In the seventh inning on Thursday night, pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in the majors, Jordan Zimmermann threw the most electric inning of relief since baseball returned to Washington. And afterward, the stoic starter said he wants to be available for Game 5 on Friday, too.
“I’m ready for whatever,” Zimmermann said. “I could throw three days in a row if the fans stay the way they are. I didn’t really feel anything.”
Ross Detwiler pitched the game of his life, Tyler Clippard struck out the side in the eighth and Drew Storen dominated the ninth. But Zimmermann’s one inning, when he struck out the side in 12 pitches, stood out about all the command performances.
The Nationals replaced Detwiler in the seventh inning with Zimmermann, the right-hander who allowed the Cardinals five runs in three innings – and 67 pitches – Monday in St. Louis. Zimmermann had not pitched in relief as a professional since an appearance in 2008 at Class A Potomac.
“I was a little, I wouldn’t say nervous in the bullpen,” Zimmermann said. “I was talking to Craig [Stammen]. I said, ‘I don’t know if this is really for me.’ ”
Zimmerman threw about 50 pitches to loosen up, starting in the sixth inning. Once he entered for the seventh, Zimmermann cleaned house.
Zimmermann typically throws his fastball about 94 miles per hour. He blistered 97-mph heaters past Pete Kozma. He struck out Kyle Lohse flailing at a 91-mph slider. He moved ahead of Jon Jay with two 97-mph fastballs, and then, on his 12th pitch, froze Jay with another 97-mph fastball over the outside corner.
“Probably the most a lot of people have seen out of me,” Zimmermann said. “It’s hard to hold it in with 45,000 people screaming.”
The stadium erupted. Zimmermann always remains stoic on the mound, placid as the lakes he ice-fishes on near his home in tiny Auburndale, Wisc. Now, he stared at the plate, pumped his right fist and screamed.
“I told him he needed a goatee and some long hair so he could be one of those bullpen guys,” Ryan Zimmerman said.
Said Zimmermann: “I was a little jacked up. I struck out the side, and the fans were going nuts. I was trying to get the crowd into more than what they were.”
The outing also got his teammates into it more. As he and the rest of the Nationals’ pitchers tossed up zeroes, his teammates did not want to waste their brilliance.
“He fired everyone up a little bit,” Zimmerman said. “For him to be painting 97, throwing that little slider that he throws, it was kind of a shot in the arm out of the bullpen. The Ross [Detwiler] threw and the way all those guys threw out of bullpen, we were kind of like, ‘Come on. We can’t afford to lose this game the way they pitched against that lineup.’ ”