Jordan Zimmermann's first post-All Star Break outing saw the 28-year-old right-hander give up eighth hits and four runs in five innings on the road in Colorado.
Zimmermann missed a second straight opportunity to represent the Washington Nationals in the Midsummer Classic when a bicep strain in his final first-half start, which took place in Philadelphia, sidelined him.
The time off allowed him to rest when he otherwise might have landed on the DL.
The Nationals' '07 2nd Round pick improved the second time out in Miami last week, when he held the Marlins to two runs on four hit over seven innings.
"He was really good tonight," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters that night.
Zimmermann received no decision when a ninth-inning rally by the home team capped off a comeback, but that took nothing away from the work Zimmermann did on the mound.
"He was down in the zone," Williams said. "Great slider tonight. So, he pitched really well. Much better than his last one. The last one was just rust. So tonight he proved that he's back on it."
If there were any questions remaining about Zimmermann's arm, he put them to rest on Friday night with a dominant performance in a blowout 11-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in the nation's capital.
"Same as last time," Williams said after the win which saw the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born starter hold the visiting Phillies scoreless over seven innings in which he allowed just five hits while striking out eight.
"Just in the zone," Zimmermann's manager continued. "Good slider to the right handers. Fastball up ahead in the count. Up out of the zone he got some chases there. He was aggressive. His tempo was good. Throwing strikes. Working fast. Even with some of the long innings we had offensively, he still stayed with it and kept his tempo going."
Zimmermann said the early lead the Nationals took, going up 5-0 after two and 11-0 after four, allowed him to take a more aggressive approach.
"I'm still throwing the same pitches," he explained.
"But if I do fall behind I'm just going to lay something over the middle and if they get a base hit, they get a base hit, but I'm definitely not going to walk anyone and I'm just going to keep attacking the whole game."
A third straight outing without any setbacks with his bicep also inspired confidence in the right-hander.
"You're never really sure what it's feel like when you get back on the mound and be able to go 100 pitches," he said. "And having a couple starts under my belt now and everything feels great, so it's a thing of the past."
With the win tonight, Zimmermann improved to (7-5) on the year, lowering his ERA from 3.17 to 3.00 in the process, while adding strikeouts 114-121, which left him with 8.25 K/9 so far this season, up from a career average of 7.37 K/9.
Zimmermann was asked if he was doing anything differently this season that has his K/9 higher than it's been since his rookie campaign in 2009?
"I feel like I'm throwing the same pitches and setting guys up pretty much the same," Zimmermann said, "and they're just swinging through a few more balls this year than in the past."
After a relatively slow start which saw him post a 4.07 ERA and a .307/.349/.440 line against in the first two months, 11 starts and 59 ⅔ IP this season, Zimmermann turned it around in June, with a 1.43 ERA for the month and a .192/.221/.250 line against in six starts and 44 IP.
Aside from the bicep-related setback last month, he's been solid since the end of May.
"It's great," Williams said tonight.
"Early on we talked a lot about him not being able to find the slider. In June he found it. Other than the one start in Philly, he's had no issues with anything. He feels great. We could have had him go out another inning, but there's really no need in that regard. He's not going to pitch the ninth for a potential shutout anyway, so we decided to get him out of there and try to save some bullets."
Jerry Blevins threw a scoreless eighth, Blake Treinen finished the game in the ninth and the Nationals set themselves up with chance for a split after dropping the first two games of the four-game series.
• We talked about Jordan Zimmermann's outing, the Nationals' offensive output and their base-stealing prowess so far this season: