Jordan Zimmermann improved on last week's outing in Boston's Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon in the nation's capital, but it still wasn't vintage Zimmermann. For one thing, he walked four batters, something he's done just four times in his seven major league seasons.
"Threw strikes," Matt Williams said. "He just wasn't quite as sharp as normal."
More importantly, in Williams' opinion, Zimmermann on Saturday erased any doubts about his health, which came up after his fastball sat around 90-91 mph in his first two starts, down from the 93-94 mph he'd averaged throughout his career before this season.
"His velo was there," Williams said. "It was strong, felt good. Just couldn't get it done today."
So about the walks?
A free pass to Jeff Francoeur in the top of the second caused no damage.
Phillies' leadoff man Odubel Herrera walked with two down in the fifth, promptly stole second and then scored on a single to center by Freddy Galvis, giving Philadelphia a 3-2 lead.
With the score tied back up at 3-3, Zimmermann walked Francoeuer again in the top of the sixth, but a double play erased the runner.
Zimmerman walked Ryan Howard in the first at bat of the seventh, giving the Phillies' struggling .167-hitting slugger just the second free pass he's earned this season.
Howard's pinch runner, Ben Revere stole second and eventually came around to score what ended up being the winning run.
"I was varying my looks and holding and trying to go fast," Zimmermann said after the outing when one reporter wondered if he needed to adjust something when it came to holding runners.
"You have to probably give those guys credit, they had some speedy runners on base. That part of my game has to be better and I will get better."
"Just not as sharp," Williams said when he too was asked about the walks, "but all those questions are answered regarding how he's feeling. I think he's okay. He's good, he just didn't throw it exactly where he wanted to. But he kept us in it. We were in it."
"It was better," Zimmermann agreed.
"But I still had four walks and that's unacceptable. Two of them came around and scored. I have to clean them up and do better next time."
His first four-walk start since 2013, the right-hander explained, was not a result of being wild, but more an issue of trying to be too "fine" with his pitches.
"I was just trying to be too fine and then I'd end up missing and be falling behind," Zimmermann said, "and then I would really make a mistake and miss badly.
"I was just thinking I get 2-0 or 3-0 and then I would tell myself, 'You have to throw a strike,' and when you do that it's never going to be a strike. And it's not like me. I've gotta just pound the zone and attack the hitters."
The improvements he needs to make, the Nationals '07 2nd Round pick said, are more mental than anything mechanical.
"Just not think as much," Zimmermann said. "Just go after these guys. I know my stuff is better than these guys and I just have to go after them and not be so fine and try to make the perfect pitch all the time."