Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will have a difficult assignment on Wednesday night, when he makes his first start of the season against the Braves: Put an end to Atlanta's recent dominance over its National League East rival.
The Braves' 8-1 win on Tuesday night at Turner Field made them 5-0 against the Nationals this season and 9-0 going back to last August. Atlanta holds a 4 1/2-game division advantage as Paul Maholm takes on Zimmermann in the third of a four-game set.
The Braves have recovered from a 2-7 stretch to take the first two in the series, while the Nationals have lost seven of 10 and 12 of 18.
The good news for Washington is that Zimmermann has been on his game this season. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA and has yet to allow more than three runs in a start.
After entering the season with one complete game in 81 outings, he has notched two in 2013, including a one-hit shutout on Friday against the Reds. Zimmermann allowed only a third-inning single, induced 12 ground-ball outs and didn't allow a runner to reach scoring position in his first career shutout.
The 26-year-old only struck out four, a mark he has topped once in five starts. But he also has walked just seven batters in 36 innings.
"I'm throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys and not trying to get too deep into counts, and letting them put the ball in play," Zimmermann said. "I don't care about strikeouts and I don't want to walk anyone, so that's what I'm trying to do."
Maholm (3-2, 3.30 ERA) began the season with 25 2/3 scoreless innings but since has given up 11 runs in 4 1/3. That includes eight runs in a loss to the Tigers on Friday.
"Baseball is a humbling game," Maholm said. "Obviously, I was pitching really well, and then in the last whatever, I've given up some runs. You kind of forget about it and move on."
The lefty tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Nationals on April 14, holding them to four hits and one walk while striking out seven. This will be his first home outing since April 3.
Nationals: Werth dealing with dings and dents
Right fielder Jayson Werth missed his first start of the season on Tuesday, after leaving Monday's game in the eighth inning with a hamstring injury. Werth also fouled a ball off his left ankle in that game, and manager Davey Johnson decided to rest him to make sure the issues don't linger.
"I think I'm auditioning for [Wednesday]," Werth said. "I'm pretty sore, but I don't think it will be a big deal."
• Catcher Wilson Ramos, who was activated from the disabled list on Monday, returned to the starting lineup on Tuesday and went 0-for-3 with an RBI. Ramos hadn't played since injuring his left hamstring on April 13.
Braves: Carpenter replaces Ayala in 'pen
The Braves recalled right-hander David Carpenter from Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday, filling the bullpen spot of righty Luis Ayala, who was placed on the disabled list with anxiety disorder.
Carpenter posted a 3.52 ERA in six relief appearances for Gwinnett, with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 15 1/3 innings. In 67 career big league games with the Astros and Blue Jays, the 27-year-old has a 5.70 ERA and 1.80 WHIP.
• Catcher Evan Gattis singled and doubled on Tuesday, his first multi-hit performance since April 10. He had been batting .163 (8-for-49) since then, although seven of his hits went for extra bases, including three home runs.
• Zimmermann has a 3.81 ERA in five career starts against the Braves. His only appearance at Turner Field came on May 12, 2011, when he gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings, with a career-high 11 strikeouts.
• Maholm took the loss the last time the Nationals beat the Braves, last Aug. 21 in Washington.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.