(AP) — Runs are at a premium in the Beltway, and with Jordan Zimmermann and Miguel Gonzalez pitching, that figures to remain the status quo Saturday night when the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles continue their series at Camden Yards.
Both the Nationals and Orioles have struggled to score runs for nearly two weeks, going a combined 23 for 160 (.144) with runners in scoring position over their last respective 11 games. Baltimore, though, came out with a 3-2 victory to open this three-game set Friday night on Jonathan Schoop’s walkoff homer in the ninth to offset going 0 for 7 in such instances.
“It’s exciting, really exciting,” Schoop said. “I’m glad I’m here, with my teammates and my fans. I’m really happy to be here, and especially to help the team to win.”
About the only saving grace for the offense has been the longball – the Orioles (44-42) have hit nine homers in six games and 14 in the last 11 to help overcome a .219 team batting average.
Zimmermann (7-5, 3.04 ERA), however, has been good at keeping the ball in the park, yielding only six home runs in 106 2-3 innings. The right-hander is also enjoying his best stretch of the season, had his wife give birth to the couple’s second child Friday night and is looking to win a season-high third straight start.
He has conceded one run – on a solo homer – over 22 2-3 innings in his last three outings, and got away with that mistake Sunday against San Francisco by yielding only two additional hits in seven innings in Washington’s 3-1 victory.
“I just think he’s got a feel for his breaking pitches that (he) didn’t have necessarily early in the season,” manager Matt Williams said. “It probably helps that’s it’s gotten warmer and more humid and can grip the ball better.”
Whether that holds true at Baltimore is uncertain. Zimmermann is 0-3 with a 5.12 ERA in three starts there and was drilled for seven runs and a career high-tying 10 hits in six innings of a 9-6 defeat in his most recent outing in 2013.
Steve Pearce is 3 for 7 with a homer and two doubles versus Zimmermann, while Nolan Reimold is 3 for 4 with a home run.
Washington (46-39) has scored four runs in dropping three straight, and the lack of healthy position players is partially to blame for its .221 average the last 11 contests. Denard Span joined Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon on the disabled list Friday, and while the Nationals did have 10 hits, five of them came in their two-run fifth-inning rally.
“We just didn’t swing the bats as good as we can tonight,” said Tyler Moore, who had an RBI double and scored the other run. “Pitching was great. It’s just frustrating. You just want to see us swing the bats a little better.”
Gonzalez (7-5, 3.87) looks to keep the Nationals off-balance and win back-to-back starts after pitching six one-run innings Sunday in a 9-1 road victory over the Chicago White Sox. It was the first time in four starts the right-hander lasted at least six innings, something he did in each of his first five home starts this year before failing to do so in his last two.
Getting to four runs may prove to be too much for the other offense to overcome. Zimmermann is 3-0 when backed with more than three runs while Gonzalez is 7-1.
“It gives you confidence and you have more room to work with,” Gonzalez said after Sunday’s win. “We did a good job hitting.”
Gonzalez’s lone interleague start at Camden Yards was his only complete game, a four-hit shutout of Cincinnati on Sept. 3.