Lack of slider means righty's fastball proves vulnerable vs. Cardinals

It just is not what the Nationals have come to expect from right-hander Jordan Zimmermann this season. Even more than Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez, Zimmermann was for much of 2012 their most consistent starter. He posted a 2.94 ERA and failed to finish six innings only six times in 32 starts. Only once did he allow more than four earned runs.

But in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Monday at Busch Stadium, Zimmermann continued to be tormented by the St. Louis Cardinals. He lasted just three innings and gave up five runs in an eventual 12-4 loss.

The problem? Zimmermann threw 46 four-seam fastballs out of his 63 pitches. He also threw three two-seamers, six curves and just eight sliders. Four of St. Louis' hits came off that fastball. Yadier Molina twice singled off the slider. In the regular season, 62.2 percent of Zimmermann's pitches were fastballs. He was at 77.7 percent Monday. The slider was used 23.6 percent of the time during the regular season but only 11.5 percent Monday.

Up next
Cardinals at Nationals
Edwin Jackson (10-11, 4.03 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.71 ERA)
When » Wednesday, 1:07 p.m.
Where » Nationals Park
TV » MLB Network
Radio » 106.7 the Fan FM, WFED 1500, WHFS 1580
The National League Division Series heads to Washington for Game 3. Jackson twice faced the Cardinals down the stretch. They pummeled him Sept. 28 in St. Louis. He was knocked from the game after recording just four outs and gave up eight runs in a 12-2 loss. But he also gave up one run in eight innings Aug. 30 at Nationals Park. Carpenter is making his fourth start since returning from July surgery to free compressed nerves in his shoulder. The veteran righty was 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA last fall in the postseason.

Without a change-up to keep the Cardinals' right-handed bats off balance, Zimmerman is vulnerable when he doesn't command that fastball. There didn't appear to be a Plan B on Monday.

"[Zimmermann] didn't really make a lot of adjustments out there. He kind of stayed one way hard away," Nats manager Davey Johnson told reporters in St. Louis afterward. "A good, fastball hitting club, you have to use both sides of the plate, and he didn't really use his slider much early on. Started going to it a little later. But that's just a little inexperience."

Zimmermann also appears to be a terrible matchup against the Cardinals and their right-handed heavy lineup. They crushed him Sept. 1 in a 10-9 win. That remains the worst start of his career -- eight runs allowed in 32Ú3 innings. This one was shorter -- three innings -- but not quite as ugly.

In six career starts against St. Louis, Zimmermann is now 0-3 and has a 9.73 ERA. He faced them once each in 2009, 2010 and 2011 but has seen them three times since Sept. 1.