In many of his starts this year, Jordan Zimmermann has used his stellar stuff more to get quick outs than to put batters down swinging. He's only struck out more than five batters three times this year, and two of those three games were the only times he's thrown more than 100 pitches this season.
But when Zimmermann is on - particularly when his slider is working - he can ratchet up the strikeouts. He's been doing that so far today, fanning five Cubs batters through four innings. An awful defensive play between Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth, though, has helped Chicago take a 3-2 lead over the Nationals.
Zimmermann's slider has long been seen as the better of his two breaking pitches, and this season, it's been the sixth-most valuable slider in the National League. It's also helped his fastball become one of the league's best; it's third in the NL at 14.1 runs above average, according to Fangraphs. He's thrown 10 sliders amongst his 60 pitches today.
The Nationals, though, had the lead through three innings, and probably should still have it, if not for Bernadina and Werth's gaffe. Bernadina was late coming to an Alfonso Soriano fly ball, and he and Werth let it fall between them for a base hit. The Cubs scored two runs when the Nationals were slow to get the ball into the infield, and Soriano went to second on Bernadina's throw home. It should have been Bernadina's ball, and he needed to be more assertive about calling it and getting to it.
As it is, the Nationals are doing their best to squander another solid outing by Zimmermann. It's 3-2 Cubs in the fourth.