The Tigers are set to visit Nationals Park for the first time, but they won't be staying for long.
Detroit will begin a two-game series in Washington on Tuesday night, its first trip to the nation's capital since 2007, when it swept three games at RFK Stadium. The Tigers come in hot, 4-0 on their road trip after a sweep of the Astros and with nine wins in their past 10 games. The Nationals have won two straight and come home off a 4-3 road trip.
Although the Tigers are new to Nationals Park, their starting pitcher on Tuesday is not. Anibal Sanchez, who played for the Marlins until his trade to Detroit last summer, is 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in six career starts there. In 19 total games against the Nationals, he is 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA.
The Detroit right-hander is 3-2 with a 1.82 ERA this season. He hasn't allowed a home run and has held the opposition to three runs or fewer in each of his six outings. After a 17-strikeout performance against the Braves on April 26, he struck out nine more on Wednesday against Minnesota, overcoming a tough start to retire the last 11 batters he faced.
"He calmed himself down," catcher Brayan Pena said, "and he came back with me and said, 'Let's keeping attacking the strike zone. Let's not shy away from contact.' And that's exactly what he did. He kept us in the ballgame. He gave us a shot to come back."
Sanchez will face off against Jordan Zimmermann, one of the few pitchers off to a stronger start this season. Zimmermann enters Tuesday with an 18-inning scoreless streak. The righty has logged two complete games, including a shutout, and opponents are batting .168 with a .446 OPS against him.
Zimmermann (5-1, 1.64 ERA), who will make his first appearance against the Tigers, allowed two hits, walked none and struck out eight Braves on Tuesday.
"He's obviously got everything working right now," said Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki. "He's pitching up in the zone, down in the zone, in and out, he's really mixing it up with his breaking balls, he's throwing breaking balls for strikes. He's got it working. Even during the game, he keeps it loose. He's really fun to work with."
Tigers: Some rest for the weary
The Tigers' games in Washington are bookended by a pair of off-days, giving manager Jim Leyland a chance to rest players who are dealing with various dings and dents. He kept right fielder Torii Hunter and shortstop Jhonny Peralta out of Sunday's lineup.
"It's good therapy for them to get back-to-back days," Leyland said. "We had the 14-inning game [Thursday] and a long game [a 17-2 Tigers win on Friday night], so it's good to get a little reprieve. It's good to get guys two days off in a row. It makes a lot of sense to me."
Leyland said he plans to play in a golf tournament with his coaches at a Robert Trent Jones course in the D.C. area on Monday, then have dinner with his wife, Katie, who is flying in.
Nationals: Werth targeting return
• Right fielder Jayson Werth did not play in the team's three-game weekend series in Pittsburgh and has appeared in one game since April 29 as he battles a tight right hamstring. He is hoping to be back in the lineup on Tuesday, but acknowledged that his return could be delayed until Friday, when the Cubs come to Nationals Park.
Werth said he needs the hamstring to "loosen up" before he can play, but he does not expect to need a stint on the disabled list.
• Denard Span missed Saturday's game with a right ankle injury, but was back leading off and playing center field on Sunday. He went 1-for-5 with a single and a stolen base.
• The Tigers have won all six games against the Nationals since the franchise moved to Washington from Montreal.
• Sanchez held most of the Nationals' key hitters in check during his days with the Marlins. Ryan Zimmerman is 10-for-42 (.238) with one home run against him, Adam LaRoche is 6-for-30 (.200) and Werth is 5-for-30 (.167) with one homer.
• Sanchez is one of three Tigers to have faced Zimmermann. Infante, another former Marlin, is the only one with more than three at-bats, going 3-for-14 with a homer.
Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.