The Baseball page: Sunday, Sept. 30

Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

NATionals Report

Rest not necessarily a good thing

Jordan Zimmermann was scheduled to start Saturday's game in St. Louis for the Nationals. That was a good thing for a team trying to wrap up a National League title. But there is a downside. With just four games left in the regular season that means Zimmermann will be off at least six days before the playoffs begin and as much as seven or eight.

Indications this week were that Washington -- as long as its division lead held and it wasn't relegated to the wild-card game on Friday night -- would start Gio Gonzalez in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. That would leave Game 2 for Zimmermann. But at best Game 2 will be on Sunday if the Nats are the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, and it will be Monday if they are the No. 1 seed. That's a lot of rest for a pitcher who hasn't dealt that well with it this season.

In games where Zimmermann is on a regular four days' rest, he has a 2.01 ERA. When he has five days or more? That jumps to 4.06. It's not really a small sample size, either. Zimmermann has started 17 games on normal rest and 14 on extra rest.

- Brian McNally

MLB storylines

1 Triple Crown » Whether or not Miguel Cabrera winning a Triple Crown is enough to overtake Angels rookie Mike Trout for the American League MVP award, it still adds an element of entertainment to a final week of the baseball season that doesn't really need it. Cabrera entered the weekend well ahead in RBIs (133) over Texas' Josh Hamilton (125), slightly ahead of Minnesota's Joe Mauer (.326 to .323) in batting average and just behind Hamilton in home runs (43 to 42). A Triple Crown hasn't been won by a batter since 1967 -- a longer period of time than even Roger Maris' once-famed home run record.

2 Chipper's last hurrah » Well, not quite. The Braves will get to host the National League wild card game next Friday at the very least if they can't swipe the NL East title from the Nationals. But Jones' days at Turner Field are officially numbered. He has been a mainstay in the Atlanta lineup for an astounding 18 seasons and actually made his big league debut in 1993. And now Jones is at best a few weeks from retirement just a few hundred hits shy of 3,000 and around 30 homers short of 500. He is also closing in on 2,500 games played.

3 Giant killers » Maybe it's because they won't be adding their best hitter, Melky Cabrera, back to the lineup even though his 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball is over. Maybe it's the low caliber of competition they've been hammering in the National League West for weeks. But the Giants, World Series champs in 2010, aren't getting much attention as the playoffs loom. Yet they entered the weekend 14-5 since Sept. 7, and it's unlikely the Nats or Reds are looking forward to road games in San Francisco to open the NLDS against Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner with a somewhat rejuvenated Tim Lincecum in reserve.

Who's hot?

1. Prince Fielder » The Tigers big first baseman is helping his club's AL Central title hopes with 11 hits in seven games.

2. David Price » The Rays ace not letting his team go quietly, throwing a complete game Tuesday vs. Boston.

3. Dustin Pedroia » The Red Sox second baseman reached base twice in four consecutive games last week.

Who's not?

1. Alex Rios » The White Sox outfielder had a team-high 68 extra-base hits, but none last week.

2. Alex Rodriguez » The Yankees star was in a 1-for-16 rut entering the weekend and sat out Wednesday.

3. Wei-Yin Chen » Twice in critical September starts, Chen has allowed five runs or more for the O's.

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