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SD@WSH: Zimmermann fans five over six innings of work

Despite having several of their key players, including third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and outfielder Bryce Harper, on the disabled list, the Nationals are starting to pile up the wins.

The Nats will go for a two-game sweep over the Astros on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park, when they send right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the mound. Washington has won three of four games, and five of seven, heading into the finale of the brief Interleague series.

"We're pretty banged up right now, so we have to pick up for the guys not on the club right now, and it's a process," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "We're getting there."

Zimmermann has been the hard-luck loser his last two times out, with Washington dropping a pair of 4-3 games despite Zimmermann allowing just four earned runs in 13 combined innings during those defeats. He's pitched one road game so far this season, winning with seven innings of two-run work against the Marlins in Miami.

"Jordan just needs to keep pitching hard for us out there," Williams said.

Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer, the second-year lefty, is coming off the worst outing of his career. He gave up eight hits and six runs in 3 2/3 innings Thursday against Oakland. It marked the first time in his 15-start career he hadn't made it to at least the fifth inning.

"He didn't have his best stuff, didn't look like he had the arm speed we were accustomed to seeing," manager Bo Porter said. "I know he's anxious to get back on the mound. It's always tough for the starters. If position players go 0-for-4, they can come back tomorrow and have an opportunity to do something about it, erase that feeling. For a starting pitcher, they've got to sit on it. I know Obie is looking forward to his start, and getting back to form out there."

Oberholtzer, despite generally pitching well, has lost his last eight decisions. Since joining Houston's rotation on July 31, 2013, he's posted a 2.05 ERA in 15 starts, which ranks ninth in the American League over that time (85 starts).

Astros: Castro, Fowler heating up
Astros catcher Jason Castro, who represented the club last season in the All-Star Game, enters Wednesday on a six-game hitting streak, during which he's hitting .318 with one homer and six RBIs. He's also drawn three walks to raise his on-base percentage to .340.

Castro was hitting .193 with a .309 on-base percentage in his first 16 games this season, so the left-handed-hitting backstop is rounding into the form that made him the team's Most Valuable Player a year ago.

Meanwhile, Dexter Fowler is riding a team-high nine-game hitting streak after recording a second-inning RBI single on Tuesday. He's 10-for-32 during his hitting streak after going 11-for-56 during the first 14 games in which he played.

Nationals: Mattheus happy to be back with Washington
Right-hander Ryan Mattheus, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse after right-hander Taylor Jordan was optioned out, didn't expect to be back with the Nationals so soon. The righty got the call back up sooner than expected due to Jordan's inconsistency, and the club's preference for more relief pitchers, given Washington's relative plethora of off-days and the fatigued bullpen.

"Yeah, it did [surprise me]," Mattheus said. "It caught me off-guard. You try not to predict when the call's coming, because it's just counterproductive for your performance."

Mattheus said he was initially frustrated at spending time in Syracuse after missing most of Spring Training with chest inflammation. Though the results don't indicate he was a lock-down pitcher there, he said the time in the Minors was necessary.

"Spring Training was tough, so it probably was the best thing for me to go [to Syracuse]," he said. "At the time, I didn't really embrace it, but I needed the workload. Everybody else broke camp with 12, 13, 14 appearances. I needed to build back up."

Worth noting
• Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche has set a career high with 29 hits in April. He has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, and 21 of 25 overall this year.

• Nats closer Rafael Soriano has successfully converted his last 17 save opportunities, and has retired 20 of the last 25 batters he's faced, covering his last five outings.

• Astros starting pitchers have allowed three earned runs or fewer in nine of their last 10 games, while posting a 3.32 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings.

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