Jun 4, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Not that ever doubted himself, but given his recent struggles, Jordan Zimmermann understood the importance of his dominant start last night against the Phillies.
“It was big,” the right-hander admitted after tossing eight scoreless innings in the Nationals’ 7-0 blowout win. “May was a pretty rough month for me. Hopefully June has better things to come.”
If last night’s start was a sign of things to come, June (and perhaps future months) could be very good to Zimmermann. Coming off a stretch of four straight rough outings, he entered this one with a surprisingly high 4.07 ERA and questions about the manner in which opposing hitters were making consistently solid contact off him.
But from the get-go last night, it was clear Zimmermann was back on track. He retired the side in the top of the first, then cruised through his first seven innings, never allowing more than one man to reach base in any given frame.
“I think his slider,” manager Matt Williams said. “He threw a lot of sliders today for strikes. He really has not really found it, as we talked about. He’s thrown some good ones, but it hasn’t been consistent. Tonight was really consistent.”
Zimmermann agreed, though he felt like there was more to this performance than the effectiveness of one of his breaking balls.
“That, and I was actually hitting my location,” he said. “When I wanted to throw a ball, I was throwing a ball and not leaving it over the middle. … It was one of those nights where it was fun to be out there and everything was working.”
There haven’t been all that many fun nights for Zimmermann so far in 2014. He had completed seven innings only twice in 11 starts this season and had averaged only 5 1/3 innings over his last five.
So when he completed seven innings last night on 89 pitches, with the Nationals comfortably ahead, he had his sights on his first complete game of the year. Those hopes were dashed after a bit of a ragged eighth innings in which two men reached base before he buckled down and stranded both in scoring position to keep the shutout intact. But eight innings of scoreless, 6-hit ball on 102 pitches were satisfactory for Zimmermann.
“I wanted to go nine,” he said. “But eight will be good enough.”
So, was this was the start of something really good for Zimmermann? Or was this merely one strong outing against a weak Phillies lineup? The Nationals don’t know yet.
But they do know this was significant for the right-hander. If nothing else, it was a reminder that despite his recent struggles, he still has a dominant performance in him.
“For him, it’s important,” Williams said. “He’s kept us in games, and we’ve had chances to win and all of that. But tonight was a really good step for him, because he was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes and he was able to command the zone really well. So it’s good.”
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
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