"They're a great ballclub, especially when you have pitching like that," Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "That's one thing they've really improved their game on. All we can really do is try to hit their mistakes, just like every other game, try to get some key hits and hopefully everybody steps up."
Doing that against a Nats staff that leads the Majors in quality starts with 25 could prove to be a tough task.
And while Jordan Zimmermann, Saturday's starter for the Nats, may have a 1-3 record, his 2.29 ERA shows just how solid he's been through six starts this season.
Going at least six innings in all six outings this year, the right-hander took a loss last Sunday vs. the Phillies. Giving up all three of his runs in the fourth frame, Zimmermann allowed seven hits in six innings of work for his second straight loss.
On Saturday, he'll be up against right-hander Mat Latos, who struck out a career-high 11 in his last outing against the Pirates.
Feeling ill before the game, Latos still managed to toss six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and three walks for his second win of the season.
"The first inning was a little tough, since he was sick," Reds manager Dusty Baker said after the start. "He was kind of lightheaded, and once he got his blood flowing, it was good. His pitch count got high, especially after that first inning, but he battled in that first inning and got out of it, and that was big."
Nationals: Zimmerman feeling good since return
Less than a week off the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said he's slowly starting to find his groove at the plate.
Going 3-for-12 in three games at Pittsburgh, Zimmerman went 3-for-4 in Friday's series opener against the Reds, bringing his average up to .257.
"I had some good at-bats the first three games, and hit the ball pretty well," Zimmerman said before Friday's series opener. "It takes a few games to get back in there. I'm just happy to be back in there and not watching it anymore."
Reds: Baker gives Phillips green light to run
Feeling 100 percent again after spending most of April with a sore left hamstring, Phillips has finally been given the green light to run when he wants by Baker.
Until recently, Baker would not allow Phillips to take chances on the bases.
"Dusty has given me the open, thank you Lord," Phillips said on Friday. "I feel like I don't have any handcuffs on me right now. I'm very happy about that. Now I can steal a base. He gave me the hold sign a lot. Now I'm starting to feeling better. Hopefully I get my stolen bases, some key hits, and get this thing going."
Friday marked the start of what will be Reds' longest stretch of games this season without a day off -- 20 games in 20 days. The team's next off-day is May 31. The first 14 of those games, including this weekend vs. the Nationals, are against teams with winning records.
The Nationals have given up just 17 home runs so far this season, the fewest in the Majors.