Jordan Zimmermann managed to get through 6 2/3 innings of work on 118 pitches in his previous start before last night's in Milwaukee, but he gave up six hits, five runs, all earned, and two home home runs on hanging sliders to New York Mets' infielder Daniel Murphy in that outing in the nation's capital.
It was the second rough turn in the rotation for the Washington Nationals' 27-year-old All-Star coming out of the Break, following the decision he made to rest rather than pitch in the Mid-Summer Classic after being selected to the NL roster for the first time in his five-year major league career.
Zimmermann was knocked out after two innings by the Los Angeles Dodgers in his first post-All-Star Break start and he got knocked around by the New York Mets in start no.2 of the second "half." But Zimmermann took the mound in his home state of Wisconsin last night and pitched a gem against the Brewers in front of a good portion of the population of his home town of Auburndale, WI, including one fan MASN's Julie Alexandria identified as Zimmermann's no.1 supporter:
"Zimmermann pitched very good," Davey Johnson told reporters after the Nats' right-hander threw six scoreless against the Brewers in the Nationals' 4-1 win Friday night in Miller Park. Zimmermann was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh after throwing 100 pitches and giving up four hits (all doubles) and four walks (a season high and tied for the most he's allowed in his career). Johnson explained that the decision to pull him after six had more to do with his pitch total last time out than any signs he was tiring.
"He threw a lot of pitches the time before so he was on a little shorter leash with me today," the 70-year-old skipper said, "but great ballgame. Pitched out of some tough jams. A bunch of doubles, and then pitched out of it, so it was outstanding."
Johnson was especially impressed with the way Zimmermann worked with what he had last night even if he wasn't as sharp as usual. "I thought at other times I've seen him have better stuff," he explained, "His command wasn't as good as I've seen it, but he certainly made pitches when he had to and beared down when he got guys on base and that's what a good ace like him does. We could have broken it open if we got a little more clutch hitting, but it was a nice win. We needed it."
Zimmermann also got run support from his teammates with the Nationals combining for four runs on 12 hits, three of them by Jayson Werth, who went 3 for 4 with a double, his 10th this year, and two singles. Since July 1st, Werth has a .383/.460/.638 line with three doubles and seven home runs in 28 games and 113 plate appearances, leaving him with a .309/.379/.507 line on the year in what's turning out to be a season like the ones he put together in Philadelphia before relocating to the nation's capital in 2011.
"He's been swinging the bat better," Davey Johnson said of his 34-year-old right fielder, "He's been hitting some balls on the nose. He's been pulling balls. He's making some adjustments. I like what he's doing." Asked what he's doing differently now that has him hitting like he did with the Phillies, Johnson said it was Werth's aggressive approach.
"He's been aggressive. He's not taking... I mean, he's swinging. I always say the more you swing the more you know where you're timing is at on every pitch. And he's being very aggressive I like it."
Werth's swinging a hot bat. Bryce Harper and Denard Span have turned it on. Ian Desmond has a .280/.374/.380 line since July 1st. Ryan Zimmerman's got a .291/.333/.391 line over his last 28 games. Wilson Ramos has put up a .313/.343/.537 line since coming off the DL on July 4th. Anthony Rendon's adjusting to the league's adjustments. Now if someone could just get Chipper Jones and Adam LaRoche together in a room with some video...
After the Nationals' 53rd win in their 109th game, Davey Johnson reminded everyone of the hard work that lies ahead after the hole the defending NL East Champs dug for themselves.
"We've got to play really good ball from here on out if we have any chance at all, I think the guys know that."
They got the start they needed from their ace last night in Milwaukee.
• AUDIO: Federal Baseball's Doghouse subbed for the District Sports Page's Dave Nichols last night on Nats Nightly and we talked about Zimmermann's night on the mound and Werth's big season:
More from Federal Baseball:
- Davey Johnson On Denard Span And Nationals' New Leader... Bryce Harper?
- Game 109 WPA: That was a good game. Nats 4, MIL 1
- Nationals 4-1 Over Brewers In Miller Park: Jordan Zimmermann With Six Scoreless In Home State
- Nationals' Friday Night Lineup vs The Brewers In Miller Park
- Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann Experiencing Whirly Bird Issues