NEW YORK -- The Nationals are back in Washington on Friday afternoon to face the Braves, last year's National League East champions. Atlanta won 13 out of 19 games against Washington last year.
While it's early April, the Nationals know they need to get as many wins as they can against their division rival. In fact, they play Atlanta six times within the next 10 days.
"They are really a good team, so we have to play well if we are going to beat them," manager Matt Williams said. "We want to continue the way we are playing, continue to do things right. If we can do that, then we have a chance."
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said the goal is to win every series, no matter who they play.
"Whether we are playing the Mets, the Braves, Cubs or the Padres, we try to win every series," Zimmerman said. "We'll go home. That will be the goal for this weekend -- win series. Hopefully, we can do that."
Infielder Kevin Frandsen is hungry to go to the postseason. He has never played in October and he said in order to be the best in baseball, the Nationals have to beat the best, which is the Braves.
"I'm excited [to play this series]," Frandsen said. "Here, the guys [on the Nationals] are hungry. There is such great vibe around here. I love it, so far, knowing that this series could set a true tone for the entire year. You get hot the first week or two, it sets a good tone for the season."
Zimmermann scratched Thursday with flu-like symptoms
NEW YORK -- Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was scheduled to pitch against the Mets on Thursday afternoon, but he was scratched because of flu-like symptoms.
Right-hander Tanner Roark received the start in Zimmermann's place and pitched six solid innings. He didn't know that he was going to take the mound until Thursday morning when he was informed by pitching coach Steve McCatty.
According to manager Matt Williams, Zimmermann felt fine on Wednesday evening when the two had a chat in the outfield. But early Thursday morning, Zimmermann felt "sick to his stomach" and was vomiting.
"Jordan is feeling really bad. He was up all night," Williams said. "Right now we are getting some fluids in him and we'll get him back to DC, get him some rest today and re-evaluate tomorrow. We have to go day by day."
If Zimmermann can't pitch the home opener against the Braves on Friday at Nationals Park, Williams could use the bullpen that day, which means Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen could see action. However, Detwiler pitched two innings against the Mets on Thursday, and Willliams indicated that Zimmermann could pitch the opener, but they will not know until Friday morning.
"We still don't know. We still don't know how he is going to feel when he gets to the ballpark in the morning," Williams said.
Right-hander Taylor Jordan is not an option to pitch Friday because he pitched a simulated game Tuesday. He is scheduled to pitch his first game of the season on Sunday against the Braves.
"If [Zimmermann] is not ready to go, [the bullpen] would be our option," Williams said.
Williams' thoughts are with recovering Baylor
NEW YORK -- Manager Matt Williams was saddened to learn that Angels hitting coach Don Baylor fractured his right femur while catching the ceremonial first pitch from Vladimir Guerrero on Monday night.
Williams and Baylor were coaches with the D-backs for two years before Williams joined the Nationals as their manager and Baylor became the hitting coach for Los Angeles.
"I just can't believe it. I saw it on TV and thought, 'Well he twisted his ankle.' But a fractured femur -- of all the surgeries you have to go through," Williams said. "Don is a wonderful man and I wish him nothing but the best. I texted him of course and he hasn't returned the text because he is going through all that stuff. I know he has dealt with some health issues in the past. I wish him well. That's a long road. That's a long process to get back from."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.