Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and Atlanta Braves' right-hander Shelby Miller battled through six and a half scoreless innings last Wednesday night in the nation's capital before the Nats broke through with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Two of the three hits the Nationals connected for with Miller on the mound came in the seventh when a leadoff walk to Denard Span, the only walk Miller allowed, came back to haunt him when Span scored on a bloop single to right by Bryce Harper that put the Nats ahead, 1-0.
Zimmermann came back out for the eighth inning and retired the Braves in order, leaving him at 100 pitches total after eight scoreless frames, so Nats' skipper Matt Williams hit for the starter when they put a runner in scoring position with one out in was a one-run game.
Danny Espinosa lined out in his pinch hit appearance and the Nationals came up empty, so they handed a 1-0 lead to closer Drew Storen, who blew his second save opportunity of the season, sending it to extras before the Nats finally won in the eleventh.
"Good pitchers' duel there," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said after the game. "Harper got the base hit, jam base hit, and put us up a run. Jordan -- we're at that point in the lineup where we've got a guy on second base and Danny hit a bullet to left, we're trying to score another run, and he's at 100 [pitches] too, and we've got our closer ready to go, so it didn't work out for Drew tonight, but we'll take that situation every single time."
Zimmermann told MASN's Johnny Holliday and Phil Wood after the game that he was motivated by both the matchup with Miller and the Nats' starters' recent run of success as he battled the Braves.
"He's good, that's for sure," Zimmermann said of his opponent on the mound. "He's got a good season going so far and he's obviously tough to hit. We had a rough time, and we were able to scratch a run across there late in the game and he puts up zeros, you want to go out and put up zeros and you know that the first one that breaks, the first one that gives up the first run is probably going to lose the game. I didn't want to be that guy tonight and so I did what I could and I'm glad we got the win."
Zimmermann didn't want to the guy who blew what was a streak of 34 ⅓ scoreless innings by the Nationals' starters when he was done for the night.
"I didn't want to be that guy that goes out and has a stinker," he said.
"I mean, my last couple have been pretty bad, but I wanted to go out and keep the ball rolling and these guys that were pitching before me have been throwing the ball great and I just wanted to keep it going."
Unfortunately for Miller, the no-decision left him winless in his last seven outings, going back to May 17th, in spite of the fact that he's posted a 2.70 ERA and a .250/.309/.335 line against in 43 ⅓ innings pitched over that stretch.
"All I'm trying to do is go out there and pitch," he told MLB.com's Mark Bowman after the Braves' loss.
"Wins are great, but at the end of the day we lost. I'm not going out and trying to win for myself, I'm trying to win for the team and we're trying to get in to first place."
"This guy is a straight pro," Braves' skipper Fredi Gonzalez told MLB.com.
"Before this [unlucky] run, he was on a great run and he was the same guy. I don't worry about his psyche at all."
Gonzalez told Bowman and MLB.com's Bill Ladson that Zimmermann deserves more attention though he might get overshadowed by some of the other names in the Nats' rotation.
"There are a lot of guys on that [Nationals] pitching staff and sometimes there's not enough credit given to him. He really is tough."
The Braves will have to face Zimmermann again tonight, when they'll see the right-hander for the third time this season.
In those starts, the 29-year-old right-hander is (1-0) with a 2.57 ERA and a .272/.306/.296 line against in 21 innings pitched.
Miller vs Zimmermann Round Two gets underway at 7:10 PM EDT from Atlanta, Georgia's Turner Field.