Jordan Zimmermann was (1-3) with a 7.18 ERA, 24 Ks (8.20 K/9), six walks (2.05 BB/9) and six home runs (2.05 BB/9) allowed in 26 1/3 IP in the month of July, with opposing hitters posting a .321/.356/.589 line against the right hander. In 16 starts from April through June, the 27-year-old starter had a 2.28 ERA, 80 Ks (6.27 K/9), 17 walks (1.33 BB/9) and eight home runs (0.63 HR/9) allowed over 114 2/3 IP in which the opposition posted a .209/.243/.315 line against him.
The Washington Nationals' '07 2nd Round pick skipped the All-Star Game to rest a bothersome neck for the second half, but came out of the break with back-to-back losses in which he gave up 14 hits, four home runs and 12 runs total, all earned over 8 2/3 IP, raising some concerns about whether or not the neck remained an issue.
Zimmermann kept the ball in the yard in his first three starts in August, however, which saw the Nats' starter post a 1.59 ERA over 17 IP with eight walks (4.24 BB/9), 12 Ks (6.35 K/9) and a .262/.347/.369 line against him. Just when it appeared he was getting back on track, however, the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born pitcher took the mound in Wrigley Field in Chicago last night and got pounded by the Cubs, surrendering seven hits, three of them home runs and eight runs total in five innings of work in an 11-1 Nationals' loss.
Nate Schierholtz got hold of a 2-2 curve in the home-half of the first and hit a three-run blast after Zimmermann gave up a double by Junior Lake and a walk to Dioner Navarro. Schierholtz hit an 0-2 fastball to right for an RBI double in the third that made it 4-0 and Donnie Murphy hit a 1-0 heater out to right in the Cubs' fourth to make it 5-0. A double by Lake, walk to Darwin Barney and three-run home run by Navarro in the fifth made it 8-0, but Zimmermann finished the inning before he was done for the night.
"I know he feels good," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game when he was asked if he had any concerns about his starter's health. "He's not complaining about anything. He feels pretty good and it's real frustrating when you feel good and you get hit. But it's all about making pitches and using every pitch to set up pitches. Especially in this ballpark, you make a mistake here anybody can get it."
"[He] left the ball up and this is a ballpark [where] you leave the ball out over the plate, bad things happen," Johnson, who hit four home runs himself in 33 career games in Wrigley said. "The first one was a bad curve ball to Schierholtz. Two strikes, he's protecting and [Zimmermann] left a curve ball up belt high, that's going to happen. But any time you don't get ahead and you leave the ball up out over the plate you're going to get hit and hit hard."
"You've just got to keep the ball down," Zimmermann told reporters, "and you leave the ball up, you're going to get hurt and you're going to get hurt bad in this ballpark and, you know, that's what happened tonight."
"He's a tremendous pitcher," his manager explained, "He's going to be fine. This was not good, obviously, but I think he came throught it all right."
Cubs' starter Jeff Samardzija gave up just one home run in nine innings of work last night, though the Nationals' one run came on a blast by Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos that cleared the left field stands and landed on Waveland Ave. "You have to tip your hat to Samardzija," Johnson said afterwards. "I mean, he pitched a heck of a ballgame. He's a tough competitor. Made good quality pitches all night and used his offspeed stuff to set up his fastball. Here's a guy that can throw high 90s and he locates all his pitches well. Had a good slider. He pitched a heck of a ballgame.
"When somebody is on like that, it's tough. And he was definitely on. He didn't leave a whole lot of balls out over the plate. Kept the ball down when he needed to and just pitched a heck of a ballgame."
The Nationals' offense once again failed to get much going, with just six hits total on the night and no walks from a pitcher who'd walked over three a game so far this season. Washington lost it's 64th game last night in Chicago, falling to 60-64 a year after they lost 64 total while going 98-64 and winning the NL East.
"As I said all along," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper reiterated after the loss, "I like the talent we have. But some of them are still in learning curves and we're not as consistent as we should be. We have a few little glitches with the pitching staff occasionally. But I still like this ballclub. And tomorrow is another day."
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