Despite Jordan Zimmermann's 2.91 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, the Nationals' No. 3 starter has received minimal run support in his 12 starts this season. Consequently, Zimmermann will bring a 3-5 record into Saturday afternoon's game against the Yankees at Nationals Park.
Zimmerman hasn't allowed more than four earned runs in any start, and he's also limited opponents to just one run in six separate starts. 10 of his 12 outings have been quality starts, yet on average, the Nats' lineup has given the righty just 3.42 runs per start. In comparison, Andy Pettitte, Zimmermann's opponent on the mound Saturday, has received 4.86 runs per start en route to a 3-2 record.
Only Chien-Ming Wang has received less run support (2.67) than Zimmerman among the Nats' starters, and given both the potency and patience of the Yankees' lineup, whatever offense the Nationals' bats can muster will prove especially critical in this three-game series. The Yankees won Friday night's opener 7-2 thanks to 10 hits.
The Nationals' bats have picked up lately, especially over their recent six-game road trip. Washington won each one, scoring 31 runs in the process.
"I think we're moving in the right direction," Johnson said. "We're swinging the bad good, we scored a lot of runs on this road trip. I like the way guys are swinging. [Right fielder Michael] Morse is swinging the bat batter, [Ryan Zimmerman] is swinging the bat better. We're getting there."
The Nationals certainly hope those middle-of-the-order bats are heating up, especially considering Pettitte's sterling performance this season. After a brief retirement kept him out of 2011, Pettitte -- who turned 40 years old on Friday -- has returned to vintage form. He will bring a 2.81 ERA into Saturday's game, along with a 1.03 WHIP mark that would be the second-best in his 17-year career.
"I don't feel like I'm that much [different]," Pettitte said. "There might be a pitch or two that I'm not using as much.
"The only thing that I would say is I feel like I could get into a tendency to try to overthrow still back in 2010 and I don't feel at all like I've gotten into that tendency yet. I still feel like I'm going to get stronger as the year goes on and my innings build up a little bit more, and it's definitely something that I'll have to watch out for because I don't want to over throw"
Yankees: Pettitte's hand fine after scare
After injuring his left pitching hand reaching out for a comebacker to the mound in his last start on June 10, Pettitte experienced heavy swelling -- obviously a worrisome symptom for any pitcher.
"I'm good," Pettitte said before Friday night's game. "It feels great. No problems with it. I threw both my bullpens and had no problem with it. My command was really good in both my bullpens so I wish I could say that would be a good excuse tomorrow but I'm not going to be able to use it."
One area of concern could come at the plate, as Pettitte will take a few at-bats in the National League park. Pettitte has taken 190 at-bats in his 17-year career (147 came during his three-year stint with the Astros from 2004-06), notching 26 hits for a .137 batting average.
"[Hitting will be] no problem at all," Pettitte said. "I use a thumb guard to protect my left hand anyway, so that helps with any kind of shock or whatever you might get in your left hand. I haven't swung since my hand [injury] because I've been trying to give it a break, make sure that what little bit of bone bruise I might have left in there, I don't irritate it or anything."
Nationals: No momentum lost after Friday night
Entering Friday night's series-opener with the Yankees, the Nationals were riding a largely unprecedented wave of momentum. With a 4.5-game lead over the Mets in the NL East after a 6-0 road trip to Toronto and Boston, the Nats returned home eager to face the AL East leaders.
Losing 7-2 surely hurt, though as shortstop Ian Desmond reminded media after the game, the Nats trailed by only one run entering the seventh inning.
"We were right there with them," Desmond said. "A couple mistakes, and then they obviously took the lead."
The Yankees have won 10 straight Friday night games. That stretch dates back to April, covering every Friday night game the Yankees played after losing to the Rays, 7-6, on April 6.