Jordan Zimmermann hasn't allowed a run since the fourth inning of his shaky five-inning outing against the Mets in New York's Citi Field back on April 21st. Since then the Nats' 26-year-old right-hander has thrown eighteen straight scoreless innings. The streak started in his final inning of work in NY and continued through a start in D.C. in a 4-1 complete game shutout win over the Cincinnati Reds in which he allowed just one hit in nine innings. Up next was an eight-inning start in Atlanta's Turner Field in which he held the Braves to two hits total in a 5-1 win. The '07 2nd Round pick has another streak going heading into Tuesday night's start against the Detroit Tigers in Nationals Park.
The Auburndale, Wisconsin-born, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point-educated pitcher hasn't suffered a loss in his adopted home in his last 14 starts in Nationals Park. Over that stretch, Zimmermann is (8-0). At home in 2013, the Nats' starter is (3-0) with a 1.23 ERA, 3.20 FIP, three walks (1.23 BB/9) and nine Ks (3.68 K/9) in 22.0 IP and he's held opposing hitters to a .200/.229/.263 line at home in Washington.
Zimmermann's never faced Detroit in a regular season game, but he got a good look at the defending American League Champions this Spring when he shut the Tigers down over six scoreless innings in Grapefruit League action. Sure it was a spring training start, but the Tigers had something approaching their regular lineup in Viera, Florida that day. Zimmermann gave up a leadoff single by Andy Dirks, then proceeded to retire the next 18 batters he faced, inducing 13 groundouts and dominating Detroit for the six innings he was on the mound in Space Coast Stadium.
"I had all four pitches working, you know," Zimmermann told reporters after facing the Tigers.
"It's one of those days where you have everything working," he explained, acknowledging that it wasn't a typical outing. "You can locate everything any time you want. It's hard to come by. They don't come by often, let's just say that. And when you've got everything working it's a lot easier and I was keeping everything in the bottom of the zone and that's why I got all the ground balls."
"You feel like you can't do anything wrong," Zimmermann continued, "and everywhere you throw the ball it goes where you want it to. And I threw a lot of good changeups today and kept it below the zone and they were swinging at it and getting weak contact and ground balls and got [Ian Desmond] and [Danny Espinosa] some work."
Though the kind of starts the Nats' right-hander was describing don't come around often, he's had the same kind of stuff he had against the Tigers this Spring in his last few outings, as his catcher, Kurt Suzuki, told reporters, including MLB.com's Andrew Simon, after Zimmermann shut the Braves down last week in Atlanta:
"'He's obviously got everything working right now. He's pitching up in the zone, down in the zone, in and out, he's really mixing it up with his breaking balls, he's throwing breaking balls for strikes. He's got it working.'"
Zimmermann told reporters after his last start that he felt great on the mound.
"Everything was working tonight," Zimmermann said and he and his catcher were in sync all night. "'Zuki and I have been on the same page pretty much every start and everything he put down tonight I was thinking about throwing before he put the fingers down, so it's definitely easy when you and the catcher are on the same page."
Suzuki was behind the plate in each of Zimmermann's last two outings. Wilson Ramos was behind the plate when Zimmermann shut Detroit down this Spring. Ramos started back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday in Pittsburgh, so either he goes for three in a row on Tuesday or it will be Suzuki back behind the plate as Zimmermann tries to extend his scoreless inning and undefeated streaks.
Just as he did against the Tigers this Spring, Zimmermann got on a roll last time out against the Braves, retiring seventeen batters in a row before Davey Johnson turned to the bullpen in the ninth to close out the Nationals' win. The Nats' skipper was asked after that start if Zimmermann should be in the conversation when people talk about the best pitchers in baseball.
"No question about it," Johnson told reporters, "I mean, I thought he was among the elites last year. We didn't get him much run support last year, but he pitched awfully well and he's taken it up another notch this year." After six starts and 44.0 innings on the mound, the Nats' right-hander is (5-1) with a 1.64 ERA, 2.92 FIP, seven walks (1.43 BB/9) and 27 Ks (5.52 K/9).
Zimmermann's ERA is the 4th lowest amongst starters in the National League. His 2.92 FIP is the NL's seventh lowest. His .166 BAA is second-lowest. His .188 BABIP-against is the lowest. His 1.43 BB/9 are the 7th lowest in the NL. His 0.41 HR/9 are the 4th lowest and his 0.75 WHIP is lowest overall in the National League.
If he's still left out of conversations about the best starters in baseball, it's an error of omission on the part of those holding the discussion.