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Dominant from pitch No. 1 through No. 107

Sep 21, 2013, 12:37 AM EDT

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It’s often dangerous trying to read too much into a pitcher’s first inning on the mound. Some guys might retire the side in short order, then get rocked later. Others may struggle to find their rhythm early but then sort things out and cruise.

But when Jordan Zimmermann walked back to the Nationals dugout after a 1-2-3, 9-pitch top of the first Friday, Davey Johnson didn’t need to see anything more. He knew what the right-hander had in store for the rest of the night.

“You could tell from the first pitch of the ballgame,” Johnson said. “Zim wasn’t going to be denied.”

With perhaps the best “stuff” he’s ever had in a big-league start — including a mid-90s fastball and an upper-80s slider that actually reached 90 mph once — Zimmermann was dialed in from pitch No. 1 through No. 107. In between, the only things he allowed to the Marlins were two singles and a walk.

So by the time he departed the mound after notching the second shutout both of his season and his career, Zimmermann had earned his league-leading 19th win of the season and the Nationals had earned their 12th win in 14 games, this one by the lopsided count of 8-0.

At which point Zimmermann and the rest of his teammates retreated to their clubhouse to watch a stunning finish in Pittsburgh, where the Reds (down to their final out) took advantage of an error to score three times in the ninth and then won in the 10th, producing some audible cursing from various Nationals.

That turn of events prevented the Nationals from gaining any ground in the NL Wild Card race. They now find themselves trailing both the Pirates and Reds by 5 games with 8 to play.

“We’re not mathematically out of it yet,” Zimmermann said. “You’ve got to keep fighting til the end, and hopefully one of these other two teams tank.”

At this point, that’s the Nationals’ last hope. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh face each other five more times. Who should the Nats root for? Whoever wins Saturday.

“You know what? We’re fans of whoever can sweep another team,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Hopefully, Cincinnati, if they want to sweep Pittsburgh, yeah, we’re rooting for Cincinnati. Or visa versa.”

The only thing the Nationals could control Friday night was the result of their own game. And Zimmermann pretty much took care of that himself. He retired the first 11 batters he faced, seven of them via strikeout, and carried a no-hitter into the sixth until Donovan Solano lined a clean single over shortstop Ian Desmond’s head.

Zimmermann’s dominance, though, would have gone for naught unless the Nationals scored at least one run of their own, which they had been unable to do through five innings against Miami right-hander Jacob Turner.

And then they finally got to Turner in the bottom of the sixth and scored a run. And then another. And then five more for good measure, sending 11 men to the plate during a 7-run thrashing of the Marlins’ 22-year-old hurler.

“Maybe he just ran out of gas,” said Jayson Werth, who delivered a two-run double during the rally. “It seems like his stuff kinda flattened out.”

While Turner’s stuff was flattening out, Zimmermann’s stuff was only getting sharper. The 27-year-old took that 7-run lead and never even gave the Marlins a chance to consider a comeback. He mowed them down in order in the seventh, then again in the eighth, his pitch count still relatively low at 92.

The pitcher’s spot was due up second in the bottom of the eighth, but Johnson didn’t have to think twice. And Zimmermann didn’t have to be told to grab his bat.

“I told [pitching coach Steve McCatty]: ‘Don’t talk to him,’” Johnson said. “Cause I know him. He wanted to finish that ballgame.”

The crowd of 34,752 gave Zimmermann a standing ovation as he stepped to the plate — “They got pretty loud,” he said, “and that’s great” — and they serenaded him again when he took the mound for the top of the ninth, seeking his second 1-hitter of the season.

Zimmermann didn’t quite pull that one off, allowing a two-out single to Chris Coghlan. But he got Giancarlo Stanton to ground to the right side for his 27th out, capping a brilliant performance that left teammates in awe.

“After that first inning, when he struck out two out of three, you could tell,” second baseman Anthony Rendon said. “He always goes after hitters, but there was something different about him tonight.”

“It looked like a fastball, and then it would slurve away,” Span said of his view from center field. “He was buckling me out there. He had everything going tonight, for sure.”

Zimmermann is scheduled to make one more start during the regular season, Wednesday in St. Louis. If he’s victorious, he’ll wind up as the NL’s only 20-game winner in 2013, though at this point his chances of getting Cy Young Award votes are barely mentioned.

“I think they get a lot better if we make it to the postseason,” Werth said.

For that to happen, the Nationals are going to need to keep winning games at this rate for another eight days. And they’re going to need the loser of tomorrow night’s game in Pittsburgh to keep losing many more times down the stretch of a September that has become wholly unpredictable.

  1. Scooter - Sep 21, 2013 at 1:22 AM

    ¡¡¡JORDAN!!!

  2. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 21, 2013 at 3:14 AM

    I thought the magic # was 4….

    But yeah, Jordan was mighty nasty tonight… Just a great performance.

    • Section 222 - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      We trail by 5 with 8 to play, so the Elimination #, sometimes called the Tragic # is 4. The best we can do if we win out is 91 wins. If either the Reds or the Pirates win 4 games, they would have 92. If we lose 1 game, our best possible win total is 90 so one of them has to win 3 to beat that. Etc. That NL Central is a heckuva division this year, and they didn’t even have the Astros to beat up on any more.

      Yes, we’re toast. But on Sunday afternoon we’ll still have a mathematical chance!

      Everyone’s acting like the Pirates are collapsing and their fans must be despondent. Hey, come on. They have 88 wins already, and are pretty much a lock to be a WC team. It was going to be tough to catch the Cards anyway. And who cares whether they are the first or the second WC team? They haven’t had a winning season, much less made the playoffs, since 1992.

      My prediction is that these teams will play their 5 remaining head to head games pretty evenly. It will be a dogfight, and then they’ll go at it again in the WC game. That one may come down to how their rotations line up, although Billy Hamilton seems to be the X-factor, giving the Reds a slight edge. But no one’s running away with that 4th NLDS spot.

  3. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 21, 2013 at 3:47 AM

    Zimmermann is scheduled to make one more start during the regular season, Wednesday in St. Louis. If he’s victorious, he’ll wind up as the NL’s only 20-game winner in 2013, though at this point his chances of getting Cy Young Award votes are barely mentioned.

    Watch this, he’ll no-hit the NLC champ for his 20th win, and let the CYA voters have to explain how they think he’s not good enough.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 6:40 AM

      ah, given his previous record against Cardinals, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tanks that start. I wound reconsider starting him against STL if we are still in the race at that point. Otherwise, I will let him try to get over that personal obstacle.

      • NatsLady - Sep 21, 2013 at 7:03 AM

        Pete (f’in) Kozma and Daniel Descalso are a combined 0 for 10 against him… so there’s that.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 7:42 AM

        I see something different.

      • NatsLady - Sep 21, 2013 at 7:46 AM

        Yes, that’s because you are looking at Jordan ZImmermann, I was looking at Stephen Strasburg.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:06 AM

        LOL, no wonder. SS owns Cardinals but he will miss them it seems.

      • NatsLady - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:34 AM

        Yes, I thought that, too. Who knows with Stras, though. I heard Dan Haren volunteered to pitch on short rest–be careful what you wish for, Danny, it could happen.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:39 AM

        Dan is probably trying to salvage some value before hitting FA.

  4. David Proctor - Sep 21, 2013 at 5:11 AM

    Oh, great. It’s calling for rain today. During a Strasburg start, of course. Poor guy can’t catch a break.

    • NatsLady - Sep 21, 2013 at 6:59 AM

      Double header tomorrow, or wait it out? Should clear outta here after midnight. ;)

      • Steady Eddie - Sep 21, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        More like, clear out of here after 1 AM in ZIP Code 20003, and even that is not guaranteed. Unless this rain moves in a fluky way that unexpectedly lets them get the game in, it’s looking more like a 6:30 or 7 PM second game start tomorrow.

        I know, that’s against all the rules of Saturday or Sunday night TV driven game start times, but the end of the season leaves very few options. They have to get the game in this weekend if at all physically possible, and they have to hope to end itin time to get away for the game in St. Louis tomorrow.

  5. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    Great outing for Jordan, and a nice win. Was bummed when Solano got that hit.

    Turned over to MLB Network to watch the Pirates finish off the, er, nevermind…

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    wth Pirates! I hope they get swept by Reds now. They had perfect opportunity to tie cardinals (cards were losing at the time Reds were losing) for first place.

    I recreated Span’s daily babip graph here.

    It seems a bit different from FG’s version. I used BABIP’s definition from wikipedia. I wonder if they are using something else. Nothing groundbreaking here.

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    Something else I came about as I was looking into BABIP, calculation of expected BABIP by Woodrum and folks.

    I have put a hypothetical number for popups because I have no idea where to find that. Also I don’t know where they are getting those factor estimates from. If someone does, please share.

  8. Baseballswami - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Did you see the look on JZ ‘s face? When he gets like that he must be terrifying to face. So awesome. He does not get a lot of respect , I think because he does not have gaudy K numbers. Scherzer is kind of the works with 30, JZ is no one with 19. But then, the W is a useless stat, right? Three complete games, though?? Have we had a Nat do that? Livan? Good thing he saved the pen- rusty Stras plus rain tonight. Oh, goody.

  9. Baseballswami - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    Tried to say– king of the world with twenty.

  10. NatsLady - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    I was at the game. Yes, it was clear from the first inning, almost from the first PITCH that JZ brought his A-game. I could imagine him saying in the dugout (I’m sure he didn’t), yes, today I got no-hitter/perfecto stuff. Doesn’t always happen, doesn’t often happen. So glad we scored RUNS for him.

  11. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    oh I just realized that Liriano was at 94 pitches through 8 innings. He could have easily came back out for another inning.

    • NatsLady - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      Apparently, he asked out. Asking Melancon to convert a THREE-RUN save was not weird, just our luck.

      • NatsLady - Sep 21, 2013 at 8:56 AM

        Though why the bench coach didn’t put Barmes in for D is a mystery (Clint Hurdle had already been ejected for arguing a warning after McCutch was HBP).

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 9:04 AM

        Melancon has struggled a bit lately. Bad decision but Liriano must have reached his limits. I dislike wishing this for Pirates and their fan base but I hope for Nationals to make it to playoffs instead of them.

  12. nats128 - Sep 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    For a 2 hitter, Jordan Zimmermann was totally dominant. BABIP works for you and against you. Could have been a no hitter. Could have been a 5 hitter.

  13. nats128 - Sep 21, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Former Nat star David Dejesus got the GW Walkoff hit for the Rays last night in the 18th inning. He went 4-8 in the game.

    That 1 hit may have made that trade for them the difference maker. By the way, they beat the Os and that may have sealed the fate of the Os.

    I dont know where the standings will finish however I do remember a troll here 2 months ago that said the Os would have a better record then the Nats.

    Right now Nats 83 wins, Os 81 wins. Yah, that!

    • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      O’s play in AL East while we play in NL East. I don’t think our records reflect which team has been better.

      • therealjohnc - Sep 21, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        Faraz, I don’t think either team has been better this year. The O’s were better early, the Nats have been better later. The O’s have essentially been a one man show – when Davis was Ruthian, the O’s were good. When Davis cooled off, the O’s did, too. I thought about it, and when you look around the rosters there are exactly two spots (1b and CF) that the O’s get the edge on the field and a couple of pushes. Think about it:
        1b: Davis vs. LaRoche. The most lopsided matchup, Davis all the way.
        2b: Roberts vs. Rendon. Roberts gets the bWAR nod by a whisker, 0.1 vs. 0.0, largely because Rendon has struggled defensively while learning a new position and Roberts has more games played (WAR is a cumulative stat). Rendon (99 OPS+) is already outhitting Roberts (82 OPS+) by a bunch. Even laying aside that Rendon is 23 and Roberts is 35 and showing signs of being done, it’s Rendon
        SS: Hardy vs. Desmond. Hardy is good, Desmond is borderline great. Desmond.
        3b: Machado vs. Zimmerman. Three months ago this is a slam dunk for Machado. Now? Machado is clearly the better defender, Zimmerman is clearly the more dangerous hitter. Zim has already been (6-7 WAR seasons) where Machado hopes to go. The question is whether you believe the kid will realize his potential vs. the 28yo player playing healthy. Push on the field (although cost clearly gives the edge to Machado).
        LF: McLouth vs. Harper. Heh. Harper.
        CF: Jones vs. Span. Like 3b, this is much closer than it was two months ago. Span is the better defender, sure – but Jones is still the better (and much more expensive) player. Jones.
        RF: Markakis vs. Werth. Markakis is a corner OF with an OPS+ below league average. Werth is a marginal MVP candidate. Werth, and it’s not close.
        C: Wieters vs. Ramos. Wieters gets a lot more publicity, but Ramos is the better catcher. Not only is he clearly the better hitter, (116 vs. 85 OPS+), but according to B-R Ramos has a better defensive WAR (+1.0 vs. -0.3) as well. Overall Wieters has 0.2 bWAR in 142 games; Ramos has 2.4 in 72. Ramos!
        Starter 1, 2 and 3 are clearly Nats as well: Zimmermann, Strasburg and Gio vs. Tillman, Gonzalez and Chen.
        Starters 4 & 5 are essentially a push. The Nats have been hurt by Detwiler’s injury and Haren’s struggles, but have gotten surprising contributions from Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and Ross Ohlendorf. Going forward Haren is gone and Jordan and Roark will vie to be his replacement. Scott Feldman has helped the O’s since they traded for him, but he’s a free agent and other than that they’ve been sifting through Garcia, Norris, Hammel and Britton. Gausman got lit up in the rotation although has been very good out of the bullpen. Bundy is gone to TJ.

      • nats128 - Sep 21, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Faraz, your comment is true. The Nats do play in the NL East. So whats your point.

        While I think the AL East is better, the NL overall is better. You dont play all of your games versus your Division.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 21, 2013 at 3:51 PM

        42-32 against NL East by Nats and 32-35 against AL East by Os. Phillies, Mets, and Marlins do not compare well to Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays. And while we have a losing record against division leader, Orioles have a edge over Red Sox.

      • therealjohnc - Sep 21, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        Meh.

        I don’t think there is an obvious answer to which team has been better in 2013. The Nats will likely finish with a better record, the O’s will counter with some sort of strength of schedule argument. The O’s were clearly better the first half of the season (when the two teams played), the Nats have clearly been better the last two months.

        For me the tiebreaker is to look at the teams. I would not exchange the Nats’ roster for the O’s roster, even based purely on 2013. The Nats are better at five of the eight positions in the field, the O’s are better at two, ane one is a push (it’s 5-3 Nats even if you take Machado over Zim at 3b). Crucially, the Nats are also better in the top three spots in the rotation. If you think Soriano has been maddening, you haven’t been watching Josh Johnson try to close games. Really, the only thing that makes it close is Chris Davis, and the big question for him is whether this is a career year.

        YMMV, of course. But that’s why, despite strength of schedule, I still lean Nats.

  14. annapmagistra - Sep 21, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    I have a ticket for tonight but can’t go tomorrow night. I suppose no hope of using it for the day game?

  15. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Won’t be there tonight but do have tix for tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, I have a special ticket request.
    My neighbor (the…shhhh…Cardinals fan), just asked me about ticket possibilities for tomorrow’s game. He and his wife want to take their two boys to one last Nats game and he’s evidently seeing tickets disappear from StubHub (and prices go up). They’re looking to spend around $100 for the family of four, for anywhere from lower bowl up to Infield Gallery. I told him I’d ask around but wasn’t sure what I’d be able to turn up. He’ll go the StubHub route this evening if I’m not able to find anything. He’s in the military but evidently there weren’t any
    available tickets via their programs. I’ve sent this request to some baseball buddies but thought I’d post it here as well.

  16. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    As I wrote yesterday, keep playing till they make you stop.

    Also, from afar, kudos to the almost 35k who attended. There are at least two teams in the heat of the AL Wild Card race who are having trouble getting half that to quite meaningful games.

  17. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    So, given the possible Strasburg-start rainout/Sunday double-header scenario, will the Nats send Monday’s starter (Tanner Roark, I think) ahead to St. Louis? Hope so. And get him a first-class ticket, please.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 21, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Good idea. I wonder how likely it is the flight would be full in first class? (how many flights can there be that they could put him on for this?) MLB minimum is half a million dollars a year–they should get him a ticket up front, but if they don’t, he can certainly afford an upgrade.

  18. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    Thanks, coolhand, will pass it on to him. I forgot about that site.

  19. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    oops

  20. Dave - Sep 21, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    (Repost from the previous thread)

    You guys are heroes on the cheer. You have inspired me to buy a cheap ticket for tomorrow and see if one of my seat partners in 313 doesn’t show up or something. I can’t miss my last opportunity to cheer the Nats offense.

    Last year, at the end of the season, a couple of us in 313 were hoping the cheer would spread throughout the ballpark by the playoffs, but it didn’t really take off. This time around–if there’s any October baseball in Nats Park–I think we’ll be in place to make a heckuva noise on national TV.

    There is always somebody kicking it off in 313 by waving a cap. Last week we discussed the value of starting with caps low, so that we give an “upbeat” (like a choir conductor) before the cheer. I think several regulars in 313 are clued in on that subtle touch now. That makes it very easy to read from many sections away.

    The time to really, really pay visual attention to 313 is when the other team makes a pitching change after we score. In those instances, the PA music keeps playing. (Normally we wait until the next batter’s walkup music ends to start the thing.) When the music keeps playing, the head cheerleader(s) in 313 will just announce it and we’ll go ahead.

    GYFNG! N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS!

  21. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 21, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    I though this radar map looked bad, until I went on to check Typhoon Usage. Hong Kong is looking at a Katrina-level event, apparently in the bulls-eye of an equivalent to a Category 3 super-typhoon. Keep the real Guai Fung in your thoughts.

    GYFNG!

  22. JamesFan - Sep 21, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    Jordan Zimmerman is the “Ace” of this staff and should be recognized as such. He has carried the load this year and if he is not the opening day starter, I’m going to be disappointed. When the Nats have a big game, I want JZim to have the ball.

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