Rockies-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals have provided Jordan Zimmermann with plenty of support over his last two starts but he might not need as much help in the next one, judging by his recent outings against the Colorado Rockies.

While attempting to win a third consecutive start, the right-hander will also try to earn a fourth straight win over Colorado on Sunday.

Zimmermann (5-6, 2.70 ERA) has given up three or fewer runs in each of his last six outings but he was winless over the first four games of that stretch in part because Washington (49-33) provided him with a combined nine runs.

That changed with an 11-5 win over Colorado (32-52) on June 27, and he followed by giving up two runs and seven hits over a rain-shortened six innings in a 9-3 victory over San Francisco on Tuesday.

"It's nice. (The runs are) starting to come around and score early, and give (me) a little room to breathe out there," Zimmermann said.

The right-hander has usually given himself breathing room against the Rockies, going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA over the last three matchups. He gave up one run and scattered eight hits over seven innings during last month's game at Coors Field.

Zimmermann might need another strong outing Sunday with the Nationals' bats having cooled off following a sizzling stretch. Washington has produced a combined five runs and 12 hits over the first two games of the series after batting .344 with 75 runs scored over the previous nine contests.

The Nationals, though, had enough offense to earn a 4-1 win Saturday, their fifth in six games this month, and took advantage of the Rockies' season high-tying four errors. Ian Desmond hit a solo homer, his third in five games, on the same day he decided to skip next week's All-Star game due to a nagging abdominal injury.

Teammate Bryce Harper, meanwhile, will head to Kansas City to replace Miami's Giancarlo Stanton.

"It's definitely a tough decision, one that we spent quite a few days kind of mulling over," Desmond said. "But in the end I think it's best for the team and best for myself to take the rest. I would hate to be two, three weeks down the road and something happened and I didn't take the four days to rest my body and put the team first."

Jeremy Guthrie (3-8, 6.28) will try to help his club bounce back by building on a solid performance in his return to the rotation.

The right-hander gave up two runs and six hits over six innings Wednesday in his first start since June 17 but was a 4-1 loser to St. Louis.

"It's important for teammates to recognize where I've come up short this year," he told the team's website. "Everybody's making moves to help the team, and hopefully I can stay positive."

Guthrie has dropped five consecutive decisions and four in a row as a starter, but he might have a chance to end that drought Sunday. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven career starts against the Nationals and gave up two unearned runs over seven innings in an 8-3 win for Baltimore on May 21, 2011.

Ryan Zimmerman, who has 18 RBIs over his last 13 games, is 2 for 15 against Guthrie. Colorado's Dexter Fowler, 7 for 12 over his last three contests, is 1 for 8 versus Zimmermann.

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