Talk about pounding the strike zone! Washington Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann threw 85 of 109 pitches for strikes (78% strike percentage) tonight in Atlanta and completed 7 ⅔ scoreless on the mound in Turner Field, giving him 18 ⅔ scoreless against the Braves overall going back two starts to his May 10th outing against the Nats' NL East rivals.
The Nationals won, 6-1, taking their ninth straight from the Braves and 9th of 10 from Atlanta this season, led by their 29-year-old righty. They scored four in the first off Shelby Miller and added two more along the way to their ninth win in the last ten games overall.
Zimmermann was the big story on Tuesday night, however, throwing 62 four-seam fastballs (47 for strikes, 72.6%), 27 curves (22 for strikes, 81.5%) and 18 sliders (16 for strikes, 88.9%), getting swings and misses with five four-seamers, three curves and two sliders.
Of the 15 fastballs that were put in play, only three were for hits and the Braves were 0 for 4 on the curveballs they put in play, though they got two hits on the three sliders they connected with and one hit on the one two-seamer Zimmermann threw according to Brooks Baseball's breakdown of his start.
"Fastballs to both corners, slider, curveball, elevated fastball late or breaking ball down out of the zone late," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the win.
"I thought he was aggressive and throwing it where he wanted to throw it. That's a good formula for him."
Especially impressive, Williams told reporters, was Zimmermann's curve, which was effective for the second straight outing against the Braves.
"Just the ability to throw a breaking ball behind in the count, early in the count," WIlliams said when asked what was most impressive. "Had a good feel for his curveball tonight, especially against their lefties and again, the ball was down in the strike zone.
"If he can do that, he gets swings and misses down on the breaking ball which he got tonight."
"'I just had a good curveball the last two starts and felt like I could throw it when I wanted to, where I wanted to, any count to keep them off-balance,'" Zimmermann told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Bowman and Carlos Collazo.
Zimmermann was lifted after a hit-by-pitch and two-out single put two on in the eighth.
"We pushed him to  and if we're going to leave him in that game he's got to go to 120 and with regular rest coming we didn't want to do that. I thought he pitched great though."
As Williams has said before, when Zimmermann locates his fastball and pounds the strike zone, he's effective, and the four-seamer, which sat around 93.6 and went as high as 95.5, can sneak up on hitters.
"If he pounds the strike zone, he's got a quick arm," Williams explained, "so the ball even plays harder than it really is. So, at 94, it really plays 97 because it's such a quick arm and the ball jumps on the hitter. So the key for him is strikes and if he does that then the fastball surprises the hitters."
Zimmermann improved to (6-5) on the year with the win, lowering his ERA from 3.42 to 3.16 and his FIP from 3.12 to 3.03.
The Nationals improved to 43-34 and with the Mets' 1-0 loss to the Cubs went 3.5 games up in the NL East.