Something happens to the Nationals every time Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound. Their bats go cold. Their defense grows shaky. They usually don’t win, even if he gives them every opportunity.

 If the Nationals end their aversion to helping Zimmermann, it will have to come in his next start. In the Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the Cubs on Sunday, Zimmermann’s first appearance of 2011, Zimmermann allowed two runs – one earned – over seven efficient innings, throwing only 80 pitches and walking none while allowing six hits.

 “Same way he always looks,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “Calm. Confident. Attacking everybody. He threw really well.”


And he got the same result he’s used to. Last year, Zimmermann allowed two or fewer runs and received a loss or no-decision 10 times in his 26 starts. Once, he allowed no earned runs and took a loss. Today, Zimmermann allowed one earned run and absorbed his first loss of the season.

Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann pitched well enough on Sunday, but couldn’t get the support for a win. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

 “I was able to locate the fastball pretty well,” Zimmermann said. “The curveball and slider were both there today. I felt good. I felt comfortable throwing anything, at any time in the count.”

 Zimmermann had a far better afternoon than John Lannan, who followed his demotion and ensuing trade request with a horrific start at Class AAA Syracuse. Making his first start this year, Lannan lasted two innings, allowing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre five earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out one.

Meanwhile, at Class AA Harrisburg, Michael Morse went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk in his latest rehab appearance as the designated hitter. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday.  Playing center field, Rick Ankiel went 0 for 2 with a walk.