Jordan Zimmermann came into Saturday's game against the Phillies hoping to get his season back on track and begin to fill into the top-of-the-rotation spot the Nationals have set aside for him for more than a year. Instead, the opposite happened.
It wasn't just that Zimmermann's start against the Phillies tied his shortest of the year, matching his last start against Florida. No, the troubling thing was the way the Nationals right-hander got beat: with three home runs, all on poorly-executed versions of three different pitches, and two against the left-handed batters than have given Zimmermann trouble.
By the end of the third inning, the Nationals trailed 5-1, and Zimmermann was gone, left to watch the rest of the game as Washington fell 5-2 to the Phillies. It was the Nationals' second straight loss of the series at Citizens Bank Park.
Zimmermann's night, in many ways, looked eerily similar to the outing he just had against the Marlins. He gave up five runs in three innings in that game, as well, and was done in by a pair of homers against Florida. On Saturday night, it was three homers.
Jayson Werth hit the first one in the second inning, pulling a hanging slider to left field for a solo shot. The pitch, left over the plate and too high in the zone, met exactly the fate it should have.
In the third inning, Zimmermann tried to sneak a 1-1 curveball across the plate against Ryan Howard, but the slugger caught the pitch when it hung in the zone, blasting it to left field for a two-run shot. It was a classic Citizens Bank Park home run, likely to be a long flyout in most parks, but Zimmermann got burned with it here.
And two batters later, Raul Ibanez hit the same kind of shot against Zimmermann, barely poking an opposite-field shot over the left field fence. Zimmermann got beat on a rising fastball there, and he would be done after finishing the third inning with his 80th pitch of the night.
The Nationals, again, took a 1-0 lead on the Phillies in the first inning, on Ian Desmond's RBI triple to score Danny Espinosa. But they couldn't do much else against Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick, who allowed two runs in six innings.
The final result wouldn't have mattered as much, though, if Zimmermann had showed some signs of progress. Instead, against a deadly lineup, he paid for his mistakes in the same frustrating manner he's done before.