(SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Nationals are aiming to go into the All- Star break leading the National League East and an upcoming three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies could help them accomplish that goal.
The Nats turn to All-Star Jordan Zimmermann on Friday night in the opener of that set in Philadelphia.
Though they lost two of three to the Baltimore Orioles to begin the week, the Nationals remain in a virtual tie with the Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the division thanks to an 8-3 mark of their last 11 games.
Atlanta takes on the Chicago Cubs ahead of next week's break, while the Nats battle a Phillies club they have beaten in four of six meetings this year. That includes a three-game sweep in D.C. when they met from June 3-5.
Washington, though, could be without shortstop Ian Desmond for tonight's game after he was hit by a pitch on his right thumb in the eighth inning of Thursday's 4-3 setback to the Orioles. X-rays were negative, but Desmond is listed as day-to-day. He is hitting .241 on the year with 16 home runs and 55 RBI.
Zimmermann gets the call tonight having allowed two runs or fewer in seven straight outings, a span that began with a 7-0 victory over Philadelphia on June 3. He logged eight scoreless innings on that day, improving to 5-5 lifetime versus the Phillies with a 3.48 earned run average.
The 28-year-old righty put together six scoreless innings on Sunday versus the Cubs, scattering seven hits and a walk, but did not factor into a 2-1 win. That left Zimmermann 6-4 on the year with an excellent 2.79 ERA.
"The whole game I fell behind hitters early. I wasn't able to throw first- pitch strikes. I was able to get out of a few jams. Other than that, I threw the ball well," said Zimmermann on Washington's official website.
The up-and-down Phillies sit last in the NL East, nine games back of Washington, and were swept in three games by Pittsburgh last weekend before winning all four matchups with the Milwaukee Brewers prior to this set. They finished off the sweep with Thursday's 9-1 win.
The Phils did not get their first hit of the game until the seventh inning and trailed 1-0 before putting together a seven-run eighth inning. Jimmy Rollins, who broke up the no-hitter, put Philadelphia ahead with a two-run single in the eighth.
Ryan Howard snapped a 20-game stretch without a homer with a two-run shot and David Buchanan got the win with seven innings of one-run ball.
"That was great," Buchanan said of the eighth inning. "That was huge especially at that time in the game."
The Phillies will have outfielder Grady Sizemore available after calling up the veteran on Thursday two weeks after signing him to a minor-league deal.
The oft-injured Sizemore batted .289 in his first 10 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
He was signed by the Boston Red Sox in the offseason to a one-year, $750,000 deal and won the starting job in center field after a good spring training, but his level of play didn't continue and he was released on June 18.
A.J. Burnett will take the mound for Philadelphia tonight looking to win for the first time in four starts. He is 0-2 in his last three and is coming off a 6-2 setback to his former Pittsburgh club on Sunday.
The right-handed Burnett was reached for three runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings. He fell to 5-8 with a 3.92 ERA, but did strike out seven to give him 25 over his winless span.
Burnett, 37, beat Washington at home on May 3, but was then drilled for eight runs over six innings in a loss at Washington on June 4. He is 9-4 against the franchise lifetime with a 3.43 ERA.