Why Zimmermann struggles to hold a lead
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
Jordan Zimmermann has been stellar this season in every way but one: when the Nationals give him a big lead, he can’t seem to hang onto it.
The certain All-Star has already matched a career-high with 12 wins and boasts the ninth-best ERA in the Major Leagues (2.46). He has allowed three runs or more only four times, including Monday night against the Brewers. Yet in all four games, the Nationals gave Zimmermann had a cushion of at least four runs and he allowed the opposing offense to work its way back into the game.
On Monday, Zimmermann took an 8-0 lead into the top of the fifth inning. By the end of the sixth, that lead had been cut in half.
“You get eight runs like that and you’re just pitching to the score,” he explained. “I’m throwing fastballs and trying to get quick outs and trying not to fall behind anyone. They took the fastball the other way. I was just throwing it away. They got a few base hits and I wasn’t able to get out [of] a couple of innings and they just hit the ball. I was just trying to throw strikes and try[ing] to go deep in the game. They obviously knew I was going to throw the fastball and I wasn’t going to mess around. They were ready for it.”
For Zimmermann, the trend is nothing new. In 28 Major League starts in which he’s received minimal run support (0-2 runs), Zimmermann has a 2.50 ERA. In 29 starts when the offense has scored six runs or more, his ERA jumps to 4.21.
While Zimmermann’s inability to hold a lead might seem worrisome, it hasn’t had a large effect on the team’s results this season. In three of his four rough starts, the Nationals have still won the game. Count manager Davey Johnson among the unfazed.
“He always goes after them, but he might go after them a little more over the plate,” Johnson said. “I’m not really worried about it.”