Skip to content

Wasted gem

Jun 14, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images USA Today Sports Images

On the heels of what was — at least by one statistical measure — the best-pitched game in Nationals history, Jordan Zimmermann faced a daunting challenge trying to come anywhere close to duplicating his effort from five nights prior.

Yet the right-hander very nearly did it last night in St. Louis, tossing his second straight complete game, allowing only three hits and a walk, never giving the Cardinals one opportunity to step to the plate with a man in scoring position and doing all this in only 76 pitches.

Pity that it had to come in a loss, a 1-0 heartbreaker at Busch Stadium.

Zimmermann’s lone mistake of the evening — a second-inning changeup right down Broadway to Matt Adams — resulted in the lone run of the game scored by either team. Lance Lynn was one pitch better than his counterpart, tossing eight scoreless innings, carrying a perfect game into the sixth and never letting the Nationals get even a hint of a rally going all night.

That lack of offense will be the biggest takeaway from this game, a frustrating loss for a club that had been red-hot but continues to be lorded over by the Cardinals — who have now won 10 of the last 12 head-to-head meetings between these two teams, beginning with that fateful Game 5 on South Capitol Street more than a year-and-a-half ago.

But Zimmermann’s gem, even in defeat, shouldn’t be overlooked. In the bigger picture, it’s probably more significant, because it’s a continuation of a complete turnaround by the right-hander over the last two weeks.

Remember how bad Zimmermann looked in May? Remember the concerns that arose after he ended the season’s second month with a 4.07 ERA and .307 opponents’ batting average?

Well, that’s ancient history now, because Zimmermann has been nothing short of dominant ever since. He shut out the Phillies over eight innings. Then he shut out the Padres with his 12-strikeout, 0-walk masterpiece earlier in the week. And now he adds another gem to the mix.

Put it all together, and Zimmermann now sports an 0.36 ERA in June, having allowed 10 hits and two walks over 25 innings, striking out 21 along the way.

And that 4.07 season ERA? Well, all of a sudden it’s down to 2.98. That .307 opponents’ batting average? It’s all the way down to .259.

Sure, it would’ve been nice if Zimmermann could’ve been rewarded for his efforts last night with a win. But in the big picture, that’s less significant than the fact one of the Nationals’ most-important pitchers looks like an ace once again.

  1. mauimo22 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    Nats MUST find a way to turn the corner on teams like the Cards and Braves, solve whatever mental issues that are holding them back. I mean, there is a reason why the Cards are barely over .500 – other teams beat them, now it’s our TIME!

    Go NATS!

    • micksback1 - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      AGREED…BINGO, that is all I have been saying, must get over mental barrier

  2. Faraz Shaikh - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    I wouldn’t call a pitching performance like that a waste. Good job JZ! I was getting a bit worried few starts ago but now all is well.

  3. unterp - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    whether he was stroking the ball or not Tatanka was one of two players the Nationals could least afford to lose. Guess who wants to run sprints to 2nd base in the top of the 9th inning who is now on injured reserve? It has a domino effect on the team. I don’t ever want to seen Tatanka more than half speed again…

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:18 AM

      ?

      • veejh - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Tatanka….Buffalo

  4. unkyd59 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Personally, I am ready for the ratio of St Louis Cardinals references to “game 5″ references to fall to 10:1, or so, from the current, long-standing 1:1. There’s no reason to mention that game every time we discuss the Redbirds….

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:19 AM

      +1

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:27 AM

      +2

    • nats128 - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Its right in Mark’s story and I agree it probaly doesnt need a reference.

      “That lack of offense will be the biggest takeaway from this game, a frustrating loss for a club that had been red-hot but continues to be lorded over by the Cardinals — who have now won 10 of the last 12 head-to-head meetings between these two teams, beginning with that fateful Game 5 on South Capitol Street more than a year-and-a-half ago.”

    • mauimo22 - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:54 AM

      Agreed! Put it behind us and move on.

  5. Section 222 - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    So much for run differential. The fact that we clobbered some teams in the last few weeks doesn’t help you win a game like last night’s. But I tend to agree that JZnn’s performance was not a waste. It builds his confidence and his reputation for dominance. (Not to mention his stats for the future contract negotiations.)

    Unfortunately, Game 5 will be in all of our minds until we make the playoffs again and advance farther than we did the last time. It’s a reminder of despair and an inspiration for all of us, and hopefully for the Nats too.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    JZim had that stigma of pitching poorly against the Cardinals in his career to overcome and he proved the doubters wrong and he did pitch a gem. Another case of where the W/L was outside of his control.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      +1.

      People invest too much in these “vs opponent X” stats. JZimm is a stud and has been pitching extremely well lately, and that’s what really matters, as we saw.

      • masterfishkeeper - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:42 AM

        Agreed. Those stats are typically based on a small sample size. Also, personnel on teams change.

  7. Hiram Hover - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    Too bad the offense couldn’t come thru, but that was an absolutely awesome performance by JZimm.

    Wanted them to tie or take the lead in the top of the 9th, just so he could go out there again.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    Look at the top MLB ERAs and who is sitting at #21 #25 and #26. Roark, JZim and Stras. #17 would be a guy named Fister if he qualified with a few more starts as he has a 2.68 ERA. That would give the Nats 4 starters with ERA’s at 2.99 and under.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/pitching/_/qualified/true/type/sabermetric/order/false/minip/60

    I have to wonder about this special coach Livan Hernandez and the positive effect he is also having on these pitchers and also Matt Williams. Collectively, this group of 4 are pitching great. Attacking the zone, working quick, and making key pitches when they have to.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      Let’s hope this rubs off on Gio and we have 5 starters pitching great.

      • natinalsgo - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:08 AM

        That’s wishful thinking. I don’t think a DL stint will change a career of high pitch counts, lots of walks, and a pitcher who yells at himself on the mound.

        For me, I have hardly missed him. Treinen did an admirable job of taking that #5 spot that Gio will fill.

  9. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    I’ll back Mark Zuckerman up on the use of the term ‘wasted’ in the headline, at least from a team perspective. When your pitcher holds your opponent to only one run (and has only thrown 76 pitches in eight innings), you need to take advantage of that get the win. As good as the Nats pitching staff is, you don’t get that kind of performance every game.

    • NatsLady - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:13 AM

      Agreed. I had fun with Play Index (well, not fun, more like Schadenfreude) looking up pitchers who lost games like JZ’s. Not a lot since 1914.

      However, it could have been “worse.” How about what happened to King Felix? Lost on Robinson Cano’s fielding error on what should have been a game-ending doubleplay after he had already left the game.

      Speaking of errors, the Cards made two, and didn’t “pay” for either one.

      • nats128 - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        Wrong on King Felix, if Cano makes the play its a 0-0 game and wouldn’t have been game ending. Yes, he took a loss because of it but he wasn’t in-line for the win regardless as he was pulled for Rodney.

      • NatsLady - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        Oh, you are right, I took that from some headline. I’ll correct it. Still, an annoying loss for him… And for JZ.

    • veejh - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      Me too. It was a wasted performance, plain and simple. We’ve got to win those type of outings.

  10. NatsLady - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    Denard has been 0-fer in the last two games… Would like to see the spark plug spark again!

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    The worst complete game loss of Jordan Zimmermann’s career was the other 1-0 loss he had. That one was on June 29 2011 and he gave up 0 earned runs and 4 hits. Only run that scored was on an error by Ryan Zimmerman.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:28 AM

      Ouch.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      against Haren?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:30 AM

        You got it! Haren pitched a 3 hitter and was amazing.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        I won’t forget that one. I think we were doing well around that time. we had like a 11 game win streak, swept Cardinals I believe.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        The Nats were in that great June run and got over .500 and had a bunch of nice winning streaks.

  12. chaz11963 - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    I thought Lynn pitched well, but I didn’t think he was THAT good. The Nats looked great in the field, but seemed sluggish and not their usual aggressive selves at the plate. Maybe it was the travel, maybe a mental let down after the Giants series. They just didn’t seem like the same team on offense and I didn’t think it was because of super awesome-can’t-be-beat pitching. What does everyone else think?

    • nats128 - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      I agree with you on the part where Lynn wasnt that good. look at all the 3 ball counts and unfortunately they couldnt be worked into walks. BABIP was extremely unlucky and also the Cardinals made some of there own slick fielding plays.

      When the Cardinals finally made a mistake with Lobaton getting to 2nd the Nats couldnt get him in.

    • Doc - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

      Yeah, I kinda agree chaz.

      Lynn didn’t have great stuff, and he struck out some guys who don’ normally K on the kind of pitches that were thrown. RZim and ARen, paritcularly, swung at some really bad pitches.

      Battle fatigue left over from the west coast, and west coast travel.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:21 AM

        Not trying to be snarky, but if they swung at a ‘bad’ pitch from their perspective, doesn’t that make it a ‘good’ pitch from a pitcher’s perspective?

      • Doc - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        My point is that, good or bad from whomever’s perspective, they weren’t pitches that the two batters normally swung at.

    • zmunchkin - Jun 14, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      This should go down as a win for Molina. His ability to frame pitches and get balls as strikes was critical.

      Whenever a pitcher is getting an extra inch or so inside, outside and at the bottom of the strike zone, batters have to protect themselves by swinging at pitches that should be called, but won’t be called, balls.

  13. micksback1 - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    no problem with the loss, great duel. now I will have a problem if Nats cant win at least 1 game verse this team

  14. philipd763 - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Inconsistent offense is a continuing problem for this team. Ten seasons in DC and the Nationals still don’t have an acceptable leadoff hitter. Span, with his .300 OBP, isn’t cutting it. It’s also quite obvious when Ramos isn’t in the lineup, the offense tanks. The Nats stopped hitting when he went on the DL for the hand injury and again when he strained his hamstring.

    • chaz11963 - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      I think part of that is actually how the team is constructed. I don’t think the Nats have been built as an offensive power. They have been and continue to be built around pitching with a decent, albeit not powerful, offense.

      They really have been challenged to find a lead-off hitter. Span doesn’t seem to be a good fit for that role, even though that’s where he seems to want to hit. I think we would be much better off with him in the 7th or 8th hole. Or, how about #9- kind of a second lead off hitter after the first time through, with pitcher hitting 8th?

    • nats128 - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      You are looking at the full season which is fine however consider the last 4 weeks .306/.339/.463/.802

      Im in the camp that thinks if Span doesnt pick it up and keep it up then its an easy decision for Matty W to replace him with that guy Harper.

      • letswin3 - Jun 14, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        I like Span, BUT I like Zim and Harper in the lineup more. So I’ll have to agree with you that Span may end up on the bench. I still hope that Rizzo is searching like Boston Blackie to find a leadoff type second baseman ( Altuve?) to be the central focus of a blockbuster trade that could include Span, top pitching prospects, Moore, etc.

      • nats128 - Jun 14, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        Time for Harper to leadoff and be the Alfonso Soriano type of leadoff hitter.

  15. sjm308 - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Of course no one is ever happy with a loss.

    I am going against the grain again thinking that its not that important “who” we beat, just important that we win enough games to win the NL East. Sure, it would be nice to dominate the Braves and Cards because they are obviously teams we could see in Oct. but I will not worry about that until its time and actually won’t worry at all because that is not my nature. I guess my point is, I really don’t need to hear about game 5 and I really don’t need to think about this team not being capable of winning against good teams. Seems to me the Giants were the hottest team in baseball and how did that work out. Just dominate the teams that are playing under .500, win enough against those playing better than .500 and I think things will be fine.

    Go Nats!!

    • veejh - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      I dunno. Not getting over the mental hurdle of beating the Cards and Braves could loom large come postseason. These 2 remaining games and the upcoming Braves series are huge, imho.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        We took 2 of 4 in April.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 14, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        It’s the Gambler’s Fallacy. You’re hot/slumping until you aren’t. The post-hoc narrative will be “the Cards have their number” until the Nats beat them. Now, if the players buy into the mythology, that might hurt, and stuff like that does happen. Part of “Knowing how to win” is knowing there is no predestined outcome.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        The other part is scoring more runs than they do.
        “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 14, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        Great points, sofa

  16. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 14, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    Tom Gorzelanny is getting recalled by the Brewers from the DL.

  17. David Proctor - Jun 14, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    If (big IF) Span were to get benched, I think Rendon would bat leadoff. He did a nice job there when Span was on the DL. I think the lineup would go Rendon, Harper, Werth, LaRoche, Zim, Ramos, Desmond, Espinosa, Pitcher. Assuming all healthy.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jun 14, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      I really don’t like span to bench talk.

Archives

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter