Nationals-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

The last time the Washington Nationals had a pitcher win his first four starts of a season, it was 16 years ago and they were the Montreal Expos.

Bryce Harper may have a big role in Jordan Zimmermann accomplishing that feat.

Coming off his second two-homer game of the season, Harper will try give Zimmermann some help at the plate, as the Nationals go for a second straight win over the New York Mets in Sunday's finale.

Zimmermann (3-0, 2.45 ERA) is off to the best start of his career, and his win total is just one shy of the rest of the rotation.

Matching that total Sunday would make the right-hander the first member of the Nationals franchise to win his first four starts of a season since Pedro Martinez won his first eight of 1997, en route to the NL Cy Young Award.

Zimmermann was impressive again Monday, tossing 103 pitches to complete a six-hitter in a 10-3 win at Miami.

"It means a lot," Zimmermann said of his second career complete game and first since 2011. "It means I'm doing my job staying in the game and putting up zeros. It's the kind of pitcher I want to be. I want to be a workhorse and someone who can eat up innings."

He's also been helped by the lineup, which has backed him with 18 total runs through three games, scoring six in the first inning.

"It's a lot easier to pitch when you get runs early in the game," Zimmermann said.

Harper and the offense may be primed for another big performance after all seven of Washington's hits during Saturday's 7-6 win went for extra bases, including four homers.

Harper doubled and had two homers with three RBIs on Saturday after going 0 for 4 in Friday's 7-1 loss to open this series. He also went deep twice in a 2-0 season-opening win over Miami on April 1.

"He beats you in many ways, not just home runs," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "If he gets on base he can steal a base or two as well. He's a dangerous player."

Last year's NL Rookie of the Year, Harper is hitting .371 with seven homers and 14 RBIs this season, and he owns a .333 average with three homers and seven RBIs in eight visits to Citi Field.

The Nationals (10-7) have also enjoyed visiting Flushing, winning 13 of the last 15 there thanks in large part to a 2.01 ERA while limiting New York to .194 at the plate.

Each of Zimmermann's last five starts against the Mets have ended in wins for Washington, while he's 1-0 with a 1.55 ERA.

The Mets (8-8) are looking to take a three-game series from the Nationals for the first time since winning two of three in the nation's capital from Sept. 2-4, 2011.

They're scheduled to give the ball to Dillon Gee (0-3, 8.36), who is 0-1 with a 6.19 ERA in his last three starts against Washington after winning the first three of his career with a 1.27 ERA.

The right-hander, who will be facing Harper for the first time, is also on the verge of becoming the first Met to lose his first four starts in April since Steve Trachsel in 2001.

Gee's struggles continued Tuesday, when he was tagged for five runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-4 loss at Colorado.

Daniel Murphy is batting .355 with 12 RBIs and 17 runs after getting three hits in this series. The second baseman is 7 for 21 with two doubles and a homer off Zimmermann.

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