Zimmermann has pitched at least six innings and allowed four runs or less in every one of his 15 starts this year. Ryan Vogelsong is the only other pitcher who can say that. (Justin Verlander has pitched at least six innings in all of his starts, but he allowed five runs in one of them. So he’s pretty close, too.)
Zimmermann is not as dominant as his all-star rotation mates. His 1.15 WHIP and 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings lag behind Strasburg and Gonzalez. He has struck out nine hitters in a game once; Strasburg has done it six times and Gonzalez has done it four times. Zimmermann hasn’t allowed less than three hits in a start; Strasburg has done it twice and Gonzalez has done it four times.
But Zimmermann has produced no clunkers, and even Strasburg and Gonzalez both have a couple of those. Every start, Zimmermann has preserved the bullpen. Every start, he pumps his four-seam fastball in the mid-90s for strikes, throws his wicked slider and mixes in a changeup that’s still improving. He’s not really fooling anyone out there, but he’s getting gobs and gobs of outs.
Zimmermann will open on the mound as the Nationals start a fascinating series with the Giants at Nationals Park. The Giants surged into first place in the National League West last week, and they have the second-best record in the league behind the Nationals. Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain are lined up to start.
They’re facing a good team, which like them is pitching-reliant, that is playing its best with the top of its rotation lined up. It will be a challenge, but for the first night, with Zimmermann on the mound, the Nationals can know what they’re going to get.
FROM THE POST
Tracee Hamilton writes the Nationals’ all-star choices validate the franchise’s emergence.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Norfolk 5, Syracuse 4: Xavier Paul went 2 for 5 with a home run. Brett Carroll went 1 for 3 with a double and two walks. Tanner Roark allowed three runs in six innings on nine hits and three walks, striking out five.
Harrisburg 8, Syracuse 5: Jeff Kobernus went 3 for 4 with a walk. Destin Hood went 2 for 3 with a home run. Zach Walters went 2 for 4 with a double. Paul Demny allowed five runs in six innings on five hits and three walks, striking out eight.
Carolina 11, Potomac 1: Francisco Soriano went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. Rick Hague went 1 for 4 with a triple. Trevor Holder allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings on 12 hits and one walk, striking out six.
Lakewood 11, Hagerstown 10: Brian Goodwin went 2 for 3 with three walks. Goodwin is hitting .323/.449/.524 with six homers and 14 steals over 164 at-bats this year. Seriously, check out that on-base percentage. Steve Souza went 3 for 5 with two homers, a double and a walk.
Auburn 2, Jamestown 1: Angelberth Montilla went 2 for 4 with a double. Blake Monar allowed no runs in five innings on two hits and two walks, striking out four. Brian Rauh allowed one run in four innings on one hit and two walks, striking out two.