Jordan Zimmermann wasn't exactly sharp last night in Citi Field, but the 27-year-old, '07 2nd Round pick was good enough over five+ innings of work to earn his NL-leading 17th win of 2013. Zimmermann gave up eight hits and three earned runs in five innings and was up to 85 pitches overall when he left the game in the bottom of the sixth, having given up three hits and two runs before Craig Stammen came on to end the inning. After Stammen, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano threw an inning each to preserve Zimmermann's lead and lock down the Nationals' 75th win of the season.
"Jordan obviously hit a brick wall going into the sixth inning," Davey Johnson told reporters after the Nats' 6-3 win. "He didn't have many pitches, but the bullpen did a great job holding on and then, of course, the big hit by [Scott] Hairston. That was big, opened up some breathing room. It was a strange game." Hairston's two-run, pinch hit home run in the top of the ninth gave Washington a three-run lead and took some of the pressure off. Soriano gave up a hit, but retired the side on 14 pitches to earn his 40th save of 2013.
Zimmermann, whose previous career-high in wins was 12, had a three-start losing streak at the end of July, but since then the right-hander is (5-2) with a 3.83 ERA, 14 walks (2.55 BB/9) and 39 Ks (7.11 K/9) in eight starts and 49 1/3 IP. Asked if there were any issues that caused him problems last night, Davey Johnson said Zimmermann just, "... kind of ran out of gas. He didn't have good command all day. His velocity was fine, but his command was way down. But it's still a win. He's gone deep in ballgames, so we can help him out once in a while."
After 29 starts in 2013, the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born, Wisconsin-Stevens Point-educated starter is (17-8) with a 3.36 ERA, a 3.44 FIP, 18 HRs (0.85 HR/9) and 37 walks (1.75 BB/9) allowed and 143 Ks (6.76 K/9) collected in 190 1/3 IP. The former scout, scouting director and assistant GM who argued in favor of taking Zimmermann with the 67th overall pick of the 2007 Draft told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Bill Rohland this morning he's impressed from the start of his time in the organization.
"He's been terrific for us since the day we signed him," Mike Rizzo said on this week's edition of the eponymous Mike Rizzo Show, "and again, a testament to our scouting staff. From a very obscure, small school. [Scouts] Steve Arneirie, Jeff Zona and [current Nats' scouting director] Kris Kline battled hard to get him in the draft, in the second round. Could have easily been passed over in the draft, but we saw the make-up and the character of this guy and the stuff that he had and as far as pitchers go, there's no tougher guy that I've been around as far as just taking the ball and going with it. And he's a guy that we have high hopes for."
Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will pitch at the front of the rotation again next season, but there are questions about the 4-5 spots. Can Ross Detwiler stay healthy? Can they trust the young starters who've filled in this season? Rizzo was asked by 106.7 the FAN's Mr. Rohland if the Nationals thought they had enough pitching in the organization now to fill out the rotation. "We think we do," Rizzo said, "We think we have several candidates for that fourth and fifth spot in the rotation.
"We've seen the emergence of Taylor Jordan. We've seen the emergence of Tanner Roark. We've got guys in the minor leagues that are on the cusp and are ready to come... with Sam Solis and A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray. These guys are all pitching very well if not dominating at high levels of the minor leagues at a very, very young age. And Lucas Giolito and [Blake] Treinen and the list goes on and on and on of guys that we feel are going to be contributors not only to the rotation but to the bullpen in the very near future. And there's going to be some stiff competition for the back end of that rotation this coming Spring Training."
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