Jordan Zimmermann has fared extremely well in his full-season return from Tommy John elbow surgery, posting a 3.12 ERA and 98/22 K/BB ratio in 21 starts, but Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals will soon remove him from the rotation in an effort to limit the 25-year-old right-hander’s workload.
According to Kilgore the Nationals don’t want Zimmermann throwing more than 160 innings this season and he’s already logged 133, so they’re expected to give him just four more starts before shutting him down.
Unless they skip his turn in the rotation several times before then that would likely mean Zimmermann not starting at all in September, with Stephen Strasburg potentially stepping into the rotation spot during the final month if his own recovery from Tommy John surgery continues to go well.
Davey Johnson indicated that he’d like to talk general manager Mike Rizzo into expanding the limit because of how well Zimmermann has pitched, but avoiding that temptation is the smart move. Ultimately a big part of the Nationals’ future involves Strasburg and Zimmermann atop their long-term rotation and a few extra September starts don’t mean much in terms of reaching that goal.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.