He is known as the pitcher that just doesn’t smile. Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 3.18 ERA) is all business, and looks to take that business to the mound Thursday night in the rubber match against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park.
Zimmermann is coming off his first victory of the season on April 8 against the New York Mets, where he pitched five innings of two-run ball, striking out four and produced a two-RBI single of his own. The Nationals won, 6-2, spoiling the Mets home opener at Citi Field.
Opposing No. 27 will be Lee, a name that usually puts fear in the hearts of Major League batters and pitchers alike. But this season, Lee has surprisingly shown he is vulnerable. Lee is currently 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and is coming off a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves where he only lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up six earned runs.
Lee will be looking to rebound, so it is important the Nationals try and get to him early. They don’t need to swing for the fences; they merely need to get the ball into play. Crush the ball, crush Lee’s confidence. Easier said than done especially when a good portion of their potential lineup -- Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos -- have never faced Lee. Zimmermann also has never gone toe-to-toe with the big left-hander.
A side note to the Lee drama on the mound: this will be the first time Lee and Nats outfielder Jayson Werth will come face to face with each other on opposite sides of the plate this season. In the offseason, the two baseball buddies signed for their current respective teams, but had some bizarre choice words for each other about their decisions. The best of friends shall become the bitterest of enemies.
The crowd at Nationals Park will also become a story in itself, as tonight is the first time this season buses of opposing fans will be coming in a "planned invasion." The Nationals have not enjoyed the comforts of home field advantage in their own Park the past few seasons when this happens.
However, a Nationals series win against Lee could quickly start putting an end to such episodes.
Ian Desmond - SS
Rick Ankiel - CF
Jayson Werth - RF
Adam Laroche - 1B
Wilson Ramos - C
Michael Morse - LF
Danny Espinosa - 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr. - 3B
Jordan Zimmermann - SP