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Zimmermann keeps Nats rotation on a roll

Jun 25, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

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You can believe in the idea of momentum and feeding off teammates’ performances or not. Just recognize this: Jordan Zimmermann took the mound for the top of the first Wednesday night knowing full well what the four previous men who did the same for the Nationals had accomplished.

Joe Ross, after allowing one run in the second inning Friday, tossed 5 1/3 more scoreless frames before departing. Max Scherzer, of course, no-hit the Pirates on Saturday. Gio Gonzalez didn’t give up a run in his seven innings of work Sunday. And then Stephen Strasburg put up five zeroes Tuesday against the Braves.

So what exactly was Zimmermann thinking as he toed the slab this time?

“You see the guy before you go out there and put up zeroes, and you don’t want to be the guy that has the big bomb,” he said. “So I was trying to do my job and go out there and put up zeroes.”

Which is exactly what Zimmermann did. He added eight more to the registry, extended the streak of scoreless innings by Nationals starters to 34 1/3. That’s a club record and the longest such streak for the franchise since the 1985 Expos threw 35 2/3 consecutive scoreless frames.

Such is the state of the Nationals rotation these days. Any slip-up, no matter how minor, feels like a failure. Which can put a bit of pressure on each member of the group not to slip up.

Zimmermann didn’t on Wednesday, even though he put himself in his share of jams early on. The Braves rattled off five hits through the game’s first four innings, and Zimmermann had to strand runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and sixth.

“Early on, I wasn’t quite right with the layoff,” said the right-hander, who was pitching on two extra days’ rest. “After a couple innings, I felt a lot better.”

Indeed, Zimmermann finished strong, retiring the last eight Atlanta batters he faced. With his pitch count at 100 and no reason to believe he was about to let up, Zimmermann easily could have taken the mound for the ninth. But with the Nationals clinging to a 1-0 lead and a runner in scoring position with one out in the bottom of the eighth, manager Matt Williams decided to send up pinch-hitter Danny Espinosa instead.

Espinosa wound up lining out to left, the Nationals wound up leaving the runner stranded at second base and closer Drew Storen wound up blowing the save in the ninth, leaving Zimmermann with a hard-luck no-decision.

“We’re at that point in the lineup where we’ve got a guy on second base, and Danny hit a bullet to left and we’re trying to score another run,” Williams said. “[Zimmermann] is at 100, too, and we’ve got our closer ready to go. So it didn’t work out for Drew tonight, but we’ll take that situation every single time.”

Zimmermann took no issue with his manager’s decision.

“I know [Nick] Markakis is leading off [the ninth for Atlanta] and I feel like his numbers are pretty good against me,” he said. “And we have one of the best closers in the game. His role is the ninth inning, so give him the ball and pinch-hit for me and try to get some more runs.”

  1. veejh - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    Storen has been pretty lights out, but it sure seems like in those real tense close games, he doesn’t come through.

    • jd - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:22 AM

      bull spit veejh,

      Storen almost always comes into tense close games, that’s his role. In a course of a year he will blow a few saves, every closer does.

      • veejh - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:57 AM

        Really? Selective memory?

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:08 AM

        Heh. No one ever remembers the 1-2-3 saves. I checked Storen’s game logs. Not only did had he converted 17 consecutive saves, but in 12 of his previous 19 appearances with the game on the line he did not allow a baserunner. No hits, no walks, no hit by pitches. Of those 17 consecutive saves, 8 were saves protecting a one run lead: two each versus the Yankees, Braves and Mets (both of those to finish 1-0 games), one against the Phillies and one against the Cubs. In those 8 saves combined Stroren gave up three hits and one walk, and in 5 of the 8 saves protecting a one run lead he gave up no baserunners at all, including both of the previous games where he was protecting a 1-0 lead. Those games against the Mets, btw, were at a time when the Nats were several games behind the Mets and in danger of being buried. The Yankees were in first place at the time Storen finished them off, and the Cubs are obviously a very good team.

        Yet there is this lingering belief that in “tense close games [Storen] doesn’t come through.” If you actually look at the record, what is much more true is that “no one remembers when Storen comes through in tense close games.”

      • natsguy - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:23 AM

        I think its more of an issue that he didn’t get used much for awhile.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:51 AM

        So, the selective memory is yours, Veej….

      • veejh - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:18 PM

        Hmmmmm…..I seem to remember 2 of the most paramount games in Nationals history that he blew. Who has the selective memory?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:23 PM

        Sample sizes are small but Storen has big platoon splits and he’s faced more lefties this year than righties.

        .304 vs. lefties vs .109 righties.

        Last year Storen was
        .253 vs. Lefties vs. .184 vs. Righties

        During his entire career the platoon splits are smaller in disparity, but the issue was Markakis was having a good game and was career 3 for 4 vs Storen before he singled and Pierzynski in the on- deck circle was 1-1 with a walk against Storen before singling and the best move was to bring in Rivero to face the 1st 3 batters who were all lefties to play matchup baseball instead of Cult of the Closer.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:33 PM

        Ah. So. Apparently, the indicator of whether a game is a “tense, close game” is whether Storen struggles or not. Therefore in all close games where Storen dominates, I guess they weren’t tense? Or something.

        It’s like the Strasburg narrative. You know, the one where Strasburg is a weak head case and can’t overcome adversity. Therefore if Strasburg is able to work around problems, as he has done in several times including his most recent start, clearly those problems did not rise to the level of “adversity.” Because, you know if it had been actual adversity, Strasburg would have folded like a weak head case.

        Got it, thx.

      • veejh - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:48 PM

        Yeah. Hated division opponent, extra innings with a 1 run lead, and blew it. Yeah, it was a tense, close game, just like the 2 other examples I brought up (which I did not enjoy doing).

        I never said he always blows, but it sure seems like.

        You might be the only remaining fan that doesn’t think Stras has problems dealing with pressure.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    I was at the game last night and i could not have been happier for Ian Desmond. Though I understood the reason and percentages,I was surprised a little bit when Eveland intentionally walked Ramos, then was thrilled by Clint Robinson’s AB to draw the walk.

    JZimm looked real good!. Some have questioned MW for not letting him finish the game, but when he was pulled in the 8th for a pinch hitter he had 100 pitches and Williams was playing for a cushion run. It didn’t work out, but it was good baseball strategy.

    Other observations: Span just continues to be a joy to watch play the outfield. He just makes it look so easy.The one he came in on was pretty, but the one he glided to get at the wall was just grace in motion.I sure hope the Nats can keep him.

    Bryce Harper can still be a knucklehead in RF. That throw he made to 3rd was just plain not defensible by any standard, but ultimately the damage was contained. The tying run scored on the subsequent sac fly, but his play did take out the possibility of the double play.

    Storen just never looked comfortable out there last night. Why he was throwing a changeup, I’ll never know. He’s been great all year up until the past week. He walked on thin ice the night before last and was fortunate to get the save. Last night his luck ran out.

    It was a pleasure listening to Byron Kerr on the post game show on the way home. He is much more enjoyable than Phil Wood, IMHO. BTW, he said that the rumors of the Nats trying to make a trade for Chapman are totally unfounded,and it isn’t going to happen.

    Ghost, you mentioned Billy Burns during the game thread. He is now hitting .325 for the A’s. He has a 14 game hitting streak and has hits in 27 out of the last 28 games. He is just a few AB’s shy to qualify for the league leader board, as he didn’t get called up until early May. He also has 15 steals in 18 attempts. When the trade for Blevins was made most everybody said his way was blocked in the Nats organization. Well, if the Nats don’t re-sign Denard Span? I kind of wish we had kept Burns.

  3. masterfishkeeper - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    Off topic, but Rosenthal (who I do not like), has an article speculating wildly that the Nats may be shopping Desmond:

    http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/story/washington-nationals-ian-desmond-non-waiver-deadline-buyers-sellers-ken-rosenthal-notes-062415?vid=471003715773

  4. Doc - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    i like Drew, but LH hitters are now in the .290 range against him When he came in last night, and blew a save, it was facing all the lefties that did him in. Maybe share the 9th with a lefty closer?????

    Looking at the Twitter side bar, it’s time that Hershey signed up some of our Nats for some small screen ads.

  5. jd - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:29 AM

    master,

    He is actually saying that there is zero speculation that the Nats are shopping Desmond but that in his opinion it might make sense. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:36 AM

      JD, you’re right. I phrased it poorly.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:31 AM

      Well, he’s wrong that there is zero speculation. Aside from us in here, there’s his own.

  6. Guapo - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    This is the rotation performance that had all the experts picking WAS to win it all this year. When they are clicking, it’s brutal for opponents. The bull pen though….I’d mortgage some of the future for a proven closer. That’s the missing piece.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:03 AM

      The Nats have to get Aroldis Chapman but I won’t sell the future for him. There are untouchables.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      Who is the “proven closer” you are looking for? You do realize that Storen has been better this season than Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbel, right?

      ALL closers blow saves. Every. Last. One.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:40 AM

        What is it people expect a closer to “prove”? That he’s the world’s first perfect human being? That he’s Sidd Finch?

        Drew has 2 Blown Saves, both of which were 1-0 games when he came in, and both of which the Nats won 2-1, which tells you he didn’t blow up the game, he held it to a tie, which matters.

        There ISN”T a “proven closer” better than him.

      • Guapo - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:54 AM

        Storen is awesome for the first 162 games….it’s 163 on where he’s struggled.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        Or 167, technically.

      • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:29 PM

        Aroldis Chapman in his career has a .130 BA against left-handed batters. You dont kick Drew to the curb. You manage to the situations. Sometimes as the say, the real save comes in the 8th inning.

        Is this about the team or just 1 player. It takes 7 to 8 to make up a bullpen and as the Royals showed last year, they can get you to the World Series.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:39 PM

        I don’t dispute that Chapman would make the Nats better. So would Mike Trout or Buster Posey. The question is, whether those players are available and how much they’ll cost. Chapman will become available at some point, so there’s that.

        But at what cost? When asked in a recent Fangraphs chat, Dave Cameron (I think) was asked what one player was likely to get a stupidly high return as we near the trade deadline. He said Chapman. Are you willing to give up Giolito for Chapman? Or even Joe Ross? Or some package of 3+ of the next tier of prospects, something like A.J. Cole, Trea Turner and Jackson Reetz? That might do it – and many have (prematurely, IMHO) penciled Turner into the Nationals’ infield for the next several seasons. For a season and a half of a relief pitcher who won’t be cheap next year because of arbitration costs?

    • adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:12 PM

      .I’d mortgage some of the future for a proven closer.

      His first blown save in over two months isn’t enough to make him a proven closer?

      During that same time period (since Apr 21), Chapman has three losses and a blown save

      Just sayin’

      • Guapo - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:35 PM

        Not a reaction to last night. Blown saves happen. My issue with Storen isn’t regular season, it’s his inability to finish games in the playoffs that makes me nervous.

      • adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:42 PM

        Makes me nervous, too . . . but I also consider: (a) small sample size; (b) 2012 was a couple of grounders and missed calls by ump; (c) 2014 seemed like a lucky hit by Panda . . .

        Am I justifying? I dunno . . . (that’s part of what makes baseball so much fun to watch!)

      • Guapo - Jun 25, 2015 at 3:17 PM

        yup. case could be made either way. problem is playoffs is always a small sample size. that is where legends (and goats) are made.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Maybe I’m wrong, I often am, but I just don’t see the Nats trading Desmond. The guy has been with them through think and thin. But would Rizzo would trade him, and his locker room presence, during the season when they really have a good shot of going to the WS? I know Mike Rizzo can be cold as ice, but it just seems that there is something inherently wrong with trading him. But baseball is a business, and Rizzo’s job is to win now and to win tomorrow.And the loyalty thing doesn’t count for much these days, and even if it did, Desi turned down a fair offer. But, I just don’t see a contender that Desmond takes over the top to get to the playoffs. Add it all up and I just can’t see a trade for Desmond happening that makes sense for the Nats.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:04 AM

      Do I think Desi will be traded? No I don’t.

      Do I think Desi will be dangled to see what fish are biting? Yes.

    • virginiascopist - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:10 AM

      I agree. I don’t see a trade for Desmond happening. First, I am not sure what value he has. Second, Rizzo may be cold, but he has always been concerned about team chemistry, and there’s no doubt trading him would negatively affect the clubhouse. We’re not talking about Blevins, after all.

      Best case scenario: Desi recovers enough of his form to help the Nats for the remainder of the season (and post-season) and, with any luck, to allow Rizzo to extend him the QO without fear that he will accept it.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:21 AM

        +1 to both Ghost and VA Scopist

        As to:We’re not talking about Blevins, after all..

        I wish that we never had been talking about him!

    • langleyclub - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:41 AM

      Don’t think that Desi will be traded; not because Rizzo wouldn’t do it, but because I don’t see the Nats getting enough in return to do the deal. Have no doubt that if the Twins offered a top prospect or two for Desi, the Nats would jump on the offer, but with no sign that Desi will produce enough to push a team on the playoff bubble over the top, I just don’t see the Nats getting enough of a return to do the deal.

      With that said, barring injuries, would guess that Desi will get less PT over the remainder of the season than Rendon, Escobar and Espinosa.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    A Desi carryover to a flashback.

    1st half .223/.264/.308/.572

    2nd half .289/.338/.417/.754

    What happened? Divine intervention. Don’t ever sell this guy short. He will get hot and be just fine. By the way, people had him on the scrap heap in that 2011 season about this time of the season also.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:09 AM

      Ok, you want career numbers,

      1st half .253/.295/.418/.713
      2nd half .285/.337/.432/.770

      Desi will greatly improve in the 2nd half.

      • Doc - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:17 PM

        I hope you’re right, Ghost. But at some point Des’s all-out power swing will get the best of min.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:46 AM

      That’s when his son was born. “Daddy Power,” he called it then.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:58 AM

        Daddy Power could be it. I thought it was Davine Johnson intervention also.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    How great was JZim last night and how great was Span! His tiptoe along the scoreboard in right-CF was sick!

    • Theophilus T.S. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:31 AM

      Span’s arm is always better than advertised. Accurate, good technique because he’s always square to his target, rarely off-line. Even better when he sets himself up to charge the ball and has momentum behind the throw. Perfectly adequate for a center-fielder, who can’t reasonably expected to throw pills to the catcher from that distance. The only CF I’ve seen who was a threat to throw out runners at home plate on a more than occasional basis was Ankiel. Better a guy who covers a lot of ground — and with Taylor and Harper Span only has to field his own OF position — and hits the bases and hits his cut-off men. And Span’s cut-off men — Desmond, Espinosa and Rendon — have rifles. The Nats need to make a serious effort to re-sign him — hopefully he’ll take three years, maybe with an option.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:56 AM

        Span was on his game last night. Certainly doesn’t get enough credit as he are a couple tough plays look routine. That play along the scoreboard was Web Gem quality. Perfect route.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    The sacrifice fly was the first easy swing Desmond has taken in the last month. It can’t have been an accident. I wonder if he learned anything from it.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    I don’t see any serious possibility of trading Desmond. For one, I agree w/ GSM he is likely to improve in the second half, maybe significantly. Second, I don’t see anyone offering anything in return that would be more valuable than a replacement draft pick. (Nothing the Nationals really need; I think w/ Roark and Carpenter the bullpen has been stabilized.) Third, even if anyone thinks they have an adequate replacement on the roster, trading Desmond will eliminate any depth at the major league level. (If by some miracle Turner shows he’s ready to start in the major-leagues between now and July 31 my evaluation would change — but that is a real long shot and conceivable only in the case of somebody’s injury.)

    Beyond this season, however, Desmond has little value. They are beginning to stack up middle-infield prospects; beyond Turner and Difo, Bostick is looking like a keeper. And — important for the Nats’ prudent spending policies — SS is a good place to save $15MM a season. They’ll make Desmond a qualifying offer but I can’t see him trading even $$ for years — and if by some twist they ended up having to keep him for for another year it wouldn’t be the worst thing that happens.

    • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:32 PM

      +1 to the 1st paragraph. In the 2nd pargraph are you talking value to the Nats or another team. I think TheRealJohnC said it right that some team will take him on a $44 million deal for 4 years and hope he bounces back and thats based on what Desi is now. If Desi bounces back as Ghost thinks he will, look out.

  12. micksback1 - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:53 AM

    was at game last night, man was I piss-d at Desi after his error, but real happy after his SF!!!! I hope this gets him going.. Time for him to get going or get out

  13. micksback1 - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    Michael Taylor has a chance to be a great player. Denard is simply the best outfielder in MLB period!

    • adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:15 PM

      Denard is simply the best outfielder in MLB period!

      Not sure if I’d go that far — but I would agree with: best outfielder/leadoff man in NL.

      • jd - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:22 PM

        wonk,

        Mick ended his statement with ‘period!’ so it must be true.

      • micksback1 - Jun 25, 2015 at 2:57 PM

        I mean best Defensive OF period

  14. masterfishkeeper - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    Interesting Fangraphs article on Strasburg’s last start, his use of the high fastball and very limited use of the changeup:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/stephen-strasburgs-return-in-just-a-few-pictures/

    • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:42 PM

      Defensive metrics which even proponents concede are imprecise, especially in smaller samples (like partial season data).

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 25, 2015 at 1:07 PM

      Oh, what poppycock. Jeesh, they have Hamilton ranked as the #1 CF in the NL. That’s just silly.

      • jd - Jun 25, 2015 at 1:09 PM

        It’s silly based on what?

      • NatsLady - Jun 25, 2015 at 1:24 PM

        By the eye test (mine) he has not been at his best this season. I think he was not feeling up to par until recently.

  15. lowstrikes - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    I’m thoroughly enjoying the winning streak. Pretty classy baseball. Beating Atlanta this week, and all season, has pretty much washed away the horrible after-stench of the bad old days. I’m also happy that the past two games have had a relatively low A. Simmons factor: we’ve only had to deal with his defensive play, which is worthy of respect, and not much of his junk ball, spikes-up, crap behavior, which has been discreditable in multiple instances this season. He tops the list as my least favorite opponent.

    • adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:43 PM

      … and haven’t had to face Freddie Freeman!

      • lowstrikes - Jun 25, 2015 at 1:07 PM

        True, although I’m slightly ashamed of my joy at missing him this series. He’s just a great hitter. I probably should be enough of a homer to think the Nats will beat them at full strength, but Freeman…geez. I have to give him his considerable due. Not Simmons, though.

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