Nationals-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

Strong starting pitching and timely hitting continue to pace the Washington Nationals' early success.

The Nationals hope to give Jordan Zimmermann some much-needed support as they try for a fourth consecutive victory Wednesday against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

Gio Gonzalez ran his scoreless streak to 20 innings and Chad Tracy delivered a two-run, pinch-hit single in the seventh to break a scoreless tie and help give Washington (13-4) a 3-1 win at San Diego on Tuesday.

First in the NL East, the Nationals rank in the bottom half of the majors with 61 runs, but they are 8-2 when scoring three or fewer in a game. Rick Ankiel added an RBI pinch-hit single in the ninth as Washington won for the 11th time in 13 games.

Washington's starting staff leads the majors with a 1.72 ERA. The Nationals have outscored the Padres 9-3 during their four-game winning streak at Petco Park.

"We'll take the wins as we can get them right now," outfielder Jayson Werth told the Nationals' official website. "I hope they will keep coming."

Ankiel, batting .308 (8 for 26) this season, is a lifetime .367 hitter with 14 RBIs in 23 career games versus San Diego.

Zimmermann (0-1, 1.29 ERA) hopes his teammates will finally provide him with some support at the plate as he tries for a fourth straight strong start.

The right-hander has allowed three earned runs and 13 hits over 21 innings during his first three starts, but the Nationals have scored two runs with him in the game. Zimmermann gave up one run, four hits and no walks while going seven innings for the third straight outing in a 3-2 win over Houston on Wednesday.

"A win's a win, no matter how we get it,'' Zimmermann said. "I felt great again."

Zimmermann also has endured some hard luck while going 0-1 in two career starts versus San Diego last season. He allowed two runs, nine hits and fanned 14 over 13 innings against the Padres, but his teammates scored once in those contests.

"We know who he is and what he means to this team," Werth said of Zimmermann. "He is a big part of this club. We like playing behind him. We like when he is on the mound."

Facing Zimmermann likely does not bode well for the Padres (5-13), who were trying for a third straight win Tuesday, but instead were held to fewer than two runs for the sixth time in 2012.

Though San Diego is hitting .211 overall, third baseman Chase Headley is batting .353 (18 for 51) in his last 15 games. However, he's 1 for 6 versus Zimmermann.

Scheduled San Diego starter Joe Wieland (0-2, 5.73) looks to avoid beginning his major league career with a third consecutive loss.

The right-hander allowed six runs and three homers in five innings of a 6-1 loss at Los Angeles in his major league debut April 14, but he gave up one run and struck out seven in six innings of a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday.

"With each pitch he threw, he got more composed," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's showing some good signs at a real infant stage."

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