10-0 defeat at Detroit.

"Baseball is a humbling game," Maholm told the team's official website. "Obviously, I was pitching really well and then in the last whatever, I've given up some runs. You kind of forget about it and move on."

Jayson Werth, who hopes to be back in the lineup after sitting out Tuesday with a sore ankle, is 10 for 30 with four doubles and a homer off Maholm.

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