Limiting the damage was one of the reasons Jordan Zimmermann was able to win 19 games last year.
His failure to do so thus far has contributed to an uneven first two months, something he will try to overcome Wednesday night when the Washington Nationals conclude their rain-shortened series with the Miami Marlins.
Zimmermann (3-2, 2.96) was 8-2 with a 1.71 ERA and three complete games at this time last year heading into his final May start, having given up more than two runs once in 10 outings. A key component to his success was his ability to avoid the big inning - opponents were able to score more than one run off him in an inning once in 73 2-3.
It's been a different story this year for the right-hander, who has given up two or more runs in an inning nine times in his 10 starts spanning 54 2-3 innings.
Zimmermann was reached for two runs in both the second and fourth innings in a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday. The second run in the second scored on a wild pitch and a two-run homer by Pedro Alvarez in the fourth created a deficit too large for the Nationals (25-26) to overcome.
The inconsistencies of Zimmermann, who has allowed opponents to hit .309 with two outs and .269 with runners in scoring position after limiting them to .235 and .223, respectively, in 2013, were encapsulated in his two starts against Miami last month. He gave up five runs and got only five outs before Washington rallied for a 10-7 victory April 9, then limited the Marlins to two runs in seven innings of a 9-2 win five days later.
He has gone 5-3 with a 3.84 ERA in 13 lifetime starts against Miami, but 2-2 with a 5.74 mark in six at home.
The Marlins (27-25) opted to push Tuesday's scheduled starter Henderson Alvarez (2-3, 3.21) to this game in hopes he'll find a groove on the road. Opponents have hit .350 against him away from Miami, and Alvarez has gone 0-2 with a 4.88 ERA in five road starts.
He will try to build on a solid home outing Thursday in which he scattered four hits and two walks over seven scoreless innings against Philadelphia, not getting a decision in a 4-3 win. Alvarez is 0-3 with a 3.81 ERA in five lifetime starts against Washington, including a 5-0 defeat April 8 in which he yielded three runs - one earned - in 5 2-3 innings.
Giancarlo Stanton will be eager to continue tormenting Washington at Nationals Park, where he's a lifetime .333 hitter with 14 homers and 27 RBIs. The NL leader in home runs (15) and RBIs (49), Stanton went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer in Monday's 3-2 win and is 6 for 22 with three homers lifetime against Zimmermann.
''He's still a young major league hitter and that's maybe scary to think about, what's he's been able to accomplish in such a short time and that there's still room to get better,'' Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of Stanton. ''And when he continues to swing at strikes and gets into favorable counts, man. Wow. Watch out.''
Adam LaRoche, whose two-run homer accounted for Washington's offense Monday, is 5 for 11 against Alvarez.