Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

NLDS Game 2 Recap: Zimmermann does not Execute


Jordan Zimmermann did not have his best command Monday afternoon. PHoto JB Forbes/McClatchy-Tribune News Service via

There really isn’t much analysis needed of last night’s game 2 12-4 pounding; for me it was clear from the beginning that Jordan Zimmermann was missing his spots.  After a clean 1st inning (which included a relatively lucky strike-3 call on leadoff hitter Jon Jay) the potent St. Louis lineup teed off on mistake after mistake from Zimmermann.  A scorched line drive to third, then a well struck single up the middle, then a double off the wall, all seemingly within a blink of the eye.  Only Jay’s bloop hit to drive in the 2nd inning’s fourth run was not “well struck.”

Zimmermann was missing his spots, plain and simple.  Instead of getting a ball on the corner, it was drifting over the plate.  Instead of keeping the ball at the knees, it was floating upwards into the hitting zone.  St. Louis can hit the ball.  They’re in the top 3 in the NL in most standard offensive measures  (BA, wRC+, OPS, wOBA).  And, as we saw last night, they can power the ball pretty easily against mistakes.

When Craig Stammen relieved Zimmermann and couldn’t stop the bleeding, I stopped watching.  Yes our team has shown it can make up leads, but for me a 7-1 lead in the 4th against a playoff team is pretty much the definition of insurmountable.  I was rooting to just leave Stammen in the game to save the pen frankly.  We did get a chance though to get everyone in the bullpen an inning; kinda like the way you manage little league.  So there’s that.

So much for home/away, day/night and days rest split analysis.  When your starter can’t execute, you don’t have much chance on the night.  Its one of the reasons we play 162 games (these off-nights for good pitchers even themselves out over time), but also one of the reasons the playoffs are such a crap shoot (Aces get blown out and 5th starters pitch lights out in the playoffs all the time).

Lets just hope that scoring 12 runs made the Cardinals really tired (you know, from all the running around the bases they had to do) so they’re at a disadvantage in game 3.

Written by Todd Boss

October 9th, 2012 at 9:56 am

8 Responses to 'NLDS Game 2 Recap: Zimmermann does not Execute'

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  1. This is why I didn’t want to face the Cardinals. They have all the intangibles on their side: experience, low expectations, no pressure, and nothing to lose. Honestly, if the Nats can survive this NLDS, I really believe they’ll go to the World Series. But that’s a big “if”, because I also believe the Game 3 winner is going to win this series in four games. And that our “least” pitcher will have to beat their grizzled ace, Chris Carpenter. After all the hype over the Nats’ big three of Strasburg, Gio, and Z’mann, I never would have guessed that the entire season would now come down to back-to-back starts by Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler. Blerg…


    9 Oct 12 at 10:50 am

  2. Hey don’t forget the Nats can hit some too; we hit 30 more homers this year than the Cards. We just havn’t stepped up yet offensively in this series.

    I’ve got the pitching matchups favoring Stl in game 3, a toss-up in game 4 (I have never thought Lohse was that good despite his record), and a slight edge to Gio in game 5 (assuming he bounces back and Wainwright doesn’t pitch like Cy Young again). But yeah, when your 1/2 guys don’t pitch well your 3/4 guys need to step up.

    Interesting fact about the Nats and Cincy (if that were the NLCS matchup, as Cincy looks like a pretty safe bet right now to advance): the Nats beat them 3/4 in DC (thought certainly didn’t dominante, 3 of the 4 games went extra innings), and then won 2/3 in Cincy later in the year (and it should have been a sweep; Henry Rodriguez coughed up a grand slam in the ninth to blow the game). But the important point? Not one of those 7 games was pitched by Strasburg.

    Todd Boss

    9 Oct 12 at 11:06 am

  3. I think the Nats are set up well against Cincy, too, but that 5-2 record against them is somewhat misleading, because those two series were played in mid-April and mid-May, respectively, which was before the Reds went all “en fuego” on everybody. I didn’t realize that Stras never started against them. Good to know.

    Like you, I also hope that the Cardinals are exhausted from all that swinging and baserunning yesterday. I’m not giving up on anything, I’m just concerned. I’m less worried about our hitting. If you’d told me prior to the game that we’d put up 4, I’d have told you we were going to win. But yesterday really worried me about our pitching. Zimmermann melting down and fiving up 5 earned is one thing, because he won’t pitch again in this series. I’m more concerned about 2 earned given up by Stammen in 0.1 innings (he was also shaky on Sunday), 1 earned in 1 by Gonzalez, and 3 earned in 0.2 by Burnett. Honestly, we’d all be in mourning right now if the breaks hadn’t all gone the Nats way in Game 1 (only 2 runs allowed in Gio’s awful 2nd inning, 3 outs on 2 Mattheus pitches, and Moore netting 2 RBI on a swing at a bad pitch).


    9 Oct 12 at 11:37 am

  4. I look at it this way: two weeks ago the Nats were going to get run down by the Braves. They won the Division anyway. Last week it was terrible that they had to open with two on the road against a wild card winner playing with momentum (off the WC win) in the wild card’s home ball park. The Nats split the games anyway. Now the team comes home for a best-of-three game series – against a team that plays lousy (38-43) on the road – with a chance to advance to the NLCS.

    Do I think the Nats have this won? Heck, no. Baseball, much less October Baseball, doesn’t work that way. But I sure as heck don’t think they are doomed. And along the way I get to see at least two, possibly three playoff games in my hometown with the chance for seeing a playoff clincher tossed in. And that, my friends, is pretty frickin’ bueno!

    John C.

    9 Oct 12 at 11:45 am

  5. Clark, how come when the Nats win it’s because of “breaks” and when the Cardinals win it’s because they are good? Yes, the ball was off the plate – but Tyler Moore had two strikes on him and had to protect the plate. We’ve all seen hitters called out on pitches worse than that. Instead of muscling up and trying to kill the ball he just put the barrel on it and lined it to RF. That’s good baseball to me.

    As for the three outs on two pitches, no one held a gun to the Cardinals’ heads and forced them to swing at those pitches. They were both excellent pitches, and the defense made the plays. Neither play was a gimme. We saw a good defensive SS – the Braves Andrelton Simmons – blow that same play in the Wild Card game. There was nothing easy at all about the 5-4-3 except that Molina was the one running. The pitch, Zim’s pick and off-balance throw to second, and Espinosa’s turn were all first rate. That’s not luck, that’s making plays.

    The reason that the Cardinals scored only two runs off of Gio was that they got one hit – ONE – in five innings. If you’re going to say the Nats got lucky when the other team strands runners, you have to say the Nats were merely unlucky when they strand runners. I don’t see that position being taken by many. Most fans seem to assume that if the Nats strand runners they choked, and if the Nats strand opposition runners than the Nats got lucky. Double standard much?

    John C.

    9 Oct 12 at 11:54 am

  6. Everything else aside, if you had told me (irrespective of the opponent) that the Nats got the split in the away 2-game set, I would have been happy. We got the split (somewhat fortuitously, admittedly) and now we come home to a completely fired up crowd and the one veteran on the team that has post-season experience has the ball on the bump.

    Last year in the post season Jackson had one good start (6ip/2r), one bad (6ip/6r) and one mediocre (5 1/3, 3r). This season against the cards Jackson had one fantastic start (8ip, 0ER) and one awful start (1 1/3, 8er). So all I can possibly say is that his game 3 expectations are, well, a coin flip. My only hope is that he pitches like he did (at home) against the Cards again, at home.

    Todd Boss

    9 Oct 12 at 12:46 pm

  7. John, you’re not wrong. I do tend to apply a double-standard to my teams when I’m surprised by a result. Yesterday’s game surprised me, and that tends to color my opinion of the next game darkly. The fact that the Cardinals were my bogeyman in this postseason only causes me more worry–I really would have preferred to play Atlanta in the LDS.

    You’re right that those three cited examples were not purely lucky, but I still think all three in the same game were a break for us. Regardless, thank you for kicking my pessimism in the head. I needed that. Like Todd, I also would have been happy with a split in St. Louis before Game 1, and you’re right that the Cards are a crappy road team.


    9 Oct 12 at 1:43 pm

  8. Cheer up; the likelihood of Adam Wainwright striking out 10 guys in 5 2/3 again is slim. Schoenfield now gives the Cards the pitching edge but I don’t see it; the Nats *pounded* Lohse both times they saw him this year. I don’t care if Lohse’s record on the season is 16-3; his season totals against the Nats: 11 2/3 innings, 17 hits, 12 runs.

    If we expect Wainwright to pitch that well again, perhaps we expect Lohse to pitch this badly again, and we’ll be fine.

    Todd Boss

    9 Oct 12 at 3:35 pm

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