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NYM@WSH: Zimmermann throws six strong frames vs. Mets

No team in baseball has fared as well against the other members of its division as the first-place Washington Nationals.

Coming into Wednesday's game, the second of a three-game home set against the Mets, the Nationals own a 19-11 record when playing other teams from the National League East. Their .633 winning percentage vs. division rivals is tops in the Majors.

"Those are the guys you've gotta beat. That's the joy of this game," said manager Davey Johnson, whose club won the series opener against New York in 10 innings, 5-4. "It's how you match up, and I like the way we match up. We're not 100-percent healthy, but we're a lot better off than we were most of the year."

Last Friday, Washington began a stretch of 14 consecutive games against division rivals by winning the first game of a four-game series with the Marlins. After their current three-game set with the Mets, the Nationals will play four more at home against Atlanta, and then another three up in New York.

Jordan Zimmermann is scheduled to start for Washington on Wednesday. He'll go up against a fellow right-hander in the Mets' Chris Young, a veteran who has gone 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA in seven career starts against the Nationals.

In his only tangle with them this season, Young earned a no-decision, pitching five innings and allowing three runs, two of which were earned. The outing was Young's first since undergoing surgery to repair an anterior capsule in his right shoulder in May 2011.

"I feel like he's the same guy," catcher Josh Thole said then. "He could throw four pitches pretty much at will when he wanted to."

Young has made seven starts this season, and in that time has posted a 2-3 record and 4.28 ERA. Wednesday will mark his third start in July. He's coming off losses in his other two appearances this month.

Mets: Bay goes hitless in return to lineup
Jason Bay returned to New York's lineup Tuesday after being sidelined since June 15 with a concussion. In his first game back, Bay went 0-for-3 and grounded into a double play. In the ninth inning, with New York trailing 2-0, Bay was replaced by Jordany Valdespin, who with two on and one out, hit a go-ahead three-run homer.

Bay has played in just 23 games in 2012, hitting a subpar .179 (14-for-78) over that time. The outfielder has two doubles and four home runs, and has knocked in six RBIs. He has also struck out 23 times, while collecting only seven walks.

"I'm just trying to jump in," Bay said. "Obviously things haven't gone right. I've struggled a little bit. I'm not trying to carry the team. I'm not trying to do that. I'm just trying to pitch in."

Nationals: Zimmermann quietly having solid season
Zimmermann's 6-6 record this season might not impress folks, but his 2.48 ERA is the lowest on Washington's staff -- yes, lower than the 2.66 mark of Stephen Strasburg and the 2.93 figure that Gio Gonzalez has put together.

The righty has also pitched 116 1/3 innings, more than any other Nationals hurler. He has lasted at least six innings in each of his 18 starts this year, and is 3-0 in his last four outings. Zimmermann has kept opponents off the scoreboard for 11 straight innings.

"Unfortunately we never score any runs for him and he doesn't get that many wins, but he's Mr. Consistency," Ryan Zimmerman said. "You know what you're going to get out of him."

Worth noting
• Zimmerman is batting .354 (28-for-79) with eight doubles, seven home runs, 21 RBIs and 18 runs in over his last 19 games, dating back to June 24.

• New York's Ike Davis is hitting .290 (29-for-100) with eight home runs and 29 RBIs over his last 29 games, dating back to June 9.

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