Jordan Zimmermann has no answer for Cardinals’ onslaught

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Jordan Zimmermann spent some time as the NL ERA leader this season, and while he did have  a hiccup in August, he bounced back to go 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his final five starts of the season. Overall, he was 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA that ranked seventh in the league.

Which is all quite impressive. What Zimmermann hasn’t been able to do, though, is beat the Cardinals. He entered Monday’s outing 0-2 with a 9.12 ERA in five career starts against them, and he proved no better in the Game 2 loss, giving up five runs in three innings before being removed.

The Cards did most of their damage in the second, collecting four straight hits with no outs to score two runs. They later got an RBI groundout and an RBI single, and the four-run rally only ended when Jon Jay was thrown out trying to take second on his hit.

Zimmermann’s success these last two years is partly predicated on his ability to pitch out of jams. In 2012, the league batted .288 with 11 homers in 434 at-bats against him with the bases empty. That dropped to .198 with seven homers in 308 at-bats with runners on and .163 with one homer in 172 at-bats with RISP. In 2011, he was much better with the bases empty (.245, 7 HR) but also lights out with RISP, not allowing a single homer in 111 at-bats.

Of course, that didn’t hold up today. In 32 starts this season, Zimmermann had allowed a total of one hit with runners on first and third and one hit with runners on second and third. The Cardinals had hits in both of those situations in back-to-back at-bats today.

Credit St. Louis for staying aggressive and not letting Zimmermann get ahead in the count. Their four hits with men on base in the second inning came on counts of 0-0, 3-1, 1-1 and 1-0. I doubt they’ve discovered any special recipe for beating Zimmermann, but they do seem to have the right approach against him when he’s in trouble.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.