Jordan Zimmermann has battled through a stiff neck and found a way to pitch at a very high level over the last couple of months.
Strangely enough, with the discomfort in his neck dissipating, Zimmermann turned in the worst outing of his career this afternoon in the Nationals' 9-2 loss to the Dodgers.
Zimmermann has been on anti-inflammatories over the last week or so, and he made a conscious effort over the All-Star break to rest the neck to try and get it back to full strength. While the extra rest apparently helped the neck, it might've thrown his stuff a bit out of whack in today's two-inning effort, in which Zimmermann allowed seven runs on eight hits.
"After my last start, I took a few days off from no throwing to give this neck a little break, and that might have something to do with it," Zimmermann said. "But overall today I felt the best I've felt in a long time and just the command wasn't quite there. All my misses that I left over the plate got hit hard today.
"It's weird. Sometimes it's like that. Neck felt fine, everything felt good. It just, I hung a few sliders - the two home runs were hanging sliders - and when I did make some quality pitches, they had good swings on it. They're hot right now. It's just one of those days."
Zimmermann served up a leadoff homer to Matt Kemp in the second, and a three-run homer to Hanley Ramirez came later in the frame. All in all, Zimmermann allowed six hits and two walks in a 40-pitch second inning.
"I was just thinking down, you know?" Zimmermann said. "Just hoping they'd put the ball in play and get a few outs. Everything I threw up there, the one I threw in to Kemp, I thought was a strike, but after looking at it, it was maybe off by a few inches. And then I came back and on the slider, he hit a home run. It's just one of those days where nothing was working."
Today capped off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, pushing the Nationals back down to two games under .500. It was a brutal three-game set that featured two close losses that stung because they were winnable, and one blowout loss that stung because it was so lopsided.
"The first two were pretty painful, and I wanted to go out there and go deep in the game and give these guys a chance to win," Zimmermann said. "I wasn't able to do that and losing these three kind of hurts a little bit, but we'll be back tomorrow and be ready to play."
Jayson Werth provided the Nats' only offense today, smacking two solo home runs off Clayton Kershaw, which is no easy task. Werth declined to answer what he termed "gloom and doom" questions after the game, but was willing to discuss the Nationals' battles with Kershaw.
"Yeah, he's one of the best guys in the game," Werth said. "I was lucky enough to get some pitches I could handle. I'm sure he would tell you he missed his spot. I think both of them were pretty much right down the middle. When you get a guy like that that leaves balls in the middle of the plate, you have to capitalize on it and luckily I was able to do that. He's good and everybody knows he's good. That guy that threw yesterday (Zack Greinke) is good. Had some chances throughout the series but really those guys, they pitched, and when you do that - they make you hit their pitch. It's tough."
Werth has been saying all along that he thinks the Nats are still in a good spot, despite their record. That hasn't changed, even after this three-game sweep.
"I think at any moment this team could take off," Werth said. "But, again, I'm really not going to get into the doom and gloom stuff because we've got too many games to play. I believe in this team. I said it from the beginning. We've got a long way to go. We'll be fine. We're a good team."