Zimmerman is not himself this season. But his throwing error put a runner on first base. The rest of that mess could have been stopped by Strasburg, by not walking the immortal Darwin Barney, by not allowing the opposing pitcher to drive in two runs. And so on. Instead, he came unglued.
This can’t be tied to his Tommy John surgery. He came back from that last season strong, mentally and physically. He has been a salty, sometimes sullen competitor since he arrived in D.C. Where is that guy? Because the Nationals need him. They’ve managed to stay in the NL East race despite just one win from their putative ace, although we all know the ace is now Jordan Zimmermann. If the Nats made the playoffs and they began tomorrow, Zimmermann would be your first starter.
There is no question Strasburg has had some bad luck this season. A cursory count of errors turns up seven committed while Strasburg was pitching, including two by Zimmerman in that Cubs game. There is no question that the Nats’ fielding has been bordering on dreadful: They’ve committed 31 errors and are among the worst in the league in nearly all fielding categories.
But let’s look at those errors in Strasburg’s starts. The first was in his second start (6-3 loss to the Reds), committed by Chad Tracy (filling in for Adam LaRoche at first) in the third inning. It led to no runs. The Nats gave Strasburg three runs — not a bushel, but enough for a No. 1 starter. However, that No. 1 starter had given up three runs in the bottom of the first, all earned. I don’t recall his teammates pacing around the field, shaking their heads and muttering over his inability to get an out.
In his third start (a 3-1 loss to the Braves), Zimmerman committed an error that led to two unearned runs, and that was enough. Tim Hudson put the clamps on the Nats, allowing four hits. No doubt that was frustrating for Strasburg.
In his fourth start, he faced Mets phenom Matt Harvey, who held the Nats to one run. Shortstop Ian Desmond committed an error in the first inning and two runs eventually scored, but one of those came home on a wild pitch. Physician, heal thyself.
In his next start, Strasburg again gave up three runs to the Cardinals in the first inning. Rookie Anthony Rendon committed an error at third, but only after Strasburg’s day began this way: double, strikeout, single, walk, two-run single. All three runs in the inning were earned.