Nationals-Phillies Preview

The Associated Press

While Jordan Zimmermann remains unbeaten at home, the road hasn't proven as kind to him.

The ballpark hasn't made much difference for Kyle Kendrick, who has been hit hard in his last two starts.

Zimmermann takes the mound opposite Kendrick as the Washington Nationals try to salvage a four-game split against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.

Zimmermann (12-3, 2.57 ERA) is tied for the NL lead in wins, and the Nationals (47-44) have won his last seven starts and 15 of 18 overall. Each of those losses, though, have come on the road, where he's gone 3-3 with a 3.88 ERA - more than two runs higher than his home mark of 1.75.

Zimmermann has been especially bad in his last two starts in opposing stadiums, going 0-1 while allowing 13 runs in 11 innings.

The right-hander wasn't very sharp Saturday at home. He allowed three runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-4 win over San Diego but didn't get a decision.

"It's been going on for a little while, but I'll be fine," Zimmermann said of his lingering neck stiffness.

Zimmermann is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his last three starts against the Phillies (45-47), but he's 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA in three career outings in Philadelphia.

Kendrick (7-6, 3.90), meanwhile, gave up four runs and 10 hits in six innings in a 6-1 loss at Dodger Stadium on June 30, then surrendered six runs and a career-high 12 hits in five innings Saturday in a 13-4 home defeat to Atlanta.

"He had the ball up. His fastball and his changeup were up," manager Charlie Manuel told MLB's official website. "It was the first time I saw him having trouble keeping the ball down."

Kendrick has dropped three straight starts once in his career, June 6-17, 2012.

The right-hander has posted mixed results versus Washington, going 4-6 with a 4.69 ERA over 19 starts. He has allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of those games while posting a 9.80 ERA in the others.

Kendrick yielded one run and two hits in 7 2-3 innings but didn't factor in the decision of a 6-2, 11-inning loss to the Nationals on June 19.

While Bryce Harper has gone 7 for 14 with a homer and three doubles against Kendrick, Jayson Werth is 2 for 17 and Adam LaRoche is 4 for his last 24 in their matchups.

The Nationals were limited to four runs in dropping the first two games of this set before hitting four homers in Wednesday's 5-1 victory. Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos hit back-to-back shots in the fifth inning before Ryan Zimmerman and Werth went back-to-back in the sixth.

"This park should make you more aggressive," said manager Davey Johnson, whose team entered Wednesday having dropped four of five and nine of 12 at Citizens Bank Park.

Filling in for injured first baseman Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf provided all of Philadelphia's offense with his first homer of the year. Ruf has hit safely in all five games since getting called up Saturday, going 5 for 13 with two RBIs and four runs.

Despite Wednesday's loss, the Phillies are 11-5 at home since June 2.

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