By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- While he hasn't garnered as much attention as his two All-Star rotation mates, Jordan Zimmermann is quietly enjoying a superb campaign.
With Zimmermann seeking a career-best fourth consecutive winning decision, the NL-leading Washington Nationals try to build on their thrilling series-opening victory Wednesday night in the second of three against the slumping New York Mets.
In a rotation featuring strikeout specialists Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, Zimmermann (6-6, 2.48 ERA) sometimes gets overlooked. The 26-year-old right-hander, though, ranks fourth in the NL in ERA and has gone at least six innings in all 18 of his starts - the longest such stretch to open a season by a Nationals pitcher since the club relocated to Washington in 2005.
Zimmermann has missed out on his fair share of victories, with the Nationals (52-36) providing him with three runs of support or fewer in 13 of his outings.
"Unfortunately we never score any runs for him and he doesn't get that many wins, but he's Mr. Consistency," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman told the team's official website. "You know what you're going to get out of him."
Zimmermann finally has been getting some help lately, and he's also been especially sharp over his last four starts, going 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He allowed four hits and struck out six over six scoreless innings Friday in a 5-1 victory at Miami.
"That's what I try to do every time out there, go six, seven, eight innings," he said. "I guess this year I've just been lucky enough to put a nice little streak together."
Washington is coming off its ninth win in its last 11 meetings with New York (46-44), pulling out a back-and-forth 5-4, 10-inning victory Tuesday. The Nationals took a two-run lead into the ninth inning but fell behind twice before Zimmerman scored the winning run on Pedro Beato's wild pitch.
"We've got a long second half to go, and hopefully we'll have some more of those," said Bryce Harper, who tied the game in the 10th with a run-scoring triple.
Tuesday's result extended the Mets' losing streak to a season-high five games. New York, which has been outscored 33-17 during its skid, now sits seven games behind Washington and 3 1/2 back of second-place Atlanta in the NL East.
"Judging by what I've seen in this clubhouse so far this year, nobody's going to feel sorry for ourselves, and nobody's going to put their heads down and go just through the motions," third baseman David Wright said. "We're going to continue to fight."
The Mets could have a hard time getting back on track behind Chris Young (2-3, 4.28), who was hit hard in his first start following the All-Star break. The right-hander surrendered a season-high five runs along with six hits and three walks over three innings of Friday's 7-5 loss at Atlanta.
"Nothing was as sharp as it needed to be," he said. "There are no excuses. I need to be better and that's it."
Young has been much better against the Nationals, going 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA over seven career starts and holding them to a .197 average. He gave up two earned runs over five innings opposite Zimmermann during the Mets' 7-6, 12-inning road loss June 5.
Zimmermann has also typically held his own in this series, allowing two earned runs or fewer in six of his eight starts versus New York.
The Nationals could be without All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond (sore left oblique) again after he was held out of the starting lineup for the third time in as many days Tuesday. He leads the team with 17 homers and 48 runs scored.
Updated July 18, 2012