Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann hadn't walked more than two batters in a start all season before last night.
The Nats' 28-year-old starter erased the first walk of the day, a leadoff walk to center fielder Ender Inciarte in the top of the first, on a 3-6-3 inning-ending DP, but a free pass to Mark Trumbo in the first at bat of the fifth led to the Arizona Diamondbacks' first run of the game when the D-Backs' left fielder moved up to second on a single by catcher Miguel Montero, and third on a sac bunt by first baseman Jordan Pacheco before scoring on a sac fly to center by third baseman Jake Lamb.
The Nationals rallied from the 1-0 deficit with Wilson Ramos hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, but Zimmermann issued his third leadoff walk of the game to Lamb in the first at bat of the eighth then surrendered a two-run home run by Diamondbacks' shortstop Didi Gregorius on a full-count fastball in the next at bat as Arizona went back up, 3-2.
The pitch to Gregorius was Zimmermann's 95th and last of the night.
"I thought it was alright," the Nationals' 07 2nd Round pick said of his 25th start of the 2014 campaign.
"One pitch and it looks a little worse than what it is. But in that situation [against Gregorius] I want to throw a strike and 3-2 and everyone in the ballpark knows I'm coming with a heater, I don't want to walk another guy, he was ready for it and got the bat on the ball."
The fastball Zimmermann threw was knee-high inside, but Gregorius dropped the barrel of the bat on it and got enough to send it into the right field bullpen in Nats Park for his fifth home run of the season.
Matt Thornton finished out the eighth for the Nationals and a one-out rally that saw Denard Span double and score on a triple by Nats' third baseman Anthony Rendon got Zimmermann off the hook.
The Nationals took the lead when Rendon scored on a sac fly by Jayson Werth, but the D-Backs tied it back up when David Peralta took Tyler Clippard deep in the first at bat of the ninth, sending it to extra innings.
"I had a good fastball and I had pretty good command," Zimmermann said after the outing. "I just, a couple of them I fell behind and had to work pretty hard to get back and ended up walking them and that's why we preach we don't want to walk anyone. Two of my walks scored and we could have been home a lot earlier. Leadoff walks kill you and as you can see they usually come around and score."
The leadoff walk he issued in the first was just the second he gave up in 32 ⅔ IP to that point in the second-half, and the first since the seventh inning of his July 28th start against the Marlins in Miami.
Zimmermann went 19 ⅔ IP without walking anyone between his first and second of the second-half and then just three innings before giving up the next.
"He pitched really well," Matt Williams said after the Nationals' third straight walk-off win and their seventh straight win overall.
The Nats' skipper sent his starter out for eighth, since he was at just 82 pitches, hoping to spare the bullpen.
"The pitch count is reasonable," Williams said, but a five-pitch at bat with Lamb and then the eight-pitch battle with Gregorius ended his outing.
"He just made a mistake to Didi," Williams continued. "At that point, there's no need to push him any further than that. We were hoping that he was going to get through that inning with our bullpen situation the way it is, we wanted to stretch him through that inning given his pitch count. Unfortunately it didn't happen for him, but he pitched well."
After 25 starts, Zimmermann's (8-5) with a 2.97 ERA, a 2.80 FIP, 24 walks (1.42 BB/9) and 132 Ks (7.83 K/9) in 151 ⅔ IP.