File this in the “things you don’t see every day” department: Braves closer Craig Kimbrel allowed back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning last night against the Reds, leading to a 5-4 Atlanta loss.
Kimbrel allowed just three home runs all of last season, surrendered just seven total earned runs and blew three saves in 45 chances. This season, the flame-throwing right-hander has already allowed three homers, five earned runs and has blown three saves in 13 chances.
After their ridiculous 12-1 start to the season, the Braves have now gone 7-12. Quite a drop-off.
Jordan Zimmermann was scheduled to get the start for the Nationals last night, but the rainout pushed his outing back to today. This will leave Zimmermann taking the mound on six days of rest, two more than what starting pitchers are used to.
Some starters are able to deal with extra rest better than others. Stephen Strasburg has a 2.92 ERA in 26 career starts on more than normal rest, and a 3.11 ERA when he goes on just the standard four days in between outings.
Zimmermann and Dan Haren - the two pitchers who will start against the Tigers this series on six days’ rest - have not fared well when they’ve had extra days in between starts.
Zimmermann is 13-19 with a 4.00 ERA in 47 career starts on five or more days’ rest, compared to a 2.61 ERA and 16-8 record on the standard four days. When Haren goes on six days’ rest, he’s 7-12 with a 5.09 ERA in 28 starts.
“I know my numbers aren’t as good when I’ve got more days off,” Zimmermann said yesterday. “I feel the same. I still feel good every time. It’s just one of those fluke things with more days off the worse my numbers are for whatever reason. Hopefully I can change that tomorrow.”
Pitchers have a set routine in between starts. They play catch the day after an outing, throw a side session two days after their start and then go about preparing for their next game over the next two days. When you give starters extra days to work with, that routine gets thrown off. Some starters like feeling like their arm is fresher than normal, others like having the same consistent feel every time out.
The Nationals will hope Zimmermann’s struggles on extra rest will be offset by the fact he’s one of the hottest pitchers in the game right now, having thrown 18 straight scoreless innings and allowed just three hits over his last two starts.
The Nats hope to have Jayson Werth back in the lineup today after Werth missed the entire weekend series in Pittsburgh with a tight left hamstring, but the conditions could play a factor in whether the veteran right fielder returns to action.
Manager Davey Johnson said that he would’ve written Werth into his lineup for yesterday’s rained-out game had the weather not been a factor. With the field at Nationals Park likely still pretty wet and a chance of rain remaining through the afternoon and evening tonight, we’ll see if Johnson wants to play things carefully and give Werth another day off.
Johnson tends to take things very slowly when it comes to working in players coming off hamstring injuries, and he’s reluctant to put Werth in the lineup too quickly only to see the hamstring tighten up again or pull.
Werth’s numbers against tonight’s Tigers starter, Anibal Sanchez, aren’t great, so if the field is still wet, Johnson might stick with Tyler Moore in right field, giving Werth another day to let the hamstring loosen up.