Cardinals get to Zimmermann, Nats

909533.png

Cardinals get to Zimmermann, Nats

Updated at 10:15 p.m.

ST. LOUIS -- He's been their most consistent pitcher all season, a no-nonsense right-hander who just wants to be handed the ball every five days and give his team a chance to win.

Jordan Zimmermann insisted he wouldn't be nervous to make the first postseason start of his career. And truth be told, there weren't really any signs this afternoon that the young hurler was nervous for Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

Zimmermann's biggest obstacle, as it turned out, wasn't October nerves but a Cardinals lineup that carves him up and feasts on whatever scraps are left. With another bludgeoning of the right-hander, St. Louis stormed out to an early lead and never let up to win this game 12-4 and tie this series at one game apiece.

There was no dramatic rally by the Nationals this time, only a lopsided loss that quickly erased memories of Sunday's 3-2 thriller and perhaps put the onus back on Washington to right its ship when the series reconvenes on South Capitol Street Wednesday afternoon.

The Nationals still hold the upper hand, needing now to simply win two of three home games. But they'll need a far better performance from starter Edwin Jackson in Game 3 than they got from Zimmermann in Game 2.

"I wanted to go out there and go deep into the game and try to get out of here with two wins," Zimmermann said. "I didn't do my part. I feel like if the starter doesn't go out and do their part, it kind of snowballs with the relievers sometimes, and that's kind of what happened today."

If there was one member of the Nationals rotation who seemed a sure bet to pitch deep into a postseason game, it was Zimmermann. The right-hander failed to complete five innings only once in 32 starts this season and had failed to reach the fourth inning only twice before in 81 career big-league starts.

Both of those three-inning starts came in September 2010, Zimmermann's first month back from Tommy John surgery, when he was on a strict pitch count.

No such restrictions existed today when Zimmermann toed the rubber, the Nationals hoping to get a big-time performance from one of their best young pitchers. Instead, they got one of his worst clunkers at this level.

"That's some of the youth in the pitching staff," manager Davey Johnson said. "He didn't really make a lot of adjustments out there."

This wasn't the first time Zimmermann struggled against St. Louis. In six career starts against the Redbirds, he's now 0-3 with a 9.73 ERA, having allowed 45 hits in only 28 23 innings.

"I just haven't been making my pitches against these guys," he said.

After a quick, 1-2-3 first inning, Zimmermann served up hits to the first four batters he faced in the second. By the time the inning mercifully came to an end, the Cardinals had scored four runs and rendered Zimmermann's earlier RBI single moot.

Needing a bounce-back inning in the third, the right-hander faltered again, serving up a towering homer down the left-field line to Allen Craig and needing a standout play from Ryan Zimmerman at third base to end the inning.

Zimmermann's issue didn't resemble rotation mate Gio Gonzalez's from Game 1. Gonzalez couldn't find the plate at all; Zimmermann might have been finding too much of it. Forty of his 63 pitches were for strikes, and he never walked a batter during his three innings of work. St. Louis' lineup simply put the barrel to the ball with great frequency.

"I just didn't make any pitches," he said. "When you're off a little bit and you're missing some spots and falling behind and then you have to come across the middle, it's going to be a long day."

His team down 5-1 and his starter clearly suffering through an off-day, Johnson decided not to mess around anymore and turned to his bullpen in the bottom of the fourth. Not that the early hook made much of a difference.

Craig Stammen, who looked shaky in his Game 1 relief appearance, again struggled, serving up a leadoff homer to Daniel Descalso and failing to get out of the inning altogether. Michael Gonzalez later served up a 441-foot bomb to Carlos Beltran, adding to the deficit.

Johnson, though, wasn't the only manager to break out a fast hook in this game. His counterpart made the move even earlier, yanking an ineffective Jaime Garcia after only two innings and asking his bullpen to record 21 outs on the second day of the postseason.

Manager Mike Matheny later revealed Garcia was having an issue with the same left shoulder injury that plagued him earlier this season. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Cardinals will remove the lefty from their postseason roster and add another pitcher for the rest of the series.

"It was obviously a sense of urgency, but Jaime's arm wasn't feeling right at the time," Matheny said. "So that was the deciding factor."

In the end, Matheny's strategy looked like sheer genius. Lance Lynn churned out three innings to bridge the gap, though the big right-hander was tagged for back-to-back homers by Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche in the top of the fifth. Fellow righties Joe Kelly, Edward Mujica and Mitchell Boggs then tossed an inning apiece to get the game in the hands of closer Jason Motte.

Not that the Cardinals needed Motte in the end. Another four-run outburst in the bottom of the eighth off Sean Burnett left this game well in hand and required no closer, sending the Nationals back home with the series now tied up.

"That was our goal," second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "We wanted to get one win out here. That's what we came in trying to do, and we got it last night."

Nats open highly-anticipated series with Cubs looking to make statement

chasenationalsrefframe_1.jpg

Nats open highly-anticipated series with Cubs looking to make statement

Nationals (19-8) at Cubs (20-6)

After a successful road trip the Missouri whichs aw the Nationals best the reigning world champion Royals and the always dangerous Cardinals, they must do battle with MLB's best team: The Chicago Cubs.

The Nationals and Cubs are both considered top contenders to win the 2016 World Series, and while that is still months away, their first encounter will provide a small sampling of how the two teams stack up.

On top of that, Ben Revere, who suffered an oblique strain in the first week of the season, is expected to make his return to the roster in Chicago.

First pitch: 8:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 869
Starting pitchers: Nats - Joe Ross vs. Cubs - Kyle Hendricks

NATIONALS

CF Michael Taylor

3B Anthony Rendon

RF Bryce Harper

1B Ryan Zimmerman

2B Daniel Murphy

LF Jayson Werth

C Wilson Ramos

SS Danny Espinosa 

RHP Joe Ross

 

CUBS

CF Dexter Fowler

3B Tommy La Stella

RF Kris Bryant

1B Anthony Rizzo

2B Ben Zobrist

LF Ryan Kalish

SS Addison Russell

C Tom, Federowicz

RHP Kyle Hendricks

Follow along with GameView here

Nationals prospect report: Signs of Life

2016-05-04t02-58-11.252z-1280x720.jpg

Nationals prospect report: Signs of Life

By Cam Ellis

Last time we checked in on the farm, not a lot had changed. Trea Turner is deystroying Triple A pitching, top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez had stumbled out of the gate, and Victor Robles was putting up borderline unbelieveable numbers for an 18 year old. How did they fare this week? To the prospects! 

AAA - Syracuse

Trea Turner - SS

Update through 25 games: .309/.393/.443 with a .836 OPS. Still great numbers, but this is the second week in a row that Turner's seen his numbers drop. He's hitting .244 over his last 10 games as well. In the field, Turner's made four errors in 198 innings in the field. Maybe complacency is to blame for some of this dip, but Turner was never going to hit close to .400 all year. As is tradition with Prospect Reports about Trea Turner, here's a friendly reminder that June is close. 

 

A.J. Cole - RHP

Signs of life from Cole! On 4/28 he went six scoreless innings while allowing only four hits and striking out two. To follow that up, his next start was a five-inning, two run affiar. These are obviously steps in the right direction for Cole, who had struggled the most of any of the Nats' noteable prospects this year. It's too soon to say he's back on track, but anything's better than how he had pitched prior. 

 

Austin Voth - RHP

The great walkless streak of 2016 is over. After going four games without issuing a free pass, Voth walked three in his latest start against Pawtucket. He's still at a 26/3 strikeout/walk ratio over 23 innings, so he'll probably be fine. 

AA - Harrisburg

Lucas Giolito - RHP

In two starts since last week, Giolito has gone seven innings while allowing eight runs on 11 hits. One month of stats - especially April - is never enough to make assumptions, but it's certainly been an underwhelming month for Giolito. People who called an early season call-up for Giolito might be regretting that now. 

Reynaldo Lopez - RHP

May 3rd marked the best start of Lopez's season so far. The righty went 6.1 innings while allowing one run on three hits and striking out seven. It's an encouraging sign for a pitcher expected to make "the jump" as a legitimate prospect this season. 

Wilmer Difo - SS/2B

There's not a lot more to say about Difo's struggles to this point. He's hitting .176 this season with a .278 on-base percentage and a .490 OPS. Someone give the man a day off. It'll be interesting to see what the Nats do with Difo going forward. 

High A - Potomac

Eric Fedde - RHP

Six innings, four hits, three earned runs and six strikeouts in his last start. The strikeout to walk ratio is strong, and at this point, it's just about getting Fedde innings. The high ERA and WHIP aren't great, but there's time. 

Andrew Stevenson - OF

.368 for Stevenson over the last 10 games. He almost has as many triples (3) as doubles (5) which is a fun albeit meaningless stat. How long does he need to stick around Potomac?

Low A - Hagerstown 

Victor Robles - OF

He broke a long homerless streak when he hit one on May 2nd, and it feels a little silly to be talking about homerless streaks for an 18 year old in Low - A. He's still crushing the ball, hitting .361 over the last 10 games. In 84 at-bats, he's struck out 11 times (13%) which the Nats will take all day. 

RELATED: Nationals bounce back to blow out Royals

VIDEO: Carlin walks off over 'contract year' argument with Brian Mitchell

contractyearbmitchrobrefframe_1.jpg

VIDEO: Carlin walks off over 'contract year' argument with Brian Mitchell

Watch the full exchange from SportsTalk Live in the video player above, which will begin momentarily.

Stephen Strasburg is off to a strong start with the Washington Nationals as he sets the foundation for how much his next contract will be worth. 

That became a point of contention Wednesday night on SportsTalk Live when co-host Rob Carlin brought up the idea that, if Strasburg indeed finishes strong, the Nationals will need to discern whether this is the start of a sustainable uptick in production or the product of a contract year. 

Brian Mitchell took exception to that entire notion, saying that it is illogical to think that players play better simply because they are in a contract year. 

The argument evolved from there until Carlin couldn't take it anymore -- and walked off the set. Watch the exchange above.