It was when Los Angeles Angels' starter Dan Haren, who'd thrown a one-hit shutout through five, started the sixth with 101 pitches on his arm and you noticed that Jordan Zimmermann had only thrown 55 pitches to that point, having just completed a seven-pitch 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, that it became apparent the Nats' 25-year-old right-hander was in complete control out there on the mound Wednesday afternoon in Anaheim. That is, if it wasn't apparent by the fourth pitch of the game after an 0-2 curve outside, when he dropped a filthy 1-2 breaking ball off the plate low and away to get Angels' leadoff hitter Erick Aybar swinging/chasing for the first out of the game.
That Zimmermann received no run-support in yesterday's 1-0 loss to Los Angeles was no surprise. In each of his last three losses, (Wednesday afternoon in LA and May 22nd and 28th in Baltimore and San Diego, respectively), he's received two runs of support total in two 2-1 losses and yesterday's 1-0 shutout, and the one run per the Nats scored in the other two losing efforts came in games in which the '07 2nd Round pick held the opponents scoreless before he was lifted. In four no-decisions this season, as the Nats highlighted in pregame notes before yesterday's outing, Zimmermann's allowed 5 ER total (1.71 ERA) while striking out 31 (10.59 K/9) in 26.1 IP, leaving with the team in line for a win twice and throwing 7.0 shutout innings twice in games the Nats eventually lost.
Asked if he was surprised by the fact that Zimmermann pitched so well again and lost, and what it told him about an offense which saddled Zimmermann with his seventh loss last night, new Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson, who got to see the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point-educated right-hander from the bench for the first time last night, responded wryly, "It tells me we're not scoring enough runs. And we'll pick that up, but what a great young pitcher."
[Zimmermann] was the story for me," Davey Johnson said in his post game press conference, "I mean, I've seen a lot of good pitched ballgames and I'll tell you that was one of the better ones I've ever seen." Asked what had so impressed the 68-year-old skipper who's watched Doc Gooden, Mike Mussina, David Wells and Stephen Strasburg from the bench as a manager, Johnson asked rhetorically, "90 something pitches in eight innings? I mean, that's outstanding. How they didn't hardly hit any balls hard. Ahead in the count all the time. I mean, he's a manager's joy to watch that kind of pitching."
Of the 28 batters faced yesterday, in what was Zimmermann's first complete game at any level of pro ball, the Nats' starter threw first-pitch strikes to thirteen, went to a 3-0 count only once and allowed just four hits, all singles, one of which Bobby Abreu tried to stretch into a double on Roger Bernadina's arm. Bad idea. Zimmermann struck out just four, walked only one (which resulted in the winning run though it was an unearned one after Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error) and induced 10 groundouts and six fly outs from the Angels' batters. Zimmermann averaged a little under 12 pitches per inning and just over three pitches per at bat, with an efficient six-pitch third, which included a single and the aforemtioned seven pitch fifth allowing him to stay in the game for eight strong innings in which he threw 93 pitches total, 60 of them strikes.
"What a great ballgame," Davey Johnson said afterwards, before reitirerating that, "It was one of the better ballgames I've ever seen pitched. I left [Zimmermann] out there, he deserved every chance to get a win, and we just couldn't get it done, you've got to tip your hat to [Dan] Haren, Haren pitched a heck of a ballgame also." In spite of Zimmermann's effort, the Nationals ended the actual first half of the season at 40-41 on a three-game losing streak with Johnson as the manager. As he told reporters yesterday, however, the losses are on him. "I told the guys early," Johnson said, "... you guys win games, I lose them. So I'm 0 for 3, I've got three in my column. I plan on rectifying that."