Patrick Reddington: Zimmermann right at home in nation's capital

Nothing against Jordan Zimmermann's stats away from Nationals Park, but the starter from Auburndale, Wis., has been even more impressive in his adopted home in the nation's capital so far in 2013.

The Nationals right-hander, who turned 27 yesterday, is 3-2 with a 1.91 ERA, four walks (0.96 BB/9) and 29 Ks (6.93 K/9) in five starts and 37 2/3 innings pitched away from the nation's capital early this season. Opponents have a .193/.225/.281 line against Zimmermann in his road starts. In D.C., however, Zimmermann is 4-0 in four starts, with a 1.24 ERA, five walks (1.55 BB/9) and 16 Ks (4.97 K/9) in 29 innings on the mound.

Opponents have a slightly higher .215/.250/.280 line against the Nats starter when they come to the Nationals' home, but to add to the impressiveness of what the 2008 second-round pick has accomplished so far this year and going back to last season, Zimmermann is also unbeaten at home since May 17, 2012 when the Pittsburgh Pirates managed to beat the Nats starter to hand him what was then his fourth straight loss in Nationals Park.

Zimmermann gave up four runs on seven hits that day, three of them home runs.

"He was flying open at times," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game. "At times he was rushing, leaving the ball up. That's the first time I've seen that in a long time. But he still battled them, basically kept us in there. But it wasn't a typical Zim outing."

What was atypical?

"His location was off," the Nats manager explained, "I mean, he was all over the place. I mean, for him, I think he had almost 20 pitches (per inning) for the first four innings. I mean, he usually has that in six or seven."

Two of the three home runs Zimmermann surrendered that day were hit by Andrew McCutchen. It was the third time in his career, and the last time since then, that Zimmermann allowed three home runs in one game. "He located the ball to McCutchen - both times - bad," Johnson said. "Other than that, he hung in there."

Zimmermann agreed with his manager's assessment of his performance, telling MLB.com that day, "'I didn't feel very good at all. I was flying open and I wasn't able to locate my fastball at all. The breaking stuff was good, but when you can't locate your fastball, you are going to be in trouble.'"

Since that day last May, Zimmermann is 9-0 in 14 starts in Nationals Park, with the Nationals 11-3 over that stretch. Zimmermann received no-decision in his next two starts at home after the loss to the Pirates. He gave up fives hits and two earned runs in six innings in each of those June outings, a Washington win over the New York Mets and a loss to the New York Yankees. In three home starts in July 2012, Zimmermann surrendered a combined three runs (two earned) in 19 innings against the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Mets again. Zimmermann was 2-0 in those starts, with Washington 2-1.

The Nationals won both of Zimmermann's July 2012 starts in Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves, in spite of the fact that the right-hander, who received no-decision in either game, gave up 15 hits and nine runs, eight earned, in 10 innings. August started with rough outing against St. Louis in which the Nats starter surrendered eight hits and eight runs (all earned) in just 3 1/3 innings of work. The regular season ended, however, with three outings against the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers in which Zimmermann was 3-0, giving up a combined 15 hits and four runs in 19 2/3 innings.

The Nationals No.3 starter picked up where he left off last season in his first home start of 2013, holding the Marlins to one run on eight hits in six innings of work in the finale of the first series of the year in the nation's capital. The second time out in Nats Park, Zimmermann needed just 90 pitches to get through seven innings against the Chicago White Sox in which he allowed seven hits and two earned runs. Zimmermann threw a complete-game, one-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds in start three in D.C., then beat the defending American League champions from Detroit in his most recent home start, giving up seven hits and one earned run in seven innings of a 3-1 win over the Tigers back on May 8th.

Before his last start at home, Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo praised Zimmermann's work this year and the progress he's made in the last two seasons in an interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

"He's matured as a pitcher," Rizzo said, "He's matured as a big leaguer. He takes great pride in what he does. He's very, very prepared going into games and I think he's just learned how to pitch within himself at the end of last season and this season."

Johnson was equally impressed after Zimmermann's last start at home before tonight's outing against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"He mixed his pitches up," Johnson said, "but basically went right after them with the fastball. You could tell he was pumped up. I don't think I've seen him throwing that hard all the way through."

"He doesn't show a lot of outward expression," Johnson said of the normally reserved right-hander, "But there's a big fire burning in there. He likes just about any challenge."

How about remaining undefeated at home for 15 straight starts and adding to what's now just a one-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East? How will Zimmermann respond to that challenge?

Patrick Reddington blogs about the Nationals for Federal Baseball and appears here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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