The Washington Nationals are off to their best start in more than three decades and although Jordan Zimmermann has pitched well enough to win, he's the only pitcher in the starting rotation without a victory.
Zimmermann looks to change that and help the Nationals become baseball's first 10-win team Wednesday night against the struggling Houston Astros.
Gio Gonzalez, acquired from Oakland in the offseason, allowed two hits over seven innings in Tuesday's 1-0 win to earn his first victory with Washington (9-3). It was the Nationals' seventh win in eight games.
Thanks to a major league-best 1.91 team ERA, Washington is off to its best start since the 1981 Montreal Expos opened 11-2. The Nationals didn't win their 10th game last season until April 24, their 20th contest.
Washington's lone run Tuesday came on a pair of two-out bloop hits in the fourth. Jayson Werth lifted a shallow pop fly between Justin Maxwell in center field and J.D. Martinez in left and Adam LaRoche followed with a fly that dropped between Martinez and shortstop Jed Lowrie. It was the team-leading 13th RBI for LaRoche, who is hitting .333 with a .418 on-base percentage.
Tuesday's lackluster offensive showing is something Zimmermann (0-1, 1.29 ERA) has grown accustomed to.
After allowing two runs in seven innings in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on April 8, Zimmermann gave up a run, three hits and two walks in seven innings in Friday's 2-1, 13-inning win over Cincinnati. The Nationals have plated one total run with him in the game.
A lack of offensive support has been an ongoing problem with Zimmermann, whose 2.82 run-support average since the start of last season is the worst in baseball.
Although limited support was part of the reason the right-hander went 8-11 last season despite a 3.18 ERA, Zimmermann can only blame himself in his lone outing against Houston. He gave up a career-high tying six runs and seven hits in five innings of a 7-6 loss last July. He has a 7.15 ERA in losing his two career starts against the Astros - both in Houston.
Zimmermann could have a bit better luck this time, though, because the Astros haven't enjoyed much success offensively. Houston (4-7) has dropped three straight and six of seven, plating 18 runs and two homers in those defeats.
Leadoff hitter Jordan Shafer is hitting .125 with seven strikeouts in his last five games, though he does have six walks, while cleanup hitter Carlos Lee is batting .148 in his last six contests. Lee, however, is 3 for 6 with a double lifetime against Zimmermann.
The Astros counter with Lucas Harrell (1-0, 3.27), who is hoping to rebound from a shaky outing.
Harrell looked sharp in his debut against Colorado on April 7, allowing three hits and no walks in seven scoreless innings of a 7-3 win, but regressed in his second start. In Miami on Friday, the right-hander yielded four runs, seven hits and four walks in four innings of a 5-4, 11-inning defeat.
"I went back and looked at the video from the first one, and looked at the video from the second one, and there's a few things I was doing different," Harrell told the Astros' official website. "My pitch selection wasn't as good as it should have been the second time out."
This will be Harrell's eighth career start and first against the Nationals. He pitched 1 1-3 innings of relief against them in September, allowing one run with three walks and three strikeouts.