Blunt as Davey Johnson may have been in his assessment of Nats' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann's last start, on the road in Houston, the 25-year-old right-hander was just as hard on himself when he spoke to reporters in the visiting team's clubhouse following Washington's 7-6 loss to the Astros.
"I just didn't have a good feel for much of anything," the Nats' '07 2nd Round pick said, "My slider was pretty terrible tonight and I had a rough time locating the fastball and when you have nights like that you're going to get hit around."
Nine days after he'd thrown 6.1 scoreless against the Rockies in a 2-0 win over Colorado, Zimmermann surrendered a season-high six runs on seven hits and though it went out to left in homer-friendly Minute Maid Park in Houston he did surrender just the second HR he's allowed since May and only the 5th HR he's allowed in 120.0 innings pitched this season.
"The thing that bothered me the most that whole ballgame," Davey Johnson told reporters...
...zeroing in on an bat in the fourth with runners on second and third in which Zimmermann surrendered a two-run single to Clint Barmes, "I'm not one, over my whole career with good young pitchers, good arms, and I have a couple guys in scoring position and I've got a base open, if he gets ahead of the guy, I don't expect him to make bad pitches. I expect that the hitter's got to hit a pitch off the plate and a nasty pitch and [Zimmermann] hung a slider right down the middle, it was flat, and drove in a run and then the squeeze [he] didn't cover first."
The 2-2 slider the Nats' right-hander threw the Astros' shortstop was lined back up the middle for an RBI single that made it 3-2 Astros. Asked if he gave Barmes a little too nice a two-strike pitch, Zimmermann told reporters, "I probably could have thrown something in the dirt, but it's one of those nights where I didn't have a feel for slider, curve ball, I mean, none of my offspeed [pitches]. I didn't really know where it was going to go, so I'll just work on it next bullpen and be ready to go in five days."
The comment about not getting over to first referred to the at bat after Barmes' RBI single when Astros' catcher Humberto Quintero bunted with runners on first and third and beat the covering pitcher to first for an RBI bunt single that made it 4-2 Houston and extended what ended up being a four-run inning which ended with Washington down 6-2 in what ends up a 7-6 loss.
"Those things upset me," the Nats' Skipper said, "I thought he battled and maybe he didn't have his best stuff, but the one thing, when you've got two strikes on a hitter, basically you just don't give him a cookie. There's a lot of times during the course of a year where I'll have situations in the middle of the lineup where I definitely don't want to give in and give a really good hitter a pitch to hit."
"Any other situation, with the catcher coming up," Johnson continued, "the 7th hole hitter hitting .250, if he gets ahead of him, I'm willing to make a good pitch and get him out and if he doesn't I'll walk him and try for the double play, but then you have to give in to the hitter and he needs to learn how to do that."
"It's a shame that the offense puts up six runs and I feel like it I didn't do my part," Zimmermann said of the outing in which he threw 86 pitches, 64 of them strikes. "I've got to just get my work in the next four or five days and be ready to go next time I step on the mound."
Zimmermann starts against the Marlins tonight in Nats Park, six days after his last start. The right-hander's got a 160.0 inning-limit this season and he starts his 20th outing of the year at 120.0 innings even. He's already allowed more runs in three July starts and 17.1 IP than he did in 6 starts and 42.1 IP in June. Enjoy Jordan Zimmermann's 2011 starts while you can.