Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson has seen a lot of good efforts from the Nats' pitchers since he joined the organization. Where did Jordan Zimmermann's complete game, 91-pitch, one-hit, shutout rank? "That's -- since I've been here, that's the best pitched game I've seen. Low pitch count. Really went after them. Never really had any qualms at all about letting him hit, or, even if there was a runner on third and nobody out I'd let him hit. Low pitch count, throwing the ball good. He earned every right to go all the way. It was fun to see."
A night after Gio Gonzalez held the Cincinnati Reds to one run on one hit (a Joey Votto HR) and went 8.0 innings on 112 pitches, Zimmermann somehow one-upped the Nats' lefty with a complete game one-hitter in which he induced 12 groundouts and held the Reds hitless after Xavier Paul's leadoff single in the third. Just how rare are back-to-back one-hit games? According to game notes handed out by the Nationals after Zimmermann's outing, the last team, "... to allow 0 or 1 hit in 2 straight games was the [Chicago] Cubs on September 14-15, 2008 vs the [Houston] Astros in games played in Milwaukee," when Hurricane Ike forced the teams to relocate north from Texas. "The Nats franchise has never done this before," the game notes read, and, "The last time a DC team did was August 10-11, 1917 vs the White Sox in Washington."
Walter "The Big Train" Johnson threw 9.0 scoreless in the first of those two games, holding Buck Weaver, Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe and the Sox off the board in a 4-0 win. The next night in Griffith Stadium, Senators' right-hander James Aloysius "Grunting Jim" Shaw gave up just one hit, five walks and two earned runs in 6.2 innings of work before handing the game over to Doc Ayers and George Henry "Pea Soup" Dumont, who combined for 2.1 scoreless in a 3-2 win over the White Sox and Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte. [ed. note - "Gonzalez and Zimmermann need better nicknames."]
• Zimmermann On Watching/Learning From Gio Gonzalez's Outing via MASN: "I was watching last night and Gio stayed on the bottom of the zone too and they were swinging early just like tonight and I just saw that and figured if I do the same I'd get the same results."
• VIDEO: Zimmermann vs The Reds:
Davey Johnson talked about the growth he's seen from Zimmermann that allowed him to do what he did on the mound tonight. "It's just experience," the Nats' skipper said, "He knows more about how they react to his stuff. He's always been pretty aggressive, but he just made good pitches all night, he was pitching out front all night and when you get a club like that they're going to swing, put balls in play, but they're not going to center many." Zimmermann told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, that letting hitters put balls in play and getting ground balls outs is the game plan:
Jordan Zimmermann wants hitters to put balls in play and, this will warm Steve McCatty's heart, said: "I don’t care about strikeouts."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) April 27, 2013
• Zimmermann On Getting Groundouts via MASN "Just throw it down and away and let them beat it into the ground and let [Ian Desmond] and [Danny Espinosa] do what they do all year."
Davey Johnson was particularly impressed with how Zimmermann attacked the Reds' hitter tonight and mixed up his pitches. "What he did today, more so than I've seen," Johnson said, "if you watched on [Shin-Soo] Choo, he started him off with a curve ball. Used his curve ball, which has been his third pitch, he used that more than I've seen him in the past, and he just -- in fastball counts, to certain good fastball hitters, he used his slider. Just a heck of a ballgame, I was impressed all the way through."
• Zimmermann On Using Curve via MASN: "I've always liked throwing first pitch curves to get ahead of the guy. Just flip it in there. And, you know, I feel comfortable throwing it, and some of these guys swing early and are pretty aggressive, so I figure if I can just flip that in there and get them to fly out or ground out and it was working."
Johnson asked how many pitches Zimmermann ended up throwing?
"91," reporters told him.
"Phenomenal. Great. Unbelieveable," the Nats' manager said.
Zimmermann got 12 ground ball outs, eight flyouts and four Ks from the Reds tonight, with one of the four Ks a big one when Cincinnati got a runner on in the eighth after a two-out walk, bringing pinch hitter Jack Hannahan to the plate as the potential go-ahead run. Hannahan fouled off two 1-2 pitches and took a fastball outside to get to a 2-2 count. Then Zimmermann dropped a slider on the Reds' slugger to get an inning-ending swinging K which left him at 86 pitches after eight.
"Against Hannahan, a pretty good fastball hitter," Johnson said, "[He] blew one [fastball] by him, [Hannahan] fouled one off and then [Zimmermann] threw him -- actually, a high slider, but his slider's got some bite to it. Just a phenomenal game. It was really fun for me to watch him."
• Zimmermann On AB vs Hannahan via MASN "I was just trying to have him put it in play and make a quality pitch. I was throwing it up in the zone and trying to get him to pop up and we got two strikes and I tried burying the slider and I was a little amped up and left it up and he swung through it."
Asked about the results Gonzalez and Zimmermann got attacking batters in the first two games against the Reds, Johnson said it's indicative of what his staff can do when they're going strong. "My guys, if they attack hitters like they have the last two days, it's going to be a problem, I don't care [if it's] a good-hitting team, bad-hitting team. You don't get a lot of pitches to look at, you're hitting behind all the time, mixing [their] pitches up, low pitch counts, you're feeling strong all the way through the game."
In back-to-back starts Gonzalez and Zimmermann were at their best and the Reds didn't have a chance. Tomorrow afternoon in Nats Park, Dan Haren takes the mound vs the Reds in Game 3 of 4 with Cincinnati. No pressure, Dan.