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NYM@WSH: Zimmermann works 7 2/3 in loss vs. Mets

The Nationals, trying to hang on in the playoff chase, will go for a much-needed series win on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Nats beat the Phillies on Tuesday to even the three-game series and stay 7 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot. They had lost three of their previous four games but now have a chance to go into Thursday's off-day on a high note before continuing their road trip in Miami.

Washington will turn to right-hander Jordan Zimmermann in the rubber game, as he looks to maintain the form he showed in his previous two starts. After giving up eight runs at Wrigley Field on Aug. 19, Zimmermann has put together consecutive solid outings of 7 2/3 innings.

Zimmermann (15-8, 3.33 ERA) took the loss on Friday against the Mets but held them to three runs on six hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. He kept New York mostly in check, other than giving up a two-run homer to Ike Davis in the fourth inning.

"That was the only mistake that I made all night -- a hanging changeup," Zimmermann said. "In the past, I had good success with curveballs and offspeed pitches to him, and I left it up. A two-run homer, but other than that, I thought I pitched great."

The Phillies will counter with Roy Halladay (3-4, 7.94), who has had an uneven return from arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

The veteran righty held the D-backs to two runs on four hits over six innings in his first start since May 5. But the Cubs tagged him for five runs on seven hits -- including two homers -- over five innings on Friday at Wrigley Field. Halladay has notched only three strikeouts in those two games.

After Friday's start, Halladay said his shoulder felt good but that the hot weather in Chicago caused him to sweat a lot, making it difficult for him to grip the ball. That led to some command problems.

"But I didn't get tired. I had more of an issue holding onto the ball later in the game," Halladay said. "Just dealing with the heat and dealing with the moisture was the biggest issue."

Nationals: Harper likely to rest hip
Manager Davey Johnson plans to give left fielder Bryce Harper the day off on Wednesday, in order to give his ailing left hip two straight days of rest, with Thursday's off-day.

Johnson didn't find out about the injury until after Monday's game and was unhappy that he hadn't been informed sooner. He said he would have given Harper that game off, had he known.

Harper was hitting .368 (21-57) with seven doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs over his past 16 games before going 0-for-5 on Tuesday.

Phillies: Rollins showing Sandberg
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins was not in the starting lineup on Tuesday, for the fourth time in the Phillies' past 17 games. But the break did not reflect any dissatisfaction on the part of interim manager Ryne Sandberg.

Sandberg has spoken about wanting to see improvements from Rollins, and apparently he has. Before a pinch-hitting appearance on Tuesday, Rollins was hitting .239 (11-for-46) over his past 13 games, but with five doubles, three stolen bases, 12 walks and a .397 on-base percentage.

"I've seen the bases on balls, I've seen the working the counts," Sandberg said. "He's gotten on base with walks and he's applied his baserunning. I've also seen him with more balls being hit up the middle. I think he's had three to four opposite-field hits, from both sides of the plate. So I see him working on some things in the cage and applying those in the game. But he's also been a spark, a spark running the bases and with some key hits."

Worth noting
• The Nationals hold an 8-7 lead in the season series, which will conclude with three games in Washington from Sept. 13-15.

• Zimmermann has allowed five runs on 11 hits over 13 1/3 innings against the Phillies this season, with seven strikeouts and no walks.

• Nats center fielder Denard Span is batting .415 (27-for-65) during a 16-game hitting streak. Comments