Through his first five starts this season, Jordan Zimmermann has looked like one of the very best pitchers in baseball, like he could be the ace of almost any staff in the league. But in Tuesday nights 5-1 loss to Arizona, Zimmermann finally showed some signs of imperfection, specifically in a rough seventh inning in which he gave up more earned runs than he had allowed in an entire game all season.
Zimmermann started the game as well as he had in his previous four, a stable stretch of five straight games allowing just one earned run through at least six innings pitched. But an aggressive approach throughout the game from the Diamondbacks finally paid off late.
Cody Ransom led off the seventh with a single to left off a slider Zimmermann threw after two fastballs. John McDonald then hit the next pitch, another single to left. Trevor Cahill then advanced the two into scoring position with a near-perfect bunt as Zimmermann had to dive to field the ball and throw him out. He intentionally walked the next batter then walked to the bullpen to watch two runs credited to him allowed by his replacement Ryan Mattheus.
I knew they swung early in the count and were pretty aggressive, I just had to make quality pitches earlier in the count and let them get themselves out, he said.
I was able to do that for the most part in the beginning of the game and later in the game I just missed on a few.
Zimmermann pitched in 80-degree heat with high humidity - his first start of the year in hot weather and acknowledged the conditions after the game. Arizona was also much more aggressive early in counts, but that is something Zimmermann believes should play in his favor.
I would rather have an aggressive team. If I can make my pitch I know they are going to put it in play and if they put it in play theyre not going to get a base hit every single time. Early outs are what Im looking for.
Zimmermanns statistics so far support his claim, he has only struck out 22 batters in 33.1 innings pitched but holds a .84 WHIP. Despite a two-run inning and eight hits allowed against Arizona he still has a 1.89 ERA a .207 batting average against. And on top of all that he has walked just three batters and allowed only one home run.
Overall it was another solid outing that should have earned him a win, but lately the Nationals lineup hasnt been able to produce much of anything. After six they were still without a run, not that Zimmermann is used to great run support, but pitching so well without any help can be wear old.
The pitching has been outstanding. Zimmermann was strong, he got a little tired late and the ball started coming up, but you cant put it straight on the pitching staff, manager Davey Johnson said.
We have to start scoring some runs. You cant just be that fine all the time.
The Nationals rotation is probably used to carrying the team at this point, Zimmermanns 1.89 ERA is actually above the staffs total average of 1.79. Johnson after the game was frustrated with the lack of scoring. Not scoring puts more pressure on the pitching staff and mistakes get magnified.
The pitchers know they gotta be pretty good, I think the last five or so games weve average two runs or something, he said. Thats just not gonna cut it.