The Baseball Page: Aug. 12, 2012

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

NATIONALS Report

Cy Young buzz for Zimmermann

If there was any question beforehand, Jordan Zimmermann's latest outing has catapulted him firmly into the National League Cy Young Award race. One of three pitchers on the team having a brilliant season -- Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are right there with him -- Zimmermann pitched six shutout innings against Houston on Thursday and struck out 11 batters. Now, the Astros are a glorified Triple-A team at this point. But that game lowered Zimmermann's ERA to 2.35, which is second best in the league behind San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong (2.27).

Only Joe Blanton (5.72), Cliff Lee (5.17), Strasburg (4.71), Madison Bumgarner (4.65), R.A. Dickey (4.61) and Matt Cain (4.44) have a better strikeouts-to-walks ratio than Zimmermann (4.40). He has pitched 1451Ú3 innings and is well on his way to his first 200-inning season. He has allowed only 154 combined hits and walks in those innings, which puts his WHIP at 1.06. Only four NL pitchers are better. About the only thing Zimmermann doesn't do as well as his rivals -- Thursday's game aside -- is strike out batters. He is 33rd in the NL with 6.81 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. There's still a long way to go with nine starts remaining, but Zimmermann's resume continues to build.

MLB STORYLINES

1 Manny Machado »

Still very much in the wild-card race in the AL, the Orioles have gone for broke with the last real internal improvement available to them. They brought 20-year-old Manny Machado up from Double-A. Who is that? He's their top position prospect -- ranked No. 3 in the sport by ESPN's Keith Law this summer -- and a promising shortstop drafted No.?3 overall in 2010. Baltimore was hoping Machado could make the switch to third base and provide above-average defense, not worrying about his performance at the plate. But he homered twice in his second game for the Orioles.

2

Braves »

Somehow the Nationals keep winning -- 21-9 in the second half entering Saturday -- and yet their lead in the NL East still hasn't grown to anything comfortable. That's because Atlanta has kept the pressure on. The Braves have done an admirable job patching a rotation that lost top starter Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery in May. They added veteran Ben Sheets, who has basically been out of the sport since 2008 after ripping apart his elbow twice, and stable lefty Paul Maholm. Sheets posted a 1.41 ERA through his first five starts to become one of the great stories this season.

3 Adam Wainwright »

Ben Sheets isn't the only Tommy John survivor to make a mark in the National League playoff race this season. The Cardinals looked cooked when Wainwright blew out his elbow early in spring training last season. He missed the team's crazy march to a World Series title, and about the only positive was the injury happened early enough that Wainwright was ready for 2012. He struggled early with bookend seven-run outings to begin and end June. But in six of his last seven starts, Wainwright has allowed two runs or less as he finds the form that made him an ace.

Who's HOT?

1. Buster Posey » The Giants catcher has caught fire in August with four multi-hit games, five homers and 1.488 OPS.

2. Michael Morse » The Nats outfielder had hit three home runs in his last two games entering Saturday.

3. CC Sabathia » The Yankees ace tossed 152Ú3 of a possible 18 innings in his last two starts with 11 hits and two walks allowed.

Who's NOT?

1. Bryce Harper » The Nats rookie's slump continued into his first nine games of August with a 6-for-34 skid.

2. Curtis Granderson » The Yankees outfielder had just seven hits through his first nine games in August.

3. Tommy Milone » The A's lefty -- and former Nats prospect -- has allowed 17 runs in his last three starts.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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