USA Today Sports Images
Stephen Strasburg was brilliant for four innings, then awful in the fifth.
Fielding lowlight: Any breakdown of today's game has to include the play that completely shifted momentum: Zimmerman's throwing error on Welington Castillo's routine grounder with two outs in the top of the fifth. Zim actually had looked much better in the field in recent days, throwing both with more velocity and more precision. But this was an obvious case of him reverting to the form that left everybody so concerned a few weeks ago before he landed on the DL with a hamstring strain. Zimmerman's throw wasn't horribly off-line, but it didn't have any oomph on it, and it pulled Adam LaRoche off the bag. Even worse, he wound up getting charged with another error later when he let a sharp grounder roll under his glove. This is a significant mental challenge for Zimmerman, make no mistake. To his credit, he did start a very sharp 5-4-3 double play shortly after committing his second error.
Pitching lowlight: Would Strasburg's entire afternoon played out differently had Zimmerman merely made an on-target throw to first? Perhaps. But any pitcher will tell you it's his job to pick up his teammates when they commit an error behind them. And Strasburg, who had already struggled in that department this season, really struggled today. The Zimmerman error left a runner on first base with two outs and the No. 8 hitter at the plate. Strasburg walked him, then ran the count full to the opposing pitcher before surrendering a two-run double, then walked another batter, then allowed an infield hit, then a two-run single up the middle. Throughout the meltdown, Strasburg had a look of complete defeat on the mound, slumping his shoulders, moping around the mound and not even bothering to back up the plate on that base hit to center. What's amazing is how good he looked prior to that point, going right after Chicago's hitters, taking complete control of the game. One bad play behind him and he completely lost that edge.
Key stat: Strasburg threw 53 pitches through his first four innings. He needed 42 pitches to get through the fifth inning.
Up next: The series concludes with a Mother's Day matinee at Nationals Park. Gio Gonzalez faces Scott Feldman at 1:35 p.m.