Zimmermann in a hole (Nats lose 4-1, swept in St. Louis)

ST. LOUIS - This Cardinals lineup is no picnic for opposing pitchers, especially pitchers named Jordan Zimmermann.

Zimmermann entered today’s start with a 9.12 ERA in five career regular season outings against the Cardinals. And that doesn’t include his start in Game 2 of the National League Division Series last year, in which Zimmermann lasted just three innings and allowed five runs on seven hits.

It also, of course, doesn’t include Zimmermann’s absolutely dominant inning of relief work in the seventh inning of Game 4, when he struck out the side on just 12 pitches, but you get my point. Zimmermann struggles with the Cardinals.

Today, Zimmermann has surrendered three runs through five innings against the Redbirds, with Yadier Molina’s two-run single in the fourth the big blow so far.

Zimmermann hit Matt Holliday leading off the fourth, then got ahead of Matt Adams 0-2 before serving up a double down the left field line. Molina followed by bouncing a single up the middle that plated two runs and put the Cardinals on top for the first time today.

Zimmermann hasn’t pitched poorly thus far today, but he trails in the middle innings as he attempts to give the Nationals a 20-game winner for the second straight season.

Shelby Miller, meanwhile, has really limited the Nationals offensively today, allowing an RBI single to Bryce Harper in the first, and almost nothing since then.

Three of the first four Nationals hitters to come to the plate today reached base - walks by Denard Span and Jayson Werth and Harper’s single - but Harper’s RBI knock, Miller has retired 14 of the 16 Nats hitters he’s faced.

If they drop this game today, the Nats will have lost all six games to the Cardinals this season. They are looking for their first win against St. Louis since Game 4 of the NLDS.

They trail 3-1 going to the sixth.

Update: It’s now 4-1 after seven, thanks to Adams’ solo shot in the sixth that added to St. Louis’ cushion.

For the second time today, Adams fell behind in the count and the smoked a two-strike pitch for an extra-base hit. This time, he was down in the count 1-2, but crushed a 96 mph fastball out to right for his 17th homer of the season.

Davey Johnson will pinch-hit for Zimmermann leading off the eighth, so his season is over. Unless the Nats score four runs in this inning to take the lead, he’ll come up short of 20 wins.

Barring a comeback of some kind, Zimmermann will finish 19-9 on the season with a 3.25 ERA. Quite a strong season for the right-hander, who should earn some Cy Young votes in balloting after the season.

Update II: Well, this series didn’t go as planned.

The Nats lost to the Cardinals 4-1 this afternoon, wrapping up a three-game sweep at the hands of Mike Matheny’s club. Zimmermann gets the loss, while Miller gets his 15th win.

Overall, the Nats went 0-6 against the Cardinals this season, despite the fact that all six games were decided by three runs or fewer. The Nats have not beaten St. Louis since Werth’s walkoff homer in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

On to Phoenix for the final three games of the season.

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