Livan Hernandez needed 129 starts with the Washington Nationals to earn the 44 wins which were the most by a starter in the latest era of baseball in the nation's capital (2005-present) before Jordan Zimmermann earned his 45th win as a National last night in Houston's Minute Maid Park. Zimmermann's 45th win came in his 119th start with the Nationals who selected him in the 2nd Round of the 2007 Draft with a compensatory pick they received in return when outfielder Alfonso Soriano left for Chicago (NL).
One hundred and two of Zimmermann's 119 career starts and 41 of his 45 wins have come since he returned to the mound following Tommy John surgery which he underwent in August of 2009.
Before last night's outing, the right-hander was (41-31) with a 3.25 ERA on the mound since he returned from a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He's now (42-31) with a 3.22 ERA since his elbow was reconstructed.
On the year, in his sixth major league season, the 27-year-old right-hander is now (2-1) with a 3.27 ERA, 3.10 FIP, eight walks (2.18 BB/9) and 35 Ks (9.55 K/9) in six starts and 33 IP.
Zimmermann threw 6 1/3 scoreless on 110 pitches last night, allowing seven hits and one walk while striking out seven and inducing seven ground ball outs from the 27 batters he faced in what was arguably his strongest start of the season thus far.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the Nationals' 7-0 win that it was more of what he's come to expect from Zimmermann when the right-hander takes the mound. "More of the same," Williams said. "He just attacked the zone. He missed with some command off and on tonight. Was a little bit up in the zone, but threw the pitches he needed to when he had to. More of the same."
Zimmermann said after the outing that he didn't really feel particularly sharp on the mound.
"I didn't feel as good as I'd like," he explained. "They got me some runs early which settled me down. The first inning I threw 20-something pitches and basically the whole game I was trying to battle back to get the pitch count where I wanted it. Be able to manage it. Threw a lot of pitches, they fouled some good pitches off and it was a battle for me all night."
Williams sent Zimmermann back out for the seventh at 101 pitches and he was nine pitches into the inning with one down when he was lifted, having let two runners on. Right-hander Aaron Barrett stranded both runners, completed the inning and the Nationals cruised to their 16th win of the month.
After Barrett, Ross Detwiler and Ryan Mattheus finished things up on a relatively easy night for the Nats' bullpen. Zimmermann was happy to help turn things around after the Nationals' starters struggled at times to go deep into their starts in the first few weeks of the season.
"Early in the year it wasn't like us," he said. "We were having some short outings and getting hit around a little bit, but as of late we're starting to pitch a lot better and go right after guys and now you're seeing the six, seven, eight inning games and hopefully it continues."
As for becoming the winningest National? "It means a lot," Zimmermann said. "I can actually ride Livo now and it feels good to pass up a good friend and it means that I'm doing my job. Wins aren't everything as a starting pitcher, as long as the team wins, but to get that many means that I'm doing something right."
• Nats Nightly: We talked about Zimmermann's outing, Anthony Rendon's skills at the plate and more after last night's game on the latest edition of Nats Nightly. Since Tuesday night's show was a late one, we've included that one below as well. And as always, the episodes are available on iTunes: