"My main goal, personal goal," Jordan Zimmermann told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Chad Dukes and Danny Rouhier this Spring, "is two hundred innings. I think that's a big stepping stone for starting pitchers and if I can get 200 innings that's what I want to do this year and I'm going to do everything I can to reach that." Zimmermann hit the 200 inning mark for the first time in his five-year MLB career when he struck Jeff Mathis out for the second out of a 1-2-3 third inning that left him at 36 pitches overall after three scoreless against the Miami Marlins in the nation's capital.
By the time he was done with his fourth complete game and his second shutout of the 2013 campaign, the 27-year-old, '07 2nd Round pick was up to 206 1/3 innings on the mound over which he had a 3.18 ERA, a 3.31 FIP, 40 walks (1.74 BB/9), 159 Ks (6.94 K/9) and a National League-leading 19 wins, (19-8) in 31 starts.
The Nationals improved to 22-9 on the year when Zimmermann takes the mound. Zimmermann racked up nine Ks and 10 groundouts in nine innings of work in which he threw 107 pitches, 59 for strikes. It all started with a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning against the Marlins, who were winless in eight games in Nationals Park this season when Zimmermann was done with them.
"You could tell from the first pitch of the ballgame that Zim wasn't going to be denied," Davey Johnson told reporters after tonight's 8-0 win. "He was going right after them. He was throwing hard. His slider was 88-89. It was overmatching stuff and even in the ninth inning he was still bringing it. So, it was very impressive. Well-needed for our bullpen."
Zimmermann gave up a two-out walk in the fourth and allowed the first hit of the game by the Marlins on an 0-2 fastball to Donovan Solano with two down in the sixth. "That was the only bad pitch he made," Johnson said. "[Donovan] Solano is a good fastball hitter and a good high fastball hitter. And he left it right up there for him. He had two strikes, I think it was just bad pitch selection. Cause I think it was an [0-2] count, you don't need to work that hard."
Miami had one hit through eight. They got another in the ninth so Zimmermann's 0-2 pitch to Solano didn't hurt quite as bad. The Nationals' right-hander worked quickly and efficiently all night and never let the Marlins get anything going. "You could tell from the get-go he wanted it bad," his manager said, "And he wasn't going to turn it over to anybody in the pen. That was pretty obvious. Every inning was pretty low pitch count and quality pitches. I think a couple of balls hit hard."
Marlins' starter Jacob Turner threw five scoreless, but got hit hard in the sixth when the Nationals sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on a walk and seven hits, four off Turner and three off reliever Chris Hatcher. With a 7-0 lead, Zimmermann set about attacking hitters and grinding out innings. "After we got the lead, he's more, 'Here, hit it,'" Johnson said. "Not so much setting up hitters and whatever, saying, 'Here, come on boys.' And since he had a lot of strikeouts, guys are up there trying to make contact early. That happens when a guy's got good stuff. Guys are just trying to get a swing on a pitch and in the counts he did, he threw some good breaking balls when he was behind [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Justin] Ruggiano, threw them sliders when he was 3-1 in the count. Broken bat ground balls. It was fun watching."
Zimmermann got a groundout to second from Stanton with a 3-1 slider in the top of the seventh. He got a line drive to short from Ruggiano with a 1-0 slider in the next at bat. He was up to 85 pitches after a nine-pitch seventh and 92 pitches after a seven-pitch eighth. Zimmermann was due up second in the bottom of the eighth inning, but there was no question in his manager's mind that he was going back out for the ninth.
"I told [pitching coach Steve McCatty], 'Don't talk to him,'" Johnson said. "Because I know him. He wanted to finish that ballgame. Bullpen could use the rest. And 19th win, most in the National League. That's big for him. Gives him an opportunity to win 20. He's got one more start. I knew he felt good. I talked to him the other day, he felt really great, and when he's feeling that good, he's going to pitch a heck of a ballgame."
The Nationals' 83rd win, (83-71) combined with Pittsburgh's 66th loss, left Washington five games behind both the Pirates (88-66) and Cincinnati Reds (88-66). "We're still in a pennant race," Johnson said. "The emotion on the ballclub has been great for a couple months. Even when we don't hit there's a lot of energy in the dugout. So, we've got to just keep going. Keep taking it to them."
• AUDIO: Nats Nightly = District Sports Page + Federal Baseball talking about the Nats' 8-0 win over the Marlins:
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