The event was overshadowed a bit by the introduction of Bryce Harper and the concern over Stephen Strasburg, but Jordan Zimmermann made his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery in last night’s wild 11-10 extra-innings victory over the Cardinals.
Zimmermann looked decent enough over the first three innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk, but the wheels came off after he served up a solo home run to Albert Pujols to begin the top of the fourth inning. The Cardinals would score four runs on five hits in the frame, ending Zimmermann’s night. The young right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits over four innings while striking out three, walking one and hitting a batter.
Considering that it was his first major league start in 13 months, you can bet the Nationals aren’t all that concerned about the results just yet. Besides, he showed excellent velocity, averaging 92.3 mph on his fastball, and told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that he walked away from the outing feeling healthy. That’s the important part.
“I felt good the whole time,” Zimmermann said. “The first three innings
were good. The fourth inning, I wish I could have over. Pujols hit that
home run. I was a little frustrated, and then I left a couple of balls
up and I got hit around a little bit.”
There’s still plenty of reason to believe he can build upon the promise of his rookie season. Unfortunately, it’s anybody’s guess when Zimmermann and Strasburg will actually be in the same starting rotation.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and two walks total.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.