Nationals-Cubs Preview

The Washington Nationals have won five straight starts by Jordan Zimmermann, who will need to end his Wrigley Field hex to continue that streak.

He’s dropped all three previous outings there heading into this one Tuesday night against a Chicago Cubs team looking to avoid its first three-game home slide.

Zimmermann (4-2, 3.52 ERA) improved to 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his last five outings by limiting the New York Yankees to two runs in seven innings in a 3-2 victory Wednesday.

The right-hander has a 5.06 ERA on the road compared to 2.51 at home, and he’s 0-3 with a 6.27 ERA in three career outings at Wrigley. He has allowed five homers in 18 2-3 innings there.

Zimmermann is 1-4 with a 4.81 ERA in seven overall starts against the Cubs. Four Chicago hitters have at least 10 at-bats against him – Starlin Castro (3 for 19), Miguel Montero (6 for 17), Chris Coghlan (4 for 16) and Dexter Fowler (2 for 13).

Chicago (24-20) will start Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 4.14), who is 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 10 career home outings. Hendricks fired a five-hitter for his first career complete game with seven strikeouts in Thursday’s 3-0 win at San Diego.

The right-hander, who has never faced Washington, entered that contest with a 5.15 ERA.

"I’m not going to say I needed it but I kind of did need it," he said. "I haven’t been throwing very well."

Hendricks’ batterymate figures to be Montero, who is expected back in Chicago’s lineup after giving way to backup David Ross in Monday’s 2-1 loss in the opener of this three-game set. Kris Bryant, who homered for the sixth time, is 12 for 25 during an eight-game hitting streak at home.

"He’s got power, he’s a good player," Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Bryant. "We need to make good pitches on him to get him out."

Chicago has totaled four runs – all on homers – in consecutive defeats. The Cubs have struck out 13 times in those contests to bring baseball’s highest total to 432.

They have scored four runs or fewer in seven of their last eight games.

"We’ve seen good pitching here," manager Joe Maddon said. "In Arizona I thought we had a chance to do better, we did not. I don’t worry about that stuff. I like the way we’re playing baseball, I think fundamentally we’re pretty good."

Washington (27-18) won for the 20th time in 25 games Monday behind homers by Denard Span and Wilson Ramos.

Bryce Harper, who leads the majors with a 1.198 OPS, had a double in three at-bats. The right fielder made an impact defensively with a leaping catch at the wall on Anthony Rizzo’s fly ball in the third.

Harper appeared to be holding his left hand, though it won’t keep him out of the lineup.

”He catches it with the left hand and braces with the right," Williams said. ”It got the forearm and elbow, but he’s OK.”

Wrigley Field and PNC Park are the only NL stadiums in which Harper has yet to homer.

Span is 14 for 33 with two homers and six RBIs during an eight-game road hitting streak.