The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Should Jordan Zimmermann’s likely final home start have ended more ceremoniously? Perhaps.

Jordan Zimmermann heads for the locker room after pitching five innings in what could be his final home start as a National. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Suddenly, Jordan Zimmermann was gone, pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth. Friday night against the Phillies was probably his last home start for the team that drafted him, and it ended with no ceremony, no chance for an ovation, no nothing.

The game began with plenty of Zimmermann-centric fanfare. The Nationals gave away bobblehead dolls commemorating his no-hitter on the last day of the 2014 regular season. A video tribute of his first career win and other highlights played on the Jumbotron before the game. But from there, sentimentality was consumed by unkind baseball reality.

Zimmermann did not pitch well Friday night, he admitted afterward. By the time the fifth inning was over, he had allowed six runs and three home runs — one on a sinking line drive Michael A. Taylor charged instead of corralling that turned into the first inside-the-park grand slam in the majors since 1999.

[Nationals give up inside-the-park grand slam]

The game was nearly out of reach by the time he exited, with the Phillies leading 6-1. The Nationals season is nearly mathematically over now, too, as they are a few losses or Mets wins from elimination. Sometimes, managers opt to give fans a chance for goodbyes in those situations. In this case, Matt Williams might have sent Zimmermann to bat, then pulled him for a pinch hitter, just to get his name called. He might have let him hit then start the sixth inning at 79 pitches, which would also have allowed for ovation. Asked if he considered doing either, Williams said “No, we’ve got to try to get back in the game.”

Zimmermann agreed, not unexpected from the perpetually blunt, practical and honest veteran pitcher.

“I would’ve pulled me there, too,” he said. “I was giving up quite a few hits. I wasn’t really thinking about going out the next inning and walking off the mound or anything. It would’ve been nice, but at the end of the day, you have to pitch well if you want to get those things at the end of the game.”

His catcher Wilson Ramos said he was not thinking about an ovation, more frustrated that Zimmermann’s outing went too poorly to allow for that.

“I’m not thinking about that in that moment. I was a little bit bad because he’s a really good pitcher and we was losing that game,” Ramos said. “I wasn’t paying attention to anything else. I was trying to call a good game and concentrate.”

Nationals fans expressed frustration on Twitter, some taking issue with the inglorious home finale for the winningest starter in Nationals history. Some thought Williams should have left Zimmermann in for the chance for an ovation.

Zimmermann said the ovation he got as he walked in from the bullpen before the game meant a lot to him. Asked about his feelings after his last home start, Zimmermann did not express frustration about not exiting the game at an opportune moment.

“Obviously I’m a little upset. We didn’t get the win and I didn’t pitch very good,” Zimmermann said. “That’s what my job is, to go out there and keep the team in the ballgame. I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”