(Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Jordan Zimmermann arrived in Viera six months ago with a simple goal. “I came to do one thing, really,” he said today, after his season ended with a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals. “And that’s go deep in ballgames.”

Missing out on 20 wins, then, did not bother him. Zimmermann pointed to the quantity of his quality. He led the Nationals with 213 1/3 innings and punched up a 3.25 ERA. He may end up leading the National League in wins – only Adam Wainwright has a chance to catch his 19. In an all-star season, Zimmermann mixed consistency with frequent dominance and validated his 2012 breakout and emerged, in the minds of his teammates, as the Nationals’ ace.

“He had a great season,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “He’s pitched good ever since I got here, for three straight years now. He’s a horse. He’s probably our number 1 guy on the staff. He pitched great for us all year. I’m looking forward to having him in our rotation for a long time.”

Denard Span has only played behind Zimmermann for one season. But he quickly adopted Werth’s view. The Nationals’ other starters could be prone to blow-ups. Zimmermann went at least five innings in all but two starts and fired five complete games. A lot of this is run support-driven, but the Nationals went 22-10 in Zimmermann’s starts and 62-65 in all other games.

“I just like his mentality when he’s on the mound,” Span said. “He’s coming to get you. He challenges you, he throws everything. Even when the season started, everyone was talking about [Stephen] Strasburg and all the other guys. And I think he’s been our best pitcher all year. Not to take anything from Strasburg, but Zimmermann has been consistent all season long for us, and he’s been a guy that when he gets the ball, we have a good chance of winning.”

Zimmermann’s season may have been even better if not for the stiff neck that prevented him from pitching in the All-Star Game and bothered him for months. In a span of 12 starts from mid-June to mid-August, Zimmermann posted a 5.27 ERA. In his other 20 starts, Zimmermann produced a 2.30 ERA.

“I’m happy with the way the season went,” Zimmermann said. “I wish I wouldn’t have had the little neck problem, but that’s gone now and I feel good. I wish I could keep pitching. I guess I’ll be ready to go in spring training.”