- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jordan Zimmermann’s first trip to the visitors’ clubhouse in Nationals Park occurred on Monday afternoon when he arrived with the Detroit Tigers. Since 2007, Zimmermann had been part of the Washington Nationals organization. That day, he was in his new Tigers uniform, the No. 27 stitched on his back now in orange instead of red.

Following a bullpen session in left field instead of right, Zimmermann walked toward the mound on which he once threw a no-hitter. There, he chatted with Nationals starter Max Scherzer and put in a request. Zimmermann asked for a fastball down the middle when the two face each other in Wednesday night’s finale of the three-game interleague series between the clubs. Scherzer said he would not be cooperating.

The series has become a flashback moment for each. Scherzer played for the Tigers for five seasons before leaving as a free agent to join the Nationals. Zimmermann spent all seven of his previous major-league seasons in Washington before departing last offseason and signing a $110 million contract with the Tigers.

“Felt a little weird coming in [Monday],” Zimmermann said. “I’ve seen this game coming on the calendar for a while. I’m excited to be here, happy to see all the guys and ready to play against these guys.”

“It’s going be fun,” Scherzer said. “These are all my friends. Played with them for five years there. They’re all talking to trash to me and I love it. They’re all talking about hitting bombs off me and I wouldn’t expect anything else. I know they’re a real good offensive group.”

The two are off to differing starts. Zimmermann’s 1.10 ERA led the American League entering the series. He’s 5-1, with an efficient 1.05 WHIP. It’s the best start of his career.

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“I feel like I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing over the years,” Zimmermann said. “Not giving up that hit with runners in scoring position, I’m able to wiggle out of some stuff. Basically it.”

Though he’s in a new league, Zimmermann feels the unknown territory is as much a benefit as a detriment. He doesn’t know much about the tendencies of American League hitters. They, however, don’t know much about his stuff or patterns.

Scherzer is in a reflective mood following a wobbling performance against the mighty Chicago Cubs the last time he pitched. Scherzer allowed four home runs in five innings, yanking his season total to nine home runs allowed, tying him for the second-most in the National League. Scherzer’s ERA is 4.60. He’s been discussing the poor results with pitching coach Mike Maddux and catcher Wilson Ramos.

“Just trying to come up with different ways I can pitch,” Scherzer said. “Look for different things in different situations and just do things a little bit differently. Like I said, it felt like I was a little bit predictable last time out and I’m going to try to find ways to counteract that.”

Among the challenges on Wednesday likely will be one-time Triple Crown winner and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, whom Scherzer called “the best hitter on earth.” The challenge of facing his former teammate had Scherzer salivating a full day before he pitched.

“You dream of facing the best,” Scherzer said. “This is who you measure yourself against. You don’t measure yourself against the nine-hole hitter. You measure yourself against Miguel Cabrera.”

Zimmermann, who said he wanted to re-sign with Washington, hopes for a positive reception when he pitches. On Monday, the Nationals showed a video montage filled with Zimmermann’s highlights. The clips received plenty of applause. As the cheering continued, a curtain call seemed natural, so a man in a Tigers uniform ran up the dugout steps and saluted the crowd.

It was Detroit first base coach Omar Vizquel. The Nationals will have to deal with the real Zimmermann on Wednesday.

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