Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann threw six scoreless against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon, working his way out of a few jams in the series finale in the nation's capital. Zimmermann left the mound with a 1-0 lead, but Nats' right-hander Drew Storen gave up a run in the seventh, so the 28-year-old starter received no decision for his effort on the mound which left the Nats' '07 2nd Round pick with a 2.79 ERA, a 2.70 FIP, 20 walks (1.64 BB/9) and 96 Ks (7.88 K/9) in 18 games and 109 ⅔ IP this season.
Cubs' starter Jake Arrieta allowed a run in the first inning in Nationals Park, but shut the Nats down after that, completing six innings overall in which he allowed just four hits and three walks.
"As advertised from both the guys," Nationals' skipper Matt Williams said after the pitchers' duel in the nation's capital.
"Jordan's pitch count got way up there. He got into trouble and wiggled out all day. He made pitches when he had to. And [Arrieta] is pretty good. We were able to scratch one in the first that held up for most of the game, but he's tough."
Zimmermann's outing continued a strong stretch of starts which have followed his rough month of May. In his last seven starts, the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born starter has put up a 1.26 ERA with seven walks (1.26 BB/9) and 46 Ks (8.28 K/9) in 50 IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .204/.233/.260 line.
The difference for Zimmermann over the last month-plus?
"I think it's the slider," Williams said. "I think he found the slider and it just gives him another weapon. Today he didn't throw it great. He used fastballs a lot today. I just think since he found the feel for it, he's been able to locate with it, get down in the zone with it, certainly get some early outs with it... it's just another weapon now that he's found the feel for it."
After the game, Zimmermann learned that he earned his second All-Star nod, named to the National League roster by Cardinals' skipper Mike Matheny.
"It's quite an honor for him," Williams told reporters when after the announcement. "I think he's earned it. He's been fantastic for us and we're happy for him that he has a chance to go represent us and be part of it. It's a special thing, so he'll have a lot of fun."
Zimmermann was named to the NL roster last season, but opted to sit out of the All-Star Game in Citi Field so he could rest a bothersome neck issue and prepare for the second half of the season.
Earning his second nod, Williams said, is just as special. In his own 17-year major league career, Williams made five appearances in the Mid-Summer Classic.
"Any time a player gets to go be a part of that it's a special time," the first-year manager said Sunday. "We're looking forward to seeing him compete and we're proud of him and he deserves it."
While Zimmermann was the only National named to the NL roster, 24-year-ol Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon was one of five players who made the 2014 MLB Final Vote ballot, where he'll compete with the Marlins' Casey McGehee, the Rockies' Justin Morneau, the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo and the Braves' Justin Upton for the final spot on the National League roster.
While there are always possibilities for additions, Williams said the Nationals weren't disappointed to only have one player chosen.
"I think there's consideration for a lot of guys," he said. "All three of the guys in the back of the bullpen certainly were considered. It's a tough process. Especially with relievers it's very difficult. I'm sure all those guys were considered, they've been fantastic for us. I know Anthony is in the final vote, so he's got a chance. I think [Ian Desmond] put on a strong case and continues to, but not everybody can go. We're proud of the guys for having a chance to do that the way they've gone about it and performed for us. So we'll see about Anthony and certainly proud of Jordan."
Rendon, who has spent the bulk of his time at third base in his second major league season, has a .282/.340/.483 line with 21 doubles, five triples and 12 HRs in 83 games and 369 PAs over which he's been worth +3.1 fWAR, behind only the Reds' Todd Frazier (+3.5 fWAR) in fWAR in the NL.
"I just think he's played really well," Williams said. "The fact that he's in that final grouping says a lot about his season and the way he's played. He's handled himself very well for being a very young player and he certainly deserves consideration, that's for sure."