Two of the game's brightest stars will be on display Wednesday night when the Orioles-Nationals series shifts to Camden Yards.
In Washington's corner, you have right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, one of three Major League pitchers with eight wins and the owner of a 1.71 ERA, the second-best mark in baseball. He's been the unassuming ace in a rotation loaded with big-name talent, and he'll look for win No. 9 as the Battle of the Beltways shifts to Baltimore.
"I try to go out there and go six, seven, eight innings, keep the team in the ballgame," Zimmermann said. "And this year it's been one of those years where I've felt pretty good, stringing good starts together and getting some run support, so I've been collecting a few more wins."
In Baltimore's corner, there's 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado, who's tied with Miguel Cabrera for most hits in the Majors. He's recorded more hits before June than any player under the age of 21 ever has, and he entered this week's four-game stretch against the Nationals leading the Majors in doubles and multihit games.
"He's got a pretty good approach about it, doesn't seem to get too high, too low. Very competitive," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You can tell between at-bats and things, if he doesn't do something he thinks he's capable of, he's not too happy. He's got a good group around him, but he doesn't need anybody helping him. He's a pretty grounded guy.
"I think he's in a pretty good spot. He's handled his success very well. ... Manny's in good shape. He's playing pretty well."
Zimmermann has lasted at least seven innings in each of his starts since April 21. He's not a strikeout artist like Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez, but he's walked only nine batters in 73 2/3 innings this season, none since May 8 and only two this month. Overall, he's averaging 1.1 walks per nine innings and picking up more than five strikeouts per walk.
"It's been good. I've also gotten some 3-0 counts, 3-1 counts where I just throw it down the middle and they put the ball in play," Zimmermann said. "I don't want to give any free passes, and that's a big part of my game."
He'll face a tough test Wednesday in Baltimore's lineup, particularly in the young third baseman who's quickly entered his name into the conversation with other phenoms like Mike Trout and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
"It's not a lot of fun watching the real good players on other teams, knowing how long they're going to be around. But it's good for baseball," Showalter said. "Young players coming in today, I just go, 'OK.' And then you remind yourself of how old they are. Every once in a while, Manny will give you a glimpse of how old he is. Not very often, but it's usually pretty funny.
"He's very driven. He really likes winning, that's what I like."
Orioles: Tillman coming off unusual start
Right-hander Chris Tillman will take the mound for Baltimore after picking up a win against the Blue Jays on Friday, when the Orioles backed him with 10 runs. Tillman snapped his streak of six straight quality starts in that outing with something of an unusual pitching line: a season-high 10 hits over five innings, a season-high-tying seven strikeouts, and no walks for the first time all year.
He still managed to limit the damage to only three runs, two on solo homers, and said he felt fine physically. He was just a little off mechanically, but he helped his own cause by not putting extra runners on base.
"The key was Tillman not walking anybody," Showalter said Friday.
• Second baseman Brian Roberts, who's been out almost all season with a ruptured tendon behind his right knee, has been "increasing his baseball activity" lately, including hitting off a tee. Roberts won't be back with the Orioles for a while, but Showalter said he was encouraged with his progress.
Nationals: Harper still sidelined
Harper could be out through Thursday, at least, with bursitis in his left knee after sitting out for the second straight game Tuesday night. Harper injured his knee when he ran into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13 and aggravated it Sunday on head-first slides into second and third base.
"It's still tender, still a little bit swollen," manager Davey Johnson said of Harper's knee. "The swelling's down a little bit. I was probably being a little optimistic thinking he could DH over in Baltimore. We're probably not looking good for that. ... I think it's just when the inflammation gets out of there, the swelling gets out of there, he'll feel 100 percent better."
• Second baseman Danny Espinosa went through a normal pregame workout Tuesday, said his fractured right wrist feels all right and could be back in the lineup Wednesday after sitting out four games.
"It's just a time thing. But it does feel better," Espinosa said. "The biggest thing we were concerned about is the inflammation, and the inflammation's down."
• The Orioles hit two solo homers Tuesday night and have now gone deep 18 times in their last eight games, a stretch that includes a homerless showing Monday.
• The Nationals are 23-4 this season when scoring three or more runs and only 4-21 when scoring two runs or fewer.