Jordan Zimmermann struggles with extra rest

brushback_harperFor all the consistency that Jordan Zimmermann and his right arm have provided throughout his career, there’s a slight and odd quirk in his performances. Hand the ball to Zimmermann on his normal five days’ rest and he is stellar. But ask him to wait a few days longer, and Zimmermann is still good, just not as good.  The trend continued on Monday night against the Diamondbacks.

Because of a recent off-day and a small tweak in the rotation with the return of Doug Fister, Zimmermann faced the Diamondbacks on Monday with two extra days’ rest.

Zimmermann nearly went through the Diamondbacks’ lineup for the first time on Monday without any issue. But he began to struggle in the third inning as he reached the bottom of the order, and wound up allowing five runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. Six of the hits were for extra bases. Zimmermann squandered an early 2-0 lead with a three-run third inning and then gave up a 4-3 lead in the sixth by allowing a two-run shot to A.J. Pollack.

Throughout his career, Zimmermann has been an even-keeled, strike-throwing machine. But when he pitches on extra rest, he seems to be too strong for his own good. In 61 career starts on regular rest, Zimmermann has a 2.99 ERA. In 60 starts with extra rest, Zimmermann has a 3.89 ERA, including Monday’s five runs. His average fastball velocity entering the game was 93.6 mph and on Monday he was firing 94 and 95 mph consistently in the first three innings.

“It obviously could have went better,” he said. “I felt strong out there. Velocity was good but my misses were down the middle. They’re a good-hitting team and they’re going to make you pay for pitches you leave over the middle.”

Before Monday, Zimmermann allowed only six runs in his previous five starts. Against the Diamondbacks, he nearly matched that total. He isn’t sure of the cause of Monday’s issues with stuff and command. His breaking pitches weren’t as sharp and his fastball was too high in the strike zone. Physically, he said he felt the same on seven days’ rest as the normal rest.

“My fastball was up,” he said. “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 extra rest is “kind of the way that’s been forced upon us with the off-days,” Manager Matt Williams said. “And we’re going to get another one. So it’s all these off-days in a month certainly doesn’t lend to normal rest, but nonetheless, [Zimmermann] was just rotational. He was flying open a little and the ball just flattens out on him, he gets up in the strike zone.”

Despite Monday’s start, Zimmermann is still one of the most consistent starters in baseball. Last season he delivered some strong performances on extra rest and lowered his career ERA in those starts. Monday, however, was a small blip in that trend.

FROM THE POST

Trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen belt solo home runs to tie and then beat the Diamondbacks.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Matt Williams returns to Arizona for first time as Nationals manager

Nationals’ defense costing runs, causing frustration

Nationals sign Greg Dobbs to minor league deal

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Columbus 5, Syracuse 4: Ryan Tatusko allowed only one unearned run and two hits over six innings, lowering his ERA to 1.85. Daniel Stange earned the loss for allowing one run on two hits. Jhonatan Solano hit his sixth home run, a two-run shot. Brock Peterson went 2 for 5 and hit his first shot of the season.

Harrisburg was rescheduled.

Potomac 8, Frederick 4: Ronald Pena allowed four runs, two earned, over six innings and struck out eight. Derek Self earned the win with three scoreless innings. Brandon Miller hit his 10th home run and drove in three runs. Stephen Perez drove in two runs.

Hagerstown 2, Kannapolis 1: Austin Voth fired five scoreless innings and struck out seven. Robert Orlan allowed one run over four innings. Wilmer Difo went 2 for 5 with an RBI. Drew Ward scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th after James Yezzo reaches on a fielding error.

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