Results tagged ‘ pitching staff ’

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.”

Nats continue to have pitching problems

The Nationals continue to have problems on the mound after an 11-2 loss to the Astros at Osceola County Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Washington’s ERA is now at 7.92 and the staff has walked 61 batters in 119 1/3 innings. 

Right-hander Jason Marquis started for Washington and had nothing in the tank, allowing eight runs in 3 1/3 innings, while walking four batters. Marquis said he didn’t have a feel for any of his pitches and declined to give excuses for his less-than-stellar performance.

The last time he pitched in an exhibition game was March 7 against the Mets, but he pitched in a simulated game last Friday at Space Coast Stadium. A rainout that day prevented him from facing the Yankees.   
       
“We have to go back to the drawing board and try to feel comfortable with the baseball,” Marquis said.  “I have an idea what I want to work on. So all you do is work, work and keep working until you get the feel of what you want and see what happens.”

Marquis wasn’t the only Nationals pitcher having problems Wednesday. Right-hander Matt Capps, Drew Storen and Tyler Walker continue to struggle, allowing a combined three runs in three innings. What’s the problem? They can’t seem to throw first-pitch strikes and the opposing hitters has the advantage at the plate.
   
“Today, I don’t know if we ever threw a first-pitch strike,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “It’s just a reminder to our guys that we have to get ahead in the count. Today, we didn’t do it.”

So how to the Nationals fix their control problems as they get closer to Opening Day?

“A lot of the guys [who are going through control problems] are not going to be with us,” Riggleman said. “But, as we narrow things down, if that were to continue, it would be a concern. But I don’t think that is going to continue.”

Nationals need veteran presence on pitching staff

Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman said he agrees with team president Stan Kasten and general manager Mike Rizzo that the team’s biggest need this offseason is adding a veteran presence to the pitching staff.

The team currently has right-hander Livan Hernandez on the staff, but there are no guarantees he will be back in 2010.

Riggleman acknowledged that the Nationals had interest in veterans such as right-handers John Smoltz and Vicente Padilla when they became free agents recently, but those two pitchers wanted to play on winning teams. Padilla signed with the Dodgers, while Smoltz signed with the Cardinals.
 
“They can pick and choose where they go,” Riggleman said. “They wanted to be with a first-place club. [They had a chance] to be with a first-place club, so they chose the Cardinals and Dodgers, [respectively]. That’s the type of guy we are identifying now — people like that over the winter.”   

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