In three starts before last night's outing against the Miami Marlins in the nation's capital, recently-turned-28-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann gave up 25 hits and 12 earned runs (6.11 ERA) over 17 ⅔ IP in which he walked four (2.04 BB/9) and struck out nine (4.59 K/9) while surrendering two home runs.
Opposing hitters put up a combined .329/.370/.500 line over that stretch.
Zimmermann started last night's game with three scoreless innings, pitching around a double and a single in the first, and retiring seven straight after Giancarlo Stanton took an 0-2 fastball back up the middle for a two-out hit in the opening frame.
The top of the fourth inning started with a single to left field by Marlins' infielder Derek Dietrich and a walk to Stanton, but it looked like some TOOTBLAN on the basepaths might help the Nats' starter out of trouble when Stanton was thrown out trying to take third on a line drive to right by Casey McGehee.
Stanton tried to go first-to-third on the hit, but didn't realize Dietrich pulled up at third. A quick rundown resulted in the first out of the frame, but with runners on the corners, Garrett Jones singled to right in the next at bat to drive in the game's first run.
One out later, Marcell Ozuna took a first-pitch curve to center for an RBI single and Adeiny Hechavarria followed with with a line drive to right field on which two runs scored, one on a throwing error charged to Jayson Werth that made it 4-0 Miami after three and a half innings.
The 22-pitch frame left Zimmermann at 66 pitches total.
In spite of the results, Zimmermann said he felt fine on the mound.
"My stuff is there," he told reporters after what ended up an 8-5 loss. "The fourth inning, Dietrich led off with a fastball down and away base hit. Jones got a hit on a high fastball that was a foot out of the zone. McGehee was a high fastball. I went back and looked at the film. I made some pretty good pitches. Ozuna was a curveball away. He's usually pretty bad on curveballs and he hits a rocket back up the middle. I'm making good pitches where I want and they're just squaring the ball up right now."
Zimmermann gave up one-out single in a 12-pitch fifth that pushed him up to 80 pitches total, and with the Nationals down by four runs, Nats' skipper Matt Williams hit for the pitcher when his spot came up with a runner on and one out in the bottom of the frame.
"We could have left him in that game," Williams explained, "but I wanted to see if we could get back in it. And so we ended up pinch hitting for him. We didn't have to."
"Obviously I want to go back out there and keep pitching and give this team a chance to win," Zimmermann said. "But at the same point we're down four runs and it was the skipper's decision and I'm fine with whatever he does."
Williams was asked if there was anything wrong with the right-hander that might account for his struggles in the last few outings or the sort-of early hook.
"The ball is up in the strike zone a little bit," Williams said. "That's what I can see. He's aggressive. He's throwing strikes. He's not walking a bunch of people. They put together some nice at bats. If anything it's just a little bit elevated and it varies from inning to inning sometimes, but I'm not worried about him. His velocity is good, his bullpens have been great. So I don't see any trend, other than tonight he left a couple balls up and he took advantage of it."
"I thought I threw the ball pretty well except for the fourth inning where I made some good pitches and I threw a fastball up about neck high to Jones and he somehow hit the ball," Zimmermann continued.
"I thought I made some good pitches that inning too, but luck is just not on my side right now and these guys are squaring some balls up pretty hard and I have to keep grinding and somehow make my way through this."
Williams said there was no sign of any physical issues with the Nats' starter.
"He says it feels great," Williams responded. "Everything is working fine. He's throwing all of his pitches for strikes and velocity is good, 94-95. I don't see any issue and he hasn't reported one, so, he's okay I think."
The Nationals rallied to tie it up before losing in extra innings to fall two games below .500 at 25-27 on the year.
Through 11 starts, Zimmermann, who received no decision in the Nationals' loss, is (3-2) with a 4.07 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 13 walks (1.96 BB/9) and 50 Ks (7.54 K/9) in 59 ⅔ IP
Zimmermann admitted that he and his teammates were frustrated.
"There's a little frustration. Obviously you're going to have frustration when you're losing ballgames. But for the most part, guys are trying to stay upbeat and trying to get their work in and trying to get better and that's all we can really do right now."
"We're going to keep grinding every day," Williams said. "Got an off day tomorrow and come back and regroup and keep battling. That's all we can do. We're hitting the ball hard. We're pitching pretty good. We're just not getting results right now."