Nats shoot for sweep versus Marlins

Lefty Wade LeBlanc makes his first career start against the Washington Nationals Thursday, as the Miami Marlins try to avoid a three-game sweep at Nationals Park.

The 26-year-old Louisiana native, selected in the second round of the 2006 draft by the San Diego Padres, has pitched five scoreless innings of four-hit ball with a walk and three strikeouts in four meetings with the Nationals.

LeBlanc won a career-best eight games in 26 appearances - 25 starts - with the Padres in 2010, then was 5-6 in 14 starts with San Diego in 2011 before spending 2012 in a dual relief/starting role with the Marlins last year.

He was 2-5 overall in nine starts across 68 2/3 innings in 25 outings, during which he allowed a .275 batting average and 71 hits in 68 2/3 innings with 43 strikeouts.

Washington's Jordan Zimmerman follows up on a career-high 12 wins last season, during which he posted a 2.94 earned run average and struck out 153 batters in a career-high 195 2/3 innings.

The Wisconsin native won three games in a 16-start stint with Washington in 2009 and once in seven starts a year later before reaching the big leagues as a full-time starter in 2011, when he was 8-11 in 26 games.

Zimmerman was 1-1 with a no-decision in three starts against the Marlins last season while allowing a combined 19 hits and nine runs in 17 innings.

He was 5-3 at home in 2012, winning the final five decisions after going 0-3 in the initial seven starts.

On Wednesday, Gio Gonzalez spun six scoreless innings and smacked a solo home run in the fifth, as the Nationals blanked the Marlins for the second consecutive game with a 3-0 decision.

Gonzalez (1-0) fanned five and allowed just two hits and two walks, while Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen each tossed a scoreless frame in relief before Rafael Soriano closed the door in the ninth to secure his second save of the season.

Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman each added an RBI for the defending NL East champion Nationals, who have won their first two games for the second straight season.

Kevin Slowey's (0-1) only misstep came on Gonzalez's home run, as the Miami right-hander gave up just four hits and three walks over 5 1/3 frames for the Marlins, who remain in search of their first run of the season after being shut out by the Nats, 2-0, in Monday's season opener.

The Marlins and Nationals split 18 head-to-head games last year.