Cubs-Nationals Preview

The Chicago Cubs have generated plenty of offense in their last

two trips to Washington.

It could be a bit tougher this time around.

Seeking an eighth straight win at Nationals Park on Monday, the

Cubs try to find a way to foil Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann, who

has been one of baseball’s top pitchers over the last month.

Chicago (35-50) arrives in the nation’s capital struggling

mightily away from Wrigley Field, having gone a major league-worst

4-13 on the road since May 22.

The Cubs have had no such problems playing in Washington,

however, outscoring the Nationals 44-16 in winning the last seven

meetings there. Alfonso Soriano has led this charge, batting .348

with four homers and 11 RBIs, while Kosuke Fukudome is hitting .474

with five walks.

Aramis Ramirez is currently carrying Chicago’s offense, hitting

his 12th home run Sunday to help the Cubs beat the White Sox 3-1

and salvage the finale in the series with their crosstown rival.

Ramirez has homered in seven of 10 games.

“I feel pretty good right now,” the third baseman said.

While Ramirez is feeling optimistic, having to face Zimmermann

(5-7, 2.63 ERA) could quickly change that.

Since the start of June, Zimmermann has posted a major

league-best 0.85 ERA in six outings. The right-hander has recorded

a club-record 11 straight quality starts, yielding two runs or

fewer in each of his last eight outings.

“I’m throwing the ball pretty well right now and I just want to

keep it going,” Zimmermann said after facing the Los Angeles Angels

on Wednesday. “It’s always good to throw well and have confidence

going into the next start.”

Zimmermann threw a gem in Anaheim, allowing an unearned run and

four hits over eight innings in his first career complete game in

38 starts, but was saddled with a 1-0 loss.

In his only career start against the Cubs on July 18, 2009,

Zimmermann allowed five runs and six hits – including a three-run

homer to Soriano – while striking out eight in 5 1-3 innings of a

6-5 loss.

The Nationals (42-43) dropped to 2-5 under manager Davey Johnson

with a 10-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Washington has plated 11 runs in its last five games while

batting .125 with runners in scoring position.

Jayson Werth’s struggles haven’t helped. He’s batting .125 with

one RBI and 14 strikeouts in his last nine contests. Werth, hitting

.087 with 11 strikeouts in his last seven games against the Cubs,

left Sunday after getting hit on the left arm by a pitch in the

sixth, and his status for the opener is uncertain.

Michael Morse, who has a chance to make the All-Star game as

part of Final Vote, didn’t play Sunday after being hit in the right

forearm Saturday.

“I’m real concerned about it,” Johnson said about the spate of

injuries. “Nobody’s 100 percent.”

Washington’s offense tries to break out of its funk against

Casey Coleman (2-4, 7.78), who is making a spot start for the

ailing Ryan Dempster (illness and sore back).

Coleman hasn’t started for the Cubs since being tagged for six

runs and seven hits in 1 1-3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the New York

Mets on May 25. Since being sent down to Triple-A Iowa on June 14,

the right-hander has gone 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in three starts.

He made his second career start and earned his first win against

the Nationals on Aug. 23, allowing one run and three hits in 6 1-3

innings of a 9-1 decision.