Monday wasn’t all together bad for the Nationals. Beyond Rafael Soriano’s ninth-inning implosion and Jayson Werth’s twisted ankle, the Nationals found solace in Jordan Zimmermann’s return to form. In his second start since returning from a right bicep strain, the right-hander pitched more like himself.
Zimmermann’s previous start — his first after suffering the bicep injury that forced him to miss his second all-star game — wasn’t bad but his command was off. Six days later, Zimmermann eased fully back into his usual form. He allowed two runs over seven innings, struck out six and walked only one. He was efficient, too, needing 91 pitches to get through seven.
“I was on more normal rest,” Zimmermann said. “I still had an extra day, but I didn’t have nine days off like I did before. I felt good. Hopefully I have a lot more good starts.”
And more importantly, Zimmermann said his bicep felt fine and didn’t cause any issue. “Seems like it’s good,” he said.
Zimmermann’s first two innings were scoreless but his command wasn’t back yet. He cast off the remaining rust and, from the second inning on, pitched more like himself. His pitches filled the strike zone. He carved through the Marlins’ lineup with ease. His fastball reached 95 mph and his slider was sharp.
“This is the Jordan we’re used to seeing every time,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “Works quick, throws a lot of strikes, good life on the fastball and spotting up. I haven’t talked to him, but I would imagine he felt really good out there. He was his typical dominating self. Great performance. We just didn’t pull it out for him.”
The fourth inning was the best example of his work. On a 1-1 count, Zimmermann fired a 94-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate that Jordany Valdespin lined right at shortstop Ian Desmond. He then faced Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins’ best hitter and one of the best power hitters in baseball.
Zimmermann found a weakness for Stanton’s long and powerful arms. He fired three straight fastballs — two reaching 95 mph — to the low inside corner. Stanton took the first two and mashed the third into the ground to Anthony Rendon for an out.
Against Casey McGehee, who was hitting .310, Zimmermann stuck mostly to the outer half of the plate. With a 1-2 count, he threw a 94-mph fastball just inside the lower outer edge of the strike zone. The pitch couldn’t have been more perfectly placed. McGehee struck out looking and Zimmermann darted into the dugout.
In the sixth, Zimmermann made a stellar catch of a line drive right at him off Christian Yelich’s bat, perhaps his best defensive play of the year.
“I had a good curveball, good slider and the fastball command was right where I wanted it,” Zimmermann said. “I threw strikes and worked quick and let those guys put it in play, and those guys behind me did a good job all day.”
Zimmermann gave up two runs in his final inning, one on a ball that resulted in a triple after right fielder Nate McLouth dived for it instead of trying to knock it down. Zimmermann got out of the inning and, even though he had thrown only 91 pitches, Manager Matt Williams turned the game over to the bullpen with a 6-2 lead, which they squandered. Still, Nationals starters have fired 28 innings and given up only four runs over the past four games, capped by Zimmermann’s start.
“His last [start] was just rust,” Williams said. “[Monday] he proved that he’s back on it.”
FROM THE POST
FROM THE YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Richmond 2, Harrisburg 1: Brian Dupra allowed two runs on six hits over six innings. Colin Bates allowed only one hit over two innings of relief. Cole Leonida and Adrian Sanchez had the lone Senators hits.
Myrtle Beach 11, Potomac 2: Dakota Bacus allowed 10 runs on 14 hits over 3 1/3 innings. Brian Rauh allowed one over 4 2/3 innings of relief. Tony Renda drove in two runs. Shawn Pleffner and Estarlin Martinez each had two hits.
Hagerstown 4, Greenville 0: Reynaldo Lopez fired six scoreless innings, walked two and struck out nine over six innings. David Napoli earned the three-inning save. James Yezzo hit his 10th homer of the season. Brennan Middleton and Rafael Bautista added two hits each.