Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams pushed Doug Fister's 2014 debut back to keep Stephen Strasburg on regular rest and use him in last Wednesday's series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fister debuted on Friday, seven days after his previous outing, struggled with his command, and was up in the zone during the loss to the Oakland A's.
Williams said afterwards that Fister may have been too strong.
"The ball just wasn't sinking much," Williams said. "That's probably a case of feeling maybe too good. And certainly wanting to do well, but he'll be much better next time."
Fister declined to blame his performance on extra rest, saying that it's his job to take the mound and produce whenever he's called upon to do so.
"No matter what day you pitch, it's a matter of going out there and executing," he said.
"Whether you're a little sore or whether you're feeling great, you've just got to make the adjustment and I didn't make the adjustment tonight."
Jordan Zimmermann, as CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman pointed out last night, is a pitcher whose career numbers show he's been much better on regular rest:
Zimmermann 61 career starts on normal rest: 2.99 ERA. 60 career starts on extra rest: 3.89 ERA. Had 2 extra days' rest entering tonight.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) May 13, 2014
Last night in Arizona, pitching on six days' rest, Zimmermann struggled with his command, giving up 10 hits total, with Arizona's hitters connecting for five doubles and a home run in just 5 2/3 IP before he was lifted with the Diamondbacks up 5-4.
The 27-year-old right-hander needed 92 pitches to get through the five-plus innings and he was up in the zone at times, leading to the extra base hits. Williams said that as much as they would like to keep all the starters on regular rest it's been tough with the way the schedule is set up.
"It's kind of the way it's been forced upon us -- the off days, and we're going to get another one," he said, noting that there's another travel day on Thursday before the Nats start a three-game set with the Mets in the nation's capital.
"All these off days in a month certainly doesn't lend to normal rest, but nonetheless he was just rotational. He was just flying open a little bit tonight and the ball flattens out on him and he gets up in the strike zone."
"'My fastball was up,'" Zimmermann told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner.
"'And I was trying to go down and away or down and in and it was coming back over the middle. I need my misses to be off the plate not over the the plate.'"
The Nationals took a 2-0 lead early, but the Diamondbacks rallied in the third with Paul Goldschmidt doubling in a run and catcher Miguel Montero singling in two with a line drive to center field.
"Just up in the zone," Williams said. "He got a little rotational tonight instead of going downhill plane to those guys. His breaking ball -- [Paul Goldschmidt] hit a fastball the other way, but Miguel hit a breaking ball."
The Nationals led 4-3 after Ian Desmond's two-run blast in the fourth, but after a quick, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth, the D-Backs got to the Nats' right-hander again in the sixth with Aaron Hill doubling and scoring on a home right to right by A.J. Pollock. When pinch hitter Alfredo Marte connected for the fifth double of the game, Williams went to his bullpen, ending Zimmermann's eighth start of the season.
"There just wasn't any tilt," the Nats' skipper said. "So, we had a chance to get [Jerry Blevins] in there against [Gerardo Parra] and decided we'd do it at that point."
Blevins stranded the runner at second when Parra grounded out to second to end the sixth and the Nationals rallied in the ninth to pull off another improbable comeback.
Zimmermann ended the night with a 3.59 ERA, a 3.06 FIP, eight walks (1.69 BB/9) and 42 Ks (8.86 K/9) through 42 2/3 IP this season. The 10 hits he allowed matched a career high set last season when he was knocked around by the Baltimore Orioles in a particularly rough start against in Camden Yards. He was on regular rest that night.