In the Nationals' 15-1 pounding of the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, manager Matt Williams was afforded the opportunity of letting several key players sit out the later innings. Bryce Harper, for one, was pulled in the sixth to rest his left glute tightness. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth also hit the showers and called it an early night.
Jordan Zimmermann was among those given an early exit and it came at a good time for the right-hander. Zimmermann was coming off three straight outings where he threw 100 pitches or more. He had topped the century mark in four of his previous five starts.
This time? Only 87, which sets him up rather nicely to face the New York Mets on Tuesday in Washington.
"It's huge," he said. "I've had a couple of outings where I've pitched 100 or 115 pitches. To have a short one like this and get a little extra rest and hopefully be good to go when we face those guys."
"It’s important to limit Zim a little bit," Williams said. "He’s been , 116, 100 his last three. Those are some heavy workloads so we got him out of the game which is good. A limited pitch count through six so that’s a good thing for him going into his next one."
Zimmermann made it through six innings with just one run on two hits allowed, but he gave up four walks, which tied a career-high. He also had a balk for just the second time in his career (7/31/2011).
This one came in the second inning and it helped Atlanta score a run. The mistake moved Nick Swisher to second and the Braves outfielder later scored on a groundout by Hector Olivera.
"I guess it's [from watching] a little too much Little League World Series," Zimmermann joked. "I got on the mound and I knew something wasn't right. Then I went to step off and I ended up stepping off with the wrong foot. That was a huge mistake on my part and it ended up costing me a run."
Forgive Zimmermann if he was a little out of rhythm. The Nationals' starter had unusually long rests in between innings, as the Nats scored their 15 runs on 18 hits and eight walks. Inning after inning they loaded the bases and sustained long rallies against a total of eight Braves pitchers.
"It's tough. Long innings and you're sitting around and your arm gets a little tight. But I'd rather have a long inning with a bunch of runs then short, quick innings," Zimmermann said.
Zimmermann has now won four consecutive starts and sits at 12-8 with a 3.38 on the season. Against the Braves in 2015 he is 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA (7 ER in 34.2 IP).
Zimmermann has gone at least six innings with only one earned run allowed in four of his last six outings. The other two in that stretch were games in which he gave up four earned runs on at least eight hits.
That right there kind of sums up Zimmermann's 2015 season. He has shown flashes of brilliance, looking like the top shelf starter he has been over the last four years. But periodically he will put out a few clunkers that produce a sum of inconsistency.
Zimmermann now, though, looks well-positioned for his next outing against the Mets. He has some momentum and a well-rested arm working in his favor with his biggest start of the season so far on the horizon.