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Going the distance

Apr 16, 2013, 3:28 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images
Kurt Suzuki congratulates Jordan Zimmermann on his complete-game victory.

MIAMI — Davey Johnson walked up to Jordan Zimmermann in the dugout at the end of the eighth inning Monday night and had a simple question for his 26-year-old starter: “How do you feel?”

Zimmermann’s response to his manager was nearly as simple.

“I’m good to go,” he answered. “Let’s go get this one.”

It’s not often that Johnson lets one of his young starting pitchers take the mound for the ninth inning. Shoot, he rarely lets them come back out for the eighth. But the way Zimmermann was cruising against the Marlins — not to mention the seven-run lead the Nationals held at the time — convinced the 70-year-old skipper to turn old-school for one night and let his pitcher finish what he started.

And finish it he did, with a flourish. Zimmermann needed all of five pitches to retire the side in the ninth, sealing a 10-3 victory for the Nationals and sealing the first complete-game victory of his career.
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  1. Steady Eddie - Apr 16, 2013 at 3:39 AM

    Keeping JZim in after 7, and rewarding him for an efficient 8th, was sending a good message to the other young, core starters — attack the zone, go with your strengths and execute, don't nibble and try to cut it too fine. The latter is Haren's game when he's on, and it's what good finesse pitchers do, but that's not who our young guys are.It was telling them, "you want to pitch deeper into games? Attack the hitters."

  2. SonnyG10 - Apr 16, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    Complete game in around 100 pitches. What an outstanding effort. I was a little concerned during the sixth and seventh innings that he might be running out of steam, but it was not the case. The five pitch nineth was just super. Way to go JZ.

  3. Doc - Apr 16, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    Good to hear the voice of reality in Cat. With the BP being inconsistent of late, the SP's may have to extend their innings a bit. Davey made a mistake in not letting Det go a little longer against the Braves.

  4. Laddie Blah Blah - Apr 16, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    "The five pitch ninth was just super."Davey solves the late-inning relief problem with a new closer.The left side of the IF had its best game. We don't know if Moore can pick like ALR because he never got the chance. Every throw looked about waist high and had steam on it, including Zim's. Desi was spectacular. So, where have those guys been all year?Most encouraging moment was when Zim turned on that inside pitch and launched it into orbit for his first HR. Maybe his best swing this season, and maybe that shoulder is finally coming around.Lombo seems to have improved his range and his arm strength. FP said he had been working out last winter and had put on a few pounds of muscle. He has been ripping the ball from both sides of the plate. Really, what excuse do they have for not giving him a chance?Tyler Moore hits with incredible power. Harper should look at how Tyler keeps his shoulder slightly closed and turns it into the ball as he launches that swing. Harp has been trying to pull the ball. FP noted that Harp has been opening his shoulder as he launches into his swing. He has been slumping ever since. Right now, Tyler's hitting mechanics are a lot better than Harper's, and it shows.Congrats to JZ. Could not have happened to a more deserving guy. Only Detwiler has been better, thus far, but he has no wins. If Detwiler could have had the same late inning guy that JZ had, Detwiler would be 2 – 0.

  5. baseballswami - Apr 16, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    Maybe ALR has given the infield too much security. Last night you had Tyler at first so basically you just have to get it there. I have seen Tyler pick it, he can play first. Maybe when he is 33 he will be every bit as good as Adam. But knowing you have less margin for error forced Zim to get it there cleanly.

  6. NatsNut - Apr 16, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    I think Zim was worried about his hamstring, which took his mind off his throwing. Like the garter in Bull Durham.

  7. Gonat - Apr 16, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    baseballswami said… Maybe ALR has given the infield too much security_______________________________That's been theorized as the reason Rizzo and Davey wanted LaR over Morse as Adam provides that sense of security that the left-side of the infield just has to throw it near 1st base and LaRoche will scoop it.Every throw yesterday was on target. I can't remember the last time the infielders were that close to perfection.Ryan Zimmerman looked amazing out there. Sure, he didn't snag that bloop by Pierre, but he made some vintage Zim-like plays that looked "Web Gem" worthy.Also of note was the splits on Lombo that he couldn't hit lefty pitching as Lombo got turned around to the right side. Lombo turned on some pitches and hit each one on the screws and easily could have had 4 hits last night.

  8. Gonat - Apr 16, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Mark Zuckerman @ZuckermanCSN McCatty, by the way, once went 14 innings. And took a 2-1 loss. So forgive him for not being overly impressed with Zimmermann tonight.__________________________________Good one Mark!

  9. natsfan1a - Apr 16, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    I do believe I actually saw Z'nn smiling during the postgame high-fives. Atta way, kid!

  10. Faraz Shaikh - Apr 16, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Don't mean to sound like I am complaining but has anyone kept a count of how many outs we have made on basepaths such as trying to steal, to stretch singles into doubles, to go first to third on a single, and so on. We might need some work on that.Great win and CG by JZ.

  11. Greg - Apr 16, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    I am glad he let him finish. I hate when Davey pulls a starter that is in a groove, pitching great, and he takes them out just because of the inning or the pitch count or whatever. Like Det against the Braves. We all know that pitchers that go the distance a lot are not very good. Like that Verlander bum on the tigers.

  12. Rabbit34 - Apr 16, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    What a difference an opponent other than the Braves makes!!! Zimmermann…FANTASTIC!!

  13. Gonat - Apr 16, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    JZ only threw 7% sliders, 3% changeups, 11% curveballs and then threw 80% 4-seam fastballs.Jordan had been throwing 6% changeups in his 1st 2 starts this season and much more sliders. The most dramatic shift is JZ is a slider pitcher. Over his career he throws 63% 4-seam and 21% sliders.I think it's interesting data and Suzuki likes to call the fastball but it caught up with them in the 6th inning as the batters were just sitting fastball. Part of the success last night was based on the team faced and JZ has to remember that same mix probably won't work against another team.

  14. Section 222 - Apr 16, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    How was JZnn able to pitch a CG with Suzuki behind the plate?

  15. Gonat - Apr 16, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Section 222 said… How was JZnn able to pitch a CG with Suzuki behind the plate? April 16, 2013 8:06 AM __________________________________I know you're joking but JZ's 2nd start was with Suzuki and was very successful. The contrast between Zuk and Ram can be good to find what works. Zuk is a fastball guy who works well with moving those fastballs in and out but also requires a pitcher that can execute.

  16. BigCat - Apr 16, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    if you can go back and watch the 6th again, I think you would see that most of those FB's were "right down Constitution" as Shelby Whitfield used to say. I didn't see a change up from Zim….course I only watched about 2 innings. Don't you think with a 7 run lead, maybe, just maybe throw some more change ups. Gonna need it when we play the big boys again. Lets face it, this Florida team is a double A team. But its a curly in the book and they all count

  17. Gonat - Apr 16, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Better internet coming to Nats Park! I hope that also improves phone service to connect to the internet from smartphones.http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130415-906291.html

  18. BigCat - Apr 16, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Haren today…..oh Christ….Zim better get the catchers gear on down at 3B.

  19. Rabbit34 - Apr 16, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    If only we would let our starters pitch with the intent of finishing a game, not expecting to get pulled after 5-7 innings. No one will ever convince me that giving three relievers a chance to fail is better than keeping in a starter. In most cases, the starter will pitch just as well as any of the relievers. Ever pull him? Of course. But not just because of a pitch count! Giving up runs, having a bad day, wild, sure…pull him. Use common sense.

  20. Candide - Apr 16, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Gonat said… Better internet coming to Nats Park! I hope that also improves phone service to connect to the internet from smartphones.Nothing in the article indicating when we can expect to see this better service. It sure isn't there now. I can't get doodly-squat from 219C.

  21. bowdenball - Apr 16, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Zimm pitched a great game and it was a joy to see a Nats pitcher throw a complete game. But let's not confuse this with evidence that a new approach for our pitching staff would work well. "Attacking the hitters," as the first post puts it, works a lot better against a Miami lineup at Marlins Park with Giancarlo Stanton out than it does against a Red lineup at GABP with Joey Votto in the lineup.

  22. BigCat - Apr 16, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Agree Rabbit.Also, having only one lefty in the pen, a marginal one at that, is gonna cost us down the road. I hate to say it, cause I like HRod, but if you can't trust him then stick him in extended spring with a sore elbow or something, and get another lefty in here. Preferably one who can drop down a little with the slider

  23. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 16, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    I think Zim was worried about his hamstring, which took his mind off his throwing. Like the garter in Bull Durham.Throws goes in the front, big guy.

  24. JD - Apr 16, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Big Cat, I think that eventually a lefty (Abad or Romero) will come up but I'm not at all sure that it will be at the expense of Henry. He hasn't been our worst reliever by a long shot this April.

  25. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 16, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Mark's tweet about McCatty's 14-inning loss is a clue to why pitchers don't often finish games. That A's staff in the early 80's probably used up half their careers in two years, one of them strike-shortened. Great starters, iffy bullpen, and Billy Martin in charge = can you wave bye-bye to your own elbow?

  26. Rabbit34 - Apr 16, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Sec. 3……First, with the money they make, using up a career isn't an issue. If you're doing well, finish the game. Second, don't be concerned about lasting years longer to be mediocre. Be excellent for a shorter period of time. That's the reason for farm systems. Bring them up and let'em pitch. Cy Young winners now don't hold a candle to Cy Young winners in the past. Standards have deteriorated.

  27. NatsJim - Apr 16, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    Section 222 said…If you think Zim made the throw to second on Friday night because he thought that was his only play, you haven't looked at the evidence, particularly the overhead video that MLB network showed this afternoon.My last comment on this. Deuces, I get that you're an analytical sort, and love watching all the replays from every angle. What you seem incapable of comprehending in this case, even after admitting that Zimm never checked the batter, is that he had NO way of knowing how far up the line Upton was because he *never* checked the batter. See how that works? It was a split-second decision and his baseball sense told him the play was at 2nd. Occam's razor.

  28. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 16, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Sec. 3……First, with the money they make, using up a career isn't an issue. If you're doing well, finish the game. Second, don't be concerned about lasting years longer to be mediocre. Be excellent for a shorter period of time. That's easy for you to say. Most of us will never be in a position to have to make that choice. Anybody can be a tough guy when it's somebody else's career, or somebody else's kid.

  29. NatsJim - Apr 16, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Well said Sofa…

  30. A DC Wonk - Apr 16, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    Replying to a number of comments:just because of the inning or the pitch count"Just because"? Hello — pitch count can be pretty important. We've all seen guys pitch way too many pitches in a game then pitch like crap the next outing (see Johan Santana for an extreme example); and we've all seen guys pitch way too many innings and get bum arms after a year or two (see Tampa Bay from a few years back). JZ is still 26, and, with smart management, can be a dominant pitcher for 5, 6, 7+ more years.Sec 3 is right on the money about the A's, Billy Martin and short careers.JZ finished the game *not* because Davey was stretching them out, *not* because they were saving the bullpen, but because JZ entered the ninth at still under 100 pitches.McCatty seemed pretty clear: pitchers that can get that late in a game with that few pitches will get to keep pitching.So, yeah, it _is_ about pitch count.Second, don't be concerned about lasting years longer to be mediocre. Be excellent for a shorter period of time. No. The issue is: can you be excellent for a longer period of time!We all know that pitchers that go the distance a lot are not very good. Verlander… (context: said in a sarcastic manner)No, it's the other way around. You need to be good and experienced to be able to go the distance a lot. Verlander is 30, JZ is 26. Secondly: In Verlander's first three seasons, in which he started 30+ games each year, he had only 1 complete game in each season. The smart way is to work up it over a course of a couple of years. Just the way the Nats are doing it.No one will ever convince me that giving three relievers a chance to fail is better than keeping in a starter. In most cases, the starter will pitch just as well as any of the relievers…..Use common sense.Well, that method worked well enough last year to get the most wins in MLB, right?As for common sense: remember that the Nats have one of the youngest pitching staffs in MLB. Gio, JZ, Det (and of course Stras) are not even in their prime years yet. As I note above, it takes a few years to work up to complete games — if you care about their arms.JZ only threw 7% sliders, 3% changeups, 11% curveballs and then threw 80% 4-seam fastballs….The most dramatic shift is JZ is a slider pitcher. Over his career he throws 63% 4-seam and 21% sliders.I think it's interesting data and Suzuki likes to call the fastball but it caught up with them in the 6th inning as the batters were just sitting fastball. I think I read that JZ felt his slider wasn't working well. So it wasn't that Suzuki likes fastballs, it was that JZ and Suzuki didn't want too many sliders last night.BTW, the fact that JZ pitched so well without his good slider shows some real grit.

  31. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 16, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    I think it's interesting data and Suzuki likes to call the fastball but it caught up with them in the 6th inning as the batters were just sitting fastball.Well, that, and the fact that Znn and Zuke both knew nobody was going to hit a six-run home run, no matter how many fastballs he threw. They got a couple of runs, and so he made an adjustment, and, Frank Viola!, a five-pitch ninth, a complete game W, let's go pound some high-protein nutritional beverages!

  32. Section 222 - Apr 16, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    NJim, I guess I'll take the last word. I get that you want to defend Zim. That's your right. But I think your assumptions are wrong. (1) You assume that Zim had no way of knowing where Upton was because he didn't "check the batter". But the batter was right in front of him both as he was fielding the ball and once he had it in his glove. It's not like "checking the runner" when you're trying to hold him at a base and need to show the runner and the world that you are looking at him. All you have to do is see him, which Zim clearly could. (2) You also think that his "baseball sense" told him that he needed to throw to second. I think that's an insult to his "baseball sense." Baseball sense would tell you that with two outs you go to first if you can make the throw because the runner from second has a lead and is sprinting at the crack of the bat. The batter, on the other hand, even a speedy one, and particularly one batting from the right side, takes at least a little time to get out of the box. My view is that he knew he was going to second because he didn't have confidence in his arm. That cost us the game.Hopefully after the throws last night, his confidence has returned because Friday night was not the first time he has chosen to go to second for a force out when a throw to first was the higher percentage play.

  33. Rabbit34 - Apr 16, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Last year doesn't matter a bit. Most wins in the majors means nothing this year. Like I said. You need to use common sense, but I know that's hard will all the distorted opinions. But no matter how much we believe in our opinions, they don't count. So, enjoy them, flaunt them. They don't matter a hoot. Have a nice day…and enjoy the game. Keep the starters in the whole game!!! And, that's the way it is.

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