The setting for a bounce-back Jordan Zimmermann outing is almost perfect, and that's basically what the Washington Nationals will need to be to have any chance at a postseason run in the season's final two weeks.
Zimmermann will try to keep his club's bleak playoff hopes alive against a Miami Marlins team he has owned of late as the NL East foes continue a four-game series Saturday at Nationals Park.
Washington's 5-4, 10-inning victory on Friday was its fifth in sixth games after dropping the opener. Jayson Werth slid home with the winning run to keep the Nationals (76-71) eight games behind the division-leading New York Mets with 15 games remaining.
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"We're in a must-win situation," said Werth, who was hit by a pitch and added a double to tie his career-high streak of consecutive games reaching base at 27. "We've got to win pretty much every game every night we have a chance."
Zimmermann (12-8, 3.51 ERA) figures to give Washington a good opportunity Saturday. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his last seven starts in the series.
His only loss in that span came on July 28 when he allowed three runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss in Miami, though he bounced back by holding the Marlins to one run in seven of a 5-1 victory on Aug. 29.
Zimmermann tries to recover yet again, this time from the six runs he surrendered in six innings of an 8-7 win at Philadelphia on Monday. A return home should help as Zimmermann is 7-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 17 starts at Nationals Park this year and 26-8 with a 2.55 ERA there over the last three seasons. That includes a 4-0 mark and 2.22 ERA versus Miami.
Martin Prado is 13 for 29 with three doubles in his career against Zimmermann and 20 for 60 with two home runs against Washington pitchers this season, but he was out of Miami's lineup Friday as a precaution to deal with a wrist injury.
Rookie Justin Nicolino will make his 10th start for the Marlins (64-84), who have won 12 of 17.
Nicolino (3-3, 3.81) has a 3.35 ERA in the last six outings of his second stint with the team, but it still finding his way in the majors. The left-hander carried a 3-1 lead into the sixth inning Monday at New York but surrendered a two-out, two-run home run to Travis d'Arnaud as the Mets went on to win 4-3.
"I wanted that pitch back so bad," Nicolino said. "It's just one of those games that you take and keep learning from."
Miami second baseman Dee Gordon is 3 for 8 so far in this series, extending his hitting streak at Nationals Park to 10 games.
Manager Dan Jennings said All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton could take live batting practice on Saturday for the second time this week as he pushes toward a return from a fractured left wrist that has kept him out since late June.