Though he may not attract as much attention as some of the game’s other top pitchers, Jordan Zimmermann has been as consistent as they come.
Zimmermann tries to build on another stellar outing Saturday night as the visiting Washington Nationals face the Cleveland Indians, who appear to be back on track.
Among the major league leaders in wins and ERA, Zimmermann (9-3, 2.00 ERA) has allowed two runs or fewer in all but two of 13 starts. The right-hander has gone at least seven innings in 10 of those outings and is holding opponents to a .205 average.
“It means I’m pitching pretty well, I’m going deep in the ballgame,” he told MLB’s official website. “I’m giving the team a chance.”
Zimmermann had everything working Sunday in a 7-0 win over Minnesota, striking out a season high-tying eight over seven innings of two-hit ball. He showed up wearing a heating pad due to a stiff neck but didn’t appear to be hindered at all.
“I’m hoping he wears that neck brace every time he goes out,” manager Davey Johnson said. “That was a heck of a game.”
While Zimmermann is 6-0 with a 1.06 ERA at home, he was tagged for a season-worst seven runs and a career-high 10 hits over six-plus innings during his last road start, a 9-6 loss to Baltimore on May 29.
Zimmermann has never faced Cleveland (33-33), but he’s had his way with Drew Stubbs (0 for 10) and Michael Bourn (1 for 9). Mark Reynolds is 3 for 7 with a homer in their matchups, but he enters Saturday in a 2-for-23 slump and homerless in 13 straight games.
The Indians had dropped eight straight and 16 of 20 before winning their last three while allowing five runs. Cleveland held Washington (33-33) to a season-low two hits before Jason Kipnis drove in Stubbs with a fielder’s choice in the ninth inning of Friday’s 2-1 win.
“Losing eight or nine in a row is not the character of this team,” said Stubbs, who just beat first baseman Adam LaRoche’s throw home. “We just needed a few breaks to go our way to turn things around.”
LaRoche grounded out with runners on second and third to end the third inning for the Nationals, who went 0 for 3 with men in scoring position after batting .313 in those situations while winning four of five.
“We had the right guys up with runners in scoring position with less than two outs,” Johnson said. “Didn’t put the ball in play. We’ve got to be better than that.”
Hitting a major league-worst .211 on the road, Washington is down to .192 during its current 4-10 stretch in opposing ballparks. Away from home, Denard Span is 1 for 24 in six games this month while Jayson Werth is 4 for his last 37 and LaRoche 7 for his last 41.
The Nationals will try to break out against Scott Kazmir (3-4, 5.33), who has allowed at least four runs in four of his last six starts. The left-hander surrendered four and eight hits over six-plus innings Monday in a 6-3 loss at Texas.
“I just feel bad we couldn’t get (Kazmir) any more runs,” Reynolds said. “He deserves a lot better.”
Kazmir could benefit from getting back home, where he’s gone 3-0 with a 3.68 ERA while striking out 24 and walking four over four starts spanning 22 innings.
Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki is 2 for 22 against Kazmir, who will be making his first appearance versus Washington.