In what has been an inconsistent season for A.J. Burnett, the Phillies right-hander will once again be looking for a bounce-back start when he toes the rubber at Nationals Park on Saturday night.
After allowing six runs in five innings July 18, Burnett came back July 23 and delivered one of his best efforts of the season. But five days after throwing eight scoreless innings against the Giants, he surrendered seven earned runs over five innings in a loss to the Mets on Monday.
"Flat, everything," Burnett said about his most recent start. "Everything. I don't hang breaking balls. Just from the get-go, I tried to find a groove there in the middle, just all night, felt off. Felt up, flat."
Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman, meanwhile, already had his bounce back. After lasting just 8 1/3 innings and surrendering eight earned runs over his previous two starts, Zimmermann put to rest any concerns over his right biceps strain that caused him to miss the All-Star Game in his last outing against Miami.
Zimmermann had great command and started by retiring 14 out of the first 15 hitters. His fastball reached 94 mph, and he had a slider that was fooling the Marlins' hitters as he went seven innings and only allowed two runs.
"He was really good [Monday]. He was down in the zone, he had a great slider," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "Much better than his last one. The last one was just rust. Tonight, he proved that he is back on it."
With the Nationals clinging to a slim lead over the Braves in the National League East, Zimmermann will rely on his reacquired command as he aims to help Washington get its first win in the four-game series.
Phillies: Logjam in outfield
The Phils were unable to deal Marlon Byrd before Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, meaning manager Ryne Sandberg will likely spend the remainder of the season with at least five outfielders worthy of playing time: Byrd, Ben Revere, Grady Sizemore, Dominic Brown and Darin Ruf, who was recently called up to replace the injured John Mayberry Jr.
Sandberg said he'll take the situation day by day, as expected. But the problem is a good one for the skipper.
Revere batted .359 in July. Sizemore, since joining the Phillies on July 11, is hitting .328. Brown, who's struggled for most of the season, hit .268 last month while Byrd posted a .282 clip. Ruf only had 16 at-bats after his promotion July 22 and has shown promising signs during the stint.
"They're all going pretty well," Sandberg said. "It'll be important to give them all looks and to give them all playing time. And that'll be the challenging part."
For Friday night's game against the Nationals, Revere started in center, Sizemore in left and Byrd in right. Ruf got the night off, and Brown sat because of illness.
Nationals: Barrett sent down to work out kinks
After a rocky July interrupted his stellar rookie season, Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse before Friday night's game to open a roster spot for newcomer Asdrubal Cabrera.
Fellow rookie right-hander Blake Treinen, recalled Thursday, will remain in the bullpen to provide an extra long man while Barrett tries to straighten some things out in the Minors.
"Aaron has been in a lot of pressure situations so far, and it's not easy for a first-year pitcher to be in those situations," Williams said. "He's pitched really well. But this gives us an opportunity to get him down and work on things and gave him more of a structured environment to pitch in."
• Phillies lefty Cliff Lee will have his strained left elbow examined by team physician Dr. Steve Cohen on Saturday, according to Sandberg.
• Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley from Double-A Reading on Friday after going 0-2 with a 3.14 ERA over 14 1/3 innings in a bullpen role.
• Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Thursday to Mid Atlantic Sports Network's Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has a Grade 3 hamstring strain, but did not say how much action he would miss. MLB.com reported Wednesday morning that Zimmerman had suffered the hamstring strain.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.