Jordan Zimmermann and his struggles with extra rest

brushback_harperIf Jordan Zimmermann had taken the mound  Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers, he would have had five days of rest in between starts because of Monday’s offday. But because of Tuesday’s rainout, Zimmermann, one of the league’s best pitchers a month into the season, will get another day of rest. When he takes the mound on Wednesday evening, weather permitting, it will have been an entire week since he last started.

For some pitchers, such as veteran starter Dan Haren, extra time off in between starts is welcome rest. But for Zimmermann, it is actually not ideal. In his career, Zimmermann has a 2.61 ERA in 40 starts made after regular four days’ rest. Beyond that, the numbers begin to slide.

In 31 career starts made after five days’ rest, Zimmermann has a 4.21 ERA. And in 16 career starts made after six or more days’ rest, the right-hander has a 3.59 ERA. Wednesday’s start against the Tigers will be made on six days’ rest. In the past, the Nationals have attributed Zimmermann’s struggles with extra time off to being too strong. Starting pitchers are creatures of habit and routine, so when Zimmermann’s arm gets even more time to rest, he starts the game throwing too hard and missing his spots.

“I know my numbers aren’t as good when I’ve got more days off,” he said Tuesday. “I feel the same. I still feel good every time. It’s just one of those fluke things with more days off the worse my numbers are for whatever reason. Hopefully I can change that tomorrow.”

Beyond that, there are few reasons to believe Zimmermann will struggle against the Tigers. In his career, he has been utterly consistent and is in the midst of one of his hot streaks. He has allowed four base runners over the past two starts and has an ongoing streak of 18 scoreless innings. He has been the Nationals’ ace with a 1.64 ERA, among the best in baseball.

The Tigers are the highest-scoring offense in the majors, but Zimmermann faced their top lineup in spring training and retired 18 consecutive batters after a leadoff single. He fired all four of his pitches effectively in that outing — including his revamped change-up, which will be needed against the Tigers’ left-handed hitters Wednesday. That spring training start, however, he said, has no bearing on his upcoming regular season start against them.

“Spring training is still early for everyone,” Zimmermann said. “They’re swinging a good bat right now. I have to bring my A game and see what happens.”

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FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

On the Nationals’ new rainout ticket policy

Jayson Werth expected to return Wednesday from hamstring tightness

Bryce Harper not fined after ejection, receives more rest for bruised side

Tuesday’s Nationals-Tigers game postponed

After World Series predictions, Nationals and Tigers meet on the field

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 3, Durham 2: Eury Perez and Jeff Kobernus each knocked two hits. Jhonatan Solano went 3 for 4.  Chris Rahl had a two-run home run. Ryan Perry allowed two runs on five hits over six innings for the win. Fernando Abad and Michael Crotta each pitched scoreless innings and Erik Davis notched his third save.

Harrisburg 13, Altoona 2: Jimmy Van Ostrand went 4 for 5 with five RBI, including a two-run home run. Jose Lozado and Juston Bloxom each drove in two. Nate Karns allowed two runs, only one earned, over five innings and struck out eight. Bill Bray struck out one, walked one and allowed one hit over two innings, his season debut.

Wilmington 4, Potomac 1: Blake Schwartz started and allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits over four innings and walked four. Adrian Nieto and Adrian Sanchez had the Nationals’ only hits.

Hagerstown 1, Rome 0: In the first game of the doubleheader, Ivan Pineyro blanked the Braves for five innings. Ronald Pena and Robert Benincasa combined to toss two scoreless innings in relief. Will Piwnica-Worms drove in the game’s lone run.

Rome 1, Hagerstown 0: In a makeup game, Pedro Encarnacion allowed one run, unearned though, on two hits over five innings. Shawn Pleffner and Matt Foat had the only Suns’ hits.

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