WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Johnson called upon Jordan Zimmermann to bridge the gap between starter Ross Detwiler and setup man Tyler Clippard in Thursday night's Game 4 win over the Cardinals. The move clearly worked out, as Zimmermann struck out the side and fired up the Nationals, but it brought to mind another question: Why not Sean Burnett?
The lefty reliever made 70 appearances in the regular season, all of them in the seventh inning or later. He battled a left elbow injury in September and struggled badly in his only postseason appearance, recording only two outs in Game 2 while surrendering four runs (three earned) on three hits and a walk. Johnson said Burnett was still an option in Game 5, but he simply isn't a great matchup given St. Louis' lineup of dominant right-handed hitters.
"No, I would still use him. But this is a ballclub with very veteran hitters that go the other way real well," Johnson said. "And I like the right-handers more matching up. ... Not that left-handers can't get right-handers out, but I like my matchups of my right-handers against this lineup."
Burnett was devastating against lefty hitters in 2012, holding them to a .211/.245/.289 batting line with 28 strikeouts and only one walk, but those numbers jumped up to .298/.347/.420 with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks against right-handers.
That means right-handers Ryan Mattheus, Christian Garcia and Craig Stammen would be more likely to serve as the bridge to Clippard and closer Drew Storen in Game 5 on Friday night. Edwin Jackson, a right-handed starter like Zimmermann, will also be in the bullpen but only figures to see the mound if the game goes into extra innings.
Jackson available if Game 5 goes to extras
WASHINGTON -- If Game 5 of the National League Division Series goes into extra innings, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he would use starter Edwin Jackson in relief.
On Thursday, Johnson used right-hander Jordan Zimmermann in relief in a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 4 because the bullpen was overworked and Johnson wanted to bridge the gap in order to get to setup man Tyler Clippard and closer Drew Storen. Zimmermann pitched in the seventh inning and struck out the side.
On Friday, Johnson said the entire bullpen would be available against St. Louis.
"On Thursday, with my bullpen kind of overused the day before, I really needed somebody for that seventh inning," Johnson said. "I didn't want to go to some of the guys out there, certainly Christian Garcia, I didn't want to go to. Ryan Mattheus had been working through a lot of pitches, and the same with Craig Stammen. So I really needed Zimmermann for that one inning.
"Jackson, on the other hand, he threw 68 pitches in his last start. This would be his throw day for [a potential NL Championship Series Game 2] start on Monday. I would not use him [as the] bridge to get to Clip and Storen."
Zimmermann would get Game 1 start in NLCS
WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Johnson said that if the Nationals advance to the National League Championship Series, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will pitch against the Giants in Game 1, which would be Sunday at 8 p.m. ET at Nationals Park.
"Yes, Jordan Zimmermann will be the starter in Game 1 on Sunday," Johnson said.
Zimmermann has pitched two games in the postseason and allowed five runs in four innings. His best outing came in relief in Game 4 of the NL Division Series on Thursday, when he struck out the side in the seventh inning.
Game 4 victory reminded Davey of Nats' early wins
WASHINGTON -- Had the result been different, Nationals manager Davey Johnson surely wouldn't have been viewing his club's inability to put a runner past first base on Thursday as merely a flashback to earlier in the year.
Two home runs, including a walk-off blast to left field by Jayson Werth after a 13-pitch ninth-inning at-bat, was all the offense the Nats produced in a 2-1 National League Division Series Game 4 win over the Cardinals. With only one other hit all night -- Ryan Zimmerman singled in the fourth -- Washington never put a runner in scoring position, let alone past first base.
But with Werth pushing the Nats into position to clinch an NL Championship Series berth on Friday, Johnson adopted a broader perspective on what could've been a critical failure by his batters.
"It kind of reminded me of the first half [of the season]; we had good pitching, but our offense was sputtering," Johnson said. "We were missing Werth and missing [Michael] Morse and a lot of the young guys were playing, and we would scratch out a win some way."
Indeed, that seems to have been the recipe for the Nats' standing in this series. In the first four games, Washington was just 3-for-24 (.125) with runners in scoring position. St. Louis, by comparison, is 8-for-37 (.216).
The "scratching out wins" explanation is even more appropriate considering the weak outings by the Nats' starters. Ross Detwiler's six innings of three-hit, one-unearned-run ball on Thursday amounted to the team's best start by far, and even then it took Werth's late-inning heroics to squeak out a win.
"The first three games were not indicative of what we did the whole year, because our strength has always been our starting pitching keeping us in ballgames, and then getting key hits to win games," Johnson said.
"That's this time of year; when you have good pitching, you hold down good hitting, and I was glad to see that we finally started doing what we are capable of doing yesterday."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.