In two starts since deciding against pitching in the All-Star Game so that he could rest a bothersome neck issue, 27-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann has given up 14 hits, five walks and 12 runs in 8 2/3 IP in which he's given up four home runs. Zimmermann gave up three home runs in one game back on May 29th in Baltimore, but he gave up four home runs in 52 2/3 innings over his next eight starts, allowing just 45 hits, eight walks and 20 runs, 17 earned over that stretch. Opponents had a .225/.258/.365 line against him in those starts.
The Nationals were 7-1 with Zimmermann (4-1) in those eight outings, but after tying his personal high for wins in a season back on July 1st, the Nats' best starter in the first half is (0-3) with Washington 1-3 when he takes the mound. Over the last two starts, opposing hitters have a .359/.432/.769 line against Zimmermann. He was out after just two innings in a 9-2 loss to the LA Dodgers in his first start after the Break and he hung around for 6 2/3 last time he took the mound against the New York Mets last Friday in Nationals Park.
Before the start against Los Angeles, Zimmermann had seven days of rest since he didn't pitch in Citi Field at the 2013 Mid-Summer Classic, and he said afterwards that in spite of the results he felt better than he had in some time after resting his neck. "Overall today," he told reporters after the game, "I felt the best I've felt in a long time. And the command wasn't quite there and all my misses that I left over the plate got hit hard today."
The two home runs the Dodgers hit both came on sliders, first to Matt Kemp in a 2-2 count and then to Hanley Ramirez, who crushed a 1-0 bender that the Nats' starter left up in what ended up a seven-run, 40-pitch second inning for LA that ended Zimmermann's day. "I hung a few sliders," Zimmermann said, "Two home runs were hanging sliders. When I did make some quality pitches, they had good swings on them. They're hot right now and it was just one of those days."
New York second baseman Daniel Murphy was all over Zimmermann in his last start before today. In a first inning at bat, the Mets' infielder crushed a belt-high 1-1 slider that broke over the heart of the plate, sending a solo home run out to right-center in Nationals Park to make it 1-0 NY after one. Murphy came up with a runner on in the top of the third, and worked the count full before sending another slider out to right for a two-run line drive that curled just inside foul pole to make it 3-0 early in a game that would end up a forgettable 11-0 loss.
"[Zimmermann] threw the ball good," Davey Johnson said after the start. "He was strong. But just not a very good outcome. Threw a lot of ptiches for him. I don't know if he was trying to be too fine. The first whirly bird he threw in there on the first home run was not a good one. And then he threw some good ones. But a bad place for Murphy, the second one too, down and in."
After a dominant (3-0) June in which he held opponents to a .181/.230/.291 line and posted a 2.06 ERA in five starts and 35 IP in which he allowed seven walks (1.80 BB/9) while striking out 31 batters (7.97 K/9), Zimmermann posted a 7.18 ERA with six walks (2.05 BB/9) and 24 Ks (8.20 K/9) in his last 26 1/3 IP in July, with opposing hitters combining for a .321/.356/.589 line.
He makes his first start of August tonight in his home state of Milwaukee, where the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born right-hander has made just one start in his career.
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