On opposition ends of the spectrum in the National League East, the Nationals and Phillies will begin their final series before the All-Star break at Citizens Bank Park with different mindsets going forward.
The division-leading Nats will be looking to keep their foot on the gas on Friday night when they send Jordan Zimmermann to the mound. Since May 28, the right-hander's ERA has dropped from 4.07 to 2.79.
He continued his All-Star first half on Sunday, throwing six scoreless innings with five strikeouts against the Cubs. Zimmermann, who was struggling with his fastball command, put runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but he managed to negotiate the trouble unscathed.
"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," Zimmermann said.
The Phillies, meanwhile, are also looking toward the future, albeit not the immediate future. Though the team will ride into Friday's opener on a four-game winning streak that was punctuated by a 9-1 win over the Brewers on Thursday, Philadelphia still occupies the basement of the NL East, and is poised to be a seller as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
One candidate to be moved in the coming days will take the mound for the Phillies on Friday. A.J. Burnett, who is on his third team since 2011 and owns a 5-8 record and 3.92 ERA this season, could have value to a team that believes it is a veteran pitcher short of a deep postseason run.
But for now, Burnett is a Phillie.
"This is my team and until I hear otherwise, this is who I go to the mound for, who I pitch for," Burnett said. "And that's where my head's at. It's nowhere else but trying to help this team win games. ... I don't worry about that or get involved in that until I have to."
Phillies: Injuries to Lee, Ruiz may affect Deadline deals
Ruben Amaro Jr. said something fairly obvious Thursday morning at Miller Park when asked about the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"If you have guys who are hurt, they don't move anywhere," Amaro said. "If guys aren't performing, they don't move. We have some guys who are performing, so we'll see how much interest there is in guys."
One of the injured is left-hander Cliff Lee, who has been on the disabled list since May with a strained left elbow. He made his second rehab start Wednesday with Class A Advanced Clearwater, and he is expected to make a third on Monday.
"I talked to him afterward," Amaro said. "He said he felt fine."
Lee could rejoin the Phillies shortly after the All-Star break, which could give him three starts before the Trade Deadline.
Carlos Ruiz has been on the disabled list since June 27 with a concussion. He has been cleared to begin baseball activities, and he will be with the team this weekend in Philadelphia before heading to Clearwater, Fla., to continue his rehab.
"He may start catching in some games, but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves," Amaro said. "He's doing good. His exams have been good."
Nationals: Rendon finishes fourth in Final Vote balloting
Infielder Anthony Rendon will not be going to the All-Star Game next week. Rendon finished fourth in the All-Star Final Vote contest behind winner Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau and Braves outfielder Justin Upton. Rendon finished ahead of Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee.
Rendon, 24, is among the team leaders in RBIs and runs scored.
• Phillies catcher Wil Nieves, who has been on the DL since June 19 with a strained right quadriceps, is still feeling some soreness and tightness. He has not caught nine innings in a game yet, which will be a requirement before he is activated.
• The Phillies are 14-1 over their last 15 games when scoring four or more runs, and they are 32-12 in such games this season. On the other hand, they have lost 27 of their last 29 games when scoring three runs or fewer.
• Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has hit safely in a career-high 13 straight games.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.