The Washington Times - August 11, 2011, 02:02PM

CHICAGO — In about a half hour, Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound for one of his final three or four starts of the 2011 season. With his impending 160-inning limit looming with every start he’s made since the All-Star break, the Nationals are going to savor every time he takes the mound in these last few starts with the hope that, next year, he’ll be pitching 200-plus innings without incident.

Zimmermann, who is approaching the two-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery, has been the Nationals best pitcher this season with a 3.12 ERA, 112 strikeouts and allowing more than two earned runs in just six of his 22 starts this season. His 7-9 record is not nearly indicative of the superb season he’s put together and the dominance he’s displayed on several occasions in 138 1/3 innings of work.


But after Thursday afternoon, he’ll only get the chance to do it two or three more times this year.

“If I didn’t know his history, it wouldn’t be in my thought process (to shut him down),” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said, noting how good Zimmermann has been.

“It’s a new thing for me to have to shut a guy down but that’s going to be the best for him and the best for our organization.”

Zimmermann will face the Cubs for the second time this season, the first being one of the rare less-than-dominant outings from the 25-year-old when he went six innings and allowed four earned runs off eight hits and a walk. The Nationals won that game, though 5-4 on the Fourth of July at Nationals Park. 

Here are the lineups behind he and Cubs starter Ryan Dempster:


Rick Ankiel CF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Laynce Nix LF
Ian Desmond SS
Wilson Ramos C
Jordan Zimmermann P 


Starlin Castro SS
Reed Johnson RF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
Marlon Byrd CF
Alfonso Soriano LF
Darwin Barney 2B
Koyie Hill C
Ryan Dempster P