Jordan Zimmermann is an All-Star, but he sure hasn't looked like one since the All-Star break.
In the first three months of the season, Zimmermann was 11-3 with a 2.28 ERA. In nine starts since July 1, he is 3-4 with a 5.96 ERA. In the first three months, he held opposing hitters to a .209 batting average. In July and August, opposing batters are hitting .303 against him.
The low point came on Monday, when Zimmermann was tagged for a season-high eight earned runs in an 11-1 loss to the struggling Cubs. The right-hander has battled a nagging neck issue this season, but said earlier in the month that he feels healthy.
"I just made a few mistakes tonight and made them at the wrong time," Zimmermann said after his last start. "I can live with a solo home run or a few base hits, but when you get guys on, you've got to really buckle down and make some pitches, and I wasn't able to do that tonight."
Zimmermann will have momentum on his side Saturday against the Royals after the Nationals overcame an early six-run deficit and held on to take the series opener, 11-10. The Nationals have won four in a row to return to .500 for the first time since July 19. The Royals have lost six in a row and struggled recently with runners in scoring position, though they were 7-for-13 in those spots on Friday.
"It's very frustrating when you break it all down," manager Ned Yost said before Friday's game. "Defensively, I'm very pleased. With the starting pitching and bullpen, I've been very pleased. It's just with our approaches at times in crucial situations in the point of the game that can make the difference between a win or a loss. Those are some of the things we're trying to stay focused on and trying to get ironed out."
The Nationals and Royals will wear throwback uniforms on Saturday in what will be a rematch of the 1942 Negro League World Series between the KC Monarchs and Washington Homestead Grays. Some of the game-worn uniforms will be autographed and auctioned to benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Wade Davis, 6-9 with a 5.43 ERA, opposes Zimmermann for Kansas City.
Nationals: Suzuki, DeJesus shipped for prospects
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo has been keeping busy. After trading backup catcher Kurt Suzuki to the A's late Thursday night, Rizzo also shipped outfielder David DeJesus to the Rays on Friday.
In return, the Nationals received Minor League right-hander Dakota Bacus from Oakland and a player to be named, which will be one of two Minor League pitchers, from Tampa Bay.
"Suzuki was one of my favorites in the clubhouse," Rizzo said. "That's a loss in the clubhouse. [He is] a personality and a makeup character guy that we knew we were acquiring and we knew we were giving it up when we traded him."
The Nationals recalled catcher Jhonatan Solano and left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno from Triple-A Syracuse to fill the two open spots on the active roster.
Royals: Yost calls team meeting
The Royals had lost five straight and eight of their 10 entering Friday's series opener against the Nationals, prompting manager Ned Yost to host a rare team meeting.
"We were just going over some things to help them get out of this little slide we're in," he said.
The meeting failed to pay dividends, at least in the following game, as Kansas City let an early lead slip away in an 11-10 defeat.
"We're not getting the job done," Yost said. "We've been making excuses all year long of why we're doing this or why we're doing that. We've got 36 games left and it boils down to we're doing it or we're not. It's as simple as that."
• The Nationals scored more runs in the fourth inning on Friday (seven) than they had scored in any inning since Aug. 13, 2012.
• Alex Gordon has hit safely in six straight games. He is 9-for-25 (.360) during that span.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.