In ten 2013 starts before Jordan Zimmermann's last outing in Baltimore, Maryland's Orioles Park at Camden Yards, the Washington Nationals' 27-year-old right-hander had a 1.71 ERA, nine walks and 46 Ks over 73 and 2/3 innings of work. The Nats' '07 2nd Round pick had given up just three home runs total on the year and he'd held opposing hitters to a combined .206/.236/.281 line. The O's, however, knocked Zimmermann around. Home runs were flying out of OPACY that night at an alarming rate.
The three the Orioles hit doubled Zimmermann's total allowed on the season. He gave up ten hits and the seven runs Baltimore scored left him with a 2.37 ERA on the year. "They're a good hitting ballclub," Zimmermann said after the loss. "Early on -- I mean, all game, I guess, I felt like I wasn't getting ahead of the guys. Falling behind and then I have to battle to get back into a good count and they made me pay tonight."
Zimmermann told reporters afterwards that he couldn't change what he was doing to adjust to the ballpark. "I just try to pitch my game and throw strikes and make them put them in play," the Nats' starter explained. "But a few of the balls went out, I thought they were routine pop-ups and they kept going and you can't really do much about that. You can't change your game to pitch to a small ballpark."
"I thought [Jordan Zimmermann] had some pretty good stuff," Davey Johnson said after the loss. "But this ballpark can eat you alive." It went both ways that night. The Nationals got four home runs, three from Ryan Zimmerman and one from Roger Bernadina in what ended up a 9-6 loss. That he got support and couldn't hold the Orioles in the park frustrated the Nationals' starter.
"Those guys gave me six runs like that, I've got to be able to do a better job," Zimmermann said. "We should win this ballgame. It's solely on me, this one, and I'll come back in five days and be ready to go."
Tuesday night in Nationals Park, Zimmermann will get a chance to bounce back from that outing against the Orioles when he takes on one of the only other two teams that have managed to beat him so far this season. After throwing a complete game on 103 pitches on April 15th in Miami, Zimmermann took the mound against the Mets in Citi Field the next time out and threw 96 pitches in a 3-1 loss to New York. Mets' catcher John Buck hit one of the six home runs Zimmermann's allowed this season that day and Mike Baxter made the Nats' starter pay for a leadoff walk to David Wright in the fourth when he hit a bases loaded sac fly to right after the Mets' infielder had moved around to third.
Those were the only two runs Zimmermann allowed that day, but the 33-pitch fourth inning pushed him up to 76 pitches and a 20-pitch fifth ended his outing.
"Zim throwing about 100 pitches in five innings is not typical, coming off a complete game..." Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters after what was Zimmermann's first loss of the season. "He threw a few more breaking balls. But he kept us in the ballgame and the bullpen did a good job."
Zimmermann's only other loss this year came on the road in San Diego when he gave up seven hits and two runs, one earned in an eight-inning, complete game, 2-1 loss to the Padres. The Nats' right-hander is (3-3) with a 3.09 ERA, 3.57 FIP, five walks (1.03 BB/9) and 32 Ks (6.60 K/9) in 43 and 2/3 innings on the road so far this season.
Tuesday night, Zimmermann will be back in the nation's capital where he's (5-0) in five starts with a 1.50 ERA, 2.90 FIP, five walks (1.25 BB/9) and 17 Ks (4.25 K/9) in 36 IP at home in 2013, over which he's held opponents to a .218/.246/.280 line. The unbeaten streak for Zimmermann in the nation's capital now stretches back sixteen starts back to May 17th of last season when the Pittsburgh Pirates beat him in Nationals Park. Over those 16 outings, Zimmermann's (10-0) with the Nats 13-3 with him on the mound. Can Zimmermann continue the unbeaten streak at home?
The Nationals, who lost four of five on the road trip to Baltimore and Atlanta including each of the last two against the Braves, could use a strong, stop-the-bleeding outing from the pitcher who's been their no.1 starter so far this summer.