Jordan Zimmermann hasn't lost in his last seven starts, and Jerad Eickhoff hasn't won in his last five. Who's been the better pitcher recently isn't quite as black and white.
The Washington Nationals veteran takes on the Philadelphia Phillies rookie Friday night as the clubs open a three-game series at Nationals Park.
Zimmermann (13-8, 3.49 ERA) is 5-0 dating to Aug. 18, but that's come with a 4.04 ERA. The right-hander gave up two runs and six hits in six innings of Saturday's 5-2 win over Miami for his latest victory in a 5-0 span over 10 home starts with a 2.29 ERA. In 18 starts at Nationals Park, Zimmermann is 8-3 with a 2.50 ERA as opposed to 5-5 with a 5.02 mark in 13 on the road.
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Eickhoff (1-3, 3.16 ERA), meanwhile, has gone 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA since winning his major league debut on Aug. 21, and his last two starts might have been his best. The right-hander gave up five hits in seven scoreless innings of Saturday's 2-1 loss in Atlanta. He's allowed a run with a .163 opponent batting average in 14 innings over his last two starts.
"He gets after it. That's what we're looking for," manager Pete Mackanin told MLB's official website. "He did a great job. He probably could have gone back out. But here's a young guy that hasn't pitched this late in a season, and I didn't want him to (give up) a walk and a bloop, and it ruins a good performance. Get him out on a positive note."
Eickhoff hasn't faced Washington, but Zimmermann has struggled this year against the Phillies, going 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA in two starts.
Cody Asche is 6 for 15 with a homer and a double against him, but Carlos Ruiz is 4 for 22 and Cameron Rupp is 1 for 7.
The Nationals (78-74) are coming off Thursday's 5-4 home loss to Baltimore, the end of a three-game sweep that essentially finalized Washington's postseason exclusion with a seventh loss in its last 10 home games.
"It's not great," said manager Matt Williams, whose club fell 7 1/2 games back of the New York Mets with 10 to play. "It's not where we want to be, but tomorrow is a game and we have to play that game and we have to win that game, so it is what it is. We need to be prepared for tomorrow."
Yunel Escobar has continued to hit regardless, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs to give the third baseman a .421 average in his last 24 games. His average is up to .326 and within 13 points of teammate Bryce Harper for the NL lead.
Harper didn't have a hit in six at-bats in the Baltimore series but walked seven times. His 122 for the season are two away from matching Bobby Abreu's 2006 total for fifth in the 11 seasons since Barry Bonds walked an MLB-record 232 times in 2004.
Washington has won 11 of the last 14 in the series and three straight, and the Phillies are unsurprisingly struggling more than the Nationals.
After Thursday's 1-0 loss in Miami, Philadelphia (57-96) has lost eight of nine and fallen within a game of 40 games under .500 for the first time since being 32-72 in 1997. Another loss would also match its 2000 and 1972 totals for its highest since losing 99 games in 1969.
Over the last eight games, the Phillies are averaging 1.8 runs and batting .171.