Zimmermann not only lost Game 2 of the Nationals’ National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but he was blistered. His three-inning, five-run outing laid the groundwork for what became an emphatic 12-4 defeat.
“You have to pitch,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “You can’t go out there and just throw against this ballclub. This is a good fastball-hitting club. You have to make some good pitches.”
Zimmermann did not. In a vacuum, this might not be cause for too much concern. The Nationals still head home for Wednesday’s Game 3 tied, and they will send Jackson — who was good enough to be in St. Louis’s rotation a year ago, helping the Cardinals to a World Series title — to the mound. Detwiler, who won 10 games, will follow in Thursday’s Game 4, now assured. The outings by Gonzalez, who would pitch Game 5, and Zimmermann, who is done for this series, are memories.
“The last two starts haven’t been good for us,” Zimmermann said. “We got Edwin going on Wednesday, and he’s going to go out there and send a message.”
The message, thus far, has differed from the one the Nationals sent all year. Zimmermann’s start Monday continued a worrisome trend, particularly against the Cardinals. Strasburg is, of course, no longer pitching. And because the Nationals played in St. Louis during the final weekend of the regular season, they have compiled some recent disturbing data against their playoff opponent.
Mix in poor starts from Jackson and Detwiler in blowout losses Sept. 28 and 30, respectively, with the shaky outings from Gonzalez and Zimmermann to open the postseason, and the Nationals’ most recent turn through the rotation against St. Louis has yielded 112
3 innings, 16 walks and a 13.89 ERA. Gonzalez opened the playoffs by tying a career high with seven walks. Zimmerman followed with the shortest of his 33 outings this season.
“They’re not going to have Grade A stuff every single night,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said. “You can’t expect a guy to do that every single time.”
Monday, Zimmermann opened the second inning by allowing four consecutive hits, each seemingly scalded harder than the last. When Allen Craig hit a two-out, solo homer in the third, the Cardinals led 5-1, and Zimmermann was all but done.