ST. LOUIS - Jordan Zimmermann will have one shot at reaching the 20-win mark this season. That shot comes this afternoon in St. Louis.
Tigers righty Max Scherzer put himself in a situation (with significant help from his teammates in terms of run support) where he had five cracks at notching his 20th win before he finally hit that mark. That's what getting to getting to 19 wins by Aug. 24 will do for you.
Zimmermann notched his 19th win his last time out, and with today being his final start of the season, he'll just get the one shot at a 20-win mark that still holds a lot of value among those around the game.
The pitcher's win is a statistic that has come under fire in recent years, with some claiming that it's too dependent on other factors, like run support and defensive play. There's also the criteria of a win, which some claim is arbitrary. Why does a pitcher who went five innings and allowed five runs deserve to get a win one day, when he could allow one run over eight innings his next time out and get stuck with a loss?
Still others claim that nowadays, with pitchers not working as deep into games as they did decades ago, the pitcher's win is less dependent on how the starter pitched and more based on the quality of the bullpen work behind him. A win might be valued more when pitchers went eight and nine innings consistently, compared to the six-inning outings that we see more often these days.
But to Nationals manager Davey Johnson, an old-school baseball guy, a pitcher reaching 20 wins is a significant accomplishment, even in this day and age.
"It means a whole lot," Johnson said. "Shoot, right now at 19, he's probably going to lead the league in wins. But 20, it's like I say, everybody since baseball started, 20 wins and hitting .300. A hundred RBIs. Those are milestones you'd like to reach."
Zimmermann will have to best a team he usually struggles with if he's to hit the 20-win mark. He's 0-2 with a 9.12 ERA in five career regular season starts against the Cardinals. Zimmermann is, however, 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts this month.
Meanwhile, even though he said Monday that Gio Gonzalez would start the regular season finale for the Nationals, Johnson said today that isn't set in stone.
"Nothing's final," Johnson said. "See how he came out of it last night and see if when we get to Arizona he feels like he can make it."
Johnson's other option for the season finale is starting rookie right-hander Tanner Roark, who has gone 7-1 this season but is coming off a loss to the Cardinals on Monday.
One reason Johnson might end up sticking with his original plan to start Gonzalez: the left-hander is 4 2/3 innings away from reaching the 200-inning mark this season, and eight strikeouts from his second straight 200-strikeout campaign.
"That's also a milestone," Johnson said.