ST. LOUIS - Jordan Zimmermann isn't going to try and trick himself into believing he's been in a spot like this before.
He pitched collegiately at the University of Wisconsin Stevens-Point, a Division III school, and while he threw in the 2007 College World Series in front of about 5,000 fans, he's aware today's start in Game 2 of the National League Division Series is a far different animal.
"I don't think there is anything close to this," he said.
That might be the case, but no one with the Nationals expects Zimmermann to be affected by the larger stage or the spotlight. He's been described by teammates as a rock, a guy whose stoicism on the mound helps him avoid nerves when all eyes are on him.
"He's got it together out there," Adam LaRoche said. "It's something about him; he's not scared of anybody. I think we all know that. He's going right after everybody, and I don't think the game or the situation is going to change his mentality."
"I just look at (today) as just another game," Zimmermann said. "I really never get nervous for any games. The only game I really got nervous for was my (major league) debut. And I don't see anything changing this time. I may have a few butterflies when I first walk out there. But I'm sure they'll go away quickly. I'm going to take it as just another ball game. I'm sure the fans are going to pretty rowdy and loud but I'm going to try and zone them out as best as I can and pitch the way I know I can pitch."
Zimmermann spoke with the media yesterday, his eyes staring straight ahead and his tone remaining the same from his first word to his last. He didn't show much emotion in front of a half-dozen TV cameras and a cluster of reporters, and we're sure to get that same focused look on the mound today.
The righty struggled against the Cardinals in his first start against them this season, allowing eight runs on eight hits over just 3 2/3 innings on Sept. 1. That start was far and away his worst of the season. His second time around St. Louis, in a Sept. 29 outing here at Busch Stadium, Zimmermann was more himself, giving up three runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 6-4 Nationals win.
He comes into this start with eight days rest under his belt, and while extra time in between starts has been an issue for him this season (he's got a 2.14 ERA on normal rest and a 4.06 ERA when he throws with five-plus days rest) he doesn't think it'll be a problem today.
Zimmermann says he wore his arm out more than normal during his bullpen session a few days ago, which he feels should prevent him from overthrowing today.
"He's pitched arguably as good as any of my guys all year," manager Davey Johnson said. "Sometimes when he's had too much rest, he's shown a tendency to kind of jump at the hitter. But I think he's overcome that tendency. I like where he's at."
Update: The information you've all been asking for is finally here. Game 3 of the NLDS between the Nats and Cardinals will start at 1:07 p.m.
The game will air exclusively on MLB Network with Bob Costas and Jim Kaat on the call. Click here to find MLB Network on your cable or satellite provider.
Because of the issues with the sun at Nats Park, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was hoping the Nats and Cardinals wouldn't get stuck with the 4 p.m. game. The sun is at its worst for outfielders around 3-4 p.m., so the two teams should avoid the brutal glare for much of the game, but it could factor in during the late innings.