The Atlanta Braves have jumped out to another outstanding start behind a run of stellar performances on the mound.
Now, the left-hander who started their current winning streak might not have to deal with slugger Ryan Zimmerman.Alex Wood looks to build on his sparking 2014 debut Sunday as Atlanta tries to continue its run by winning for the 11th time in 13 road games against the Washington Nationals.After posting a 1.83 ERA while winning 12 of 13 to open last season, the Braves never looked back on the way to their first division title since 2005. Much like that start, they're getting it done with pitching this season despite their lengthy list of injuries.The Braves haven't allowed more than two runs in any contest during their 4-1 start, posting a 1.43 ERA with 37 strikeouts over 44 innings over that span. They also haven't committed an error in their last three games."When you pitch and catch the baseball it's a really good combination to win baseball games," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.Wood will try to help Gonzalez's club win its fifth in a row after giving up one run over seven innings in Tuesday's 5-2 win at Milwaukee.He might not have to deal with Zimmerman since the third baseman left Saturday's 6-2 loss after the fifth inning when he felt pain in his right shoulder. He's expected to undergo an MRI, leaving his status uncertain.Zimmerman, who had surgery on the shoulder in October 2012, is 7 for 19 with a homer thus far."He went to his backhand, threw that ball across the infield and felt pain in his shoulder, so we thought it prudent to get him out of there and make sure everything is OK," manager Matt Williams told the league's official website.Even when Zimmerman has played, Wood has been tough on the Nationals (3-2). He's allowed one earned run over 11 innings in two career starts -- both Atlanta victories.Taylor Jordan (1-3, 3.66 ERA) was his counterpart in the first of those, allowing two unearned runs over six innings Aug. 16 in a 3-2, 10-inning loss in Atlanta. The right-hander will try to put up another solid performance in his 2014 debut while helping fill in for injured starter Doug Fister.Freddie Freeman has picked up where he left off last season with seven hits in 15 at-bats for the Braves. Jason Heyward, meanwhile, hopes to move past his 3 for 18 start since he went 2 for 3 against Jordan last August.Adam LaRoche provided the lone highlight for the Nationals on Saturday with a two-run homer, his second of the season. Anthony Rendon, off to an 8 for 19 start, is 4 for 4 against Wood.Bryce Harper, however, hopes to end his early slide after going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Harper, 3 for 21 on the season, batted .214 with two homers in 131 at-bats against left-handers last season.The Nationals have three runs in the series after scoring 22 in a three-game road sweep of the New York Mets. They've also batted .207 with 2.3 runs per game while losing 10 of 12 at home to the Braves.
Alex Wood limited left-handed hitters to just a .188 batting average in at-bats that ended with a curveball in 2013. Bryce Harper hit just .214 against curveballs from left-handed pitchers last season (23 points worse than league average).