Most of the focus on the Nationals coming into 2013 was placed on a pitching staff that finished first in the NL in ERA, but most of that focus was on the third place finisher in the Cy Young voting, Gio Gonzalez and the non-shutdown pending phenom Stephen Strasburg. Back when Jordan Zimmermann was drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft, the same draft as Detwiler, there was a lot of talk about his upside and how he could be a top of the rotation star. Tonight in one hitting a dangerous Reds line-up Jordan Zimmermann showed why he was the man who could have been the Ace.
With the Nats offense struggling to score runs and facing a pitcher that shut them out the last time they saw them Jordan Zimmermann was going to have to be on the top of his game. Instead of giving the Nats that he elevated his game. Earlier this season in Miami Jordan Zimmermann pitched a complete game win, but it was not a shutout. Against the Reds he pitched what may be the most dominate performance in Nats history. He allowed one hit on 91 pitches with 59 of them being strikes.
All season long Zimmermann has attacked the zone. Pitching like a man allergic to pitches outside the strike zone. The one hit allowed by Zimmermann came in the third inning when Xavier Paul led off with a solid single on a 1-1 hanging curve. Zimmermann would make quick work of the next three batters he faced and wouldn’t allow another base runner until the pride of Toms River, Todd Frazier, reached on a Steve Lombardozzi error in fifth. It was important that Zimmermann hold it scoreless here as the Nats had just taken the lead and Nats pitchers have struggled with picking up their defense after errors.
The Nats took the lead in the bottom half of the fourth inning when Bryce Harper hit a one out triple. As has become customary with Harper he was going to force the defense into making the play and when the ball bounced into the right field corner he turned it into his extra gear, left his helmet in the infield dirt, and slid in safe to third. Dusty Baker would then bring in the infield to try and keep it a nothing nothing game, but Werth would beat the strategy and hit a single to the exact spot Brandon Phillips would normally be camped. The strategy ended up not mattering as it would be the only run scored of the evening and the only one Jordan Zimmermann would need.
Corky Miller of the career .187/.269/.298 career batting line would end up being the next Reds base runner when he walked with two outs in the eighth. Miller is not a batter to be feared and Zimmermann had pitched with impeccable control all afternoon. He may have walked Miller to force Dusty Baker into bringing in a pinch hitter and chasing Homer Bailey from the game. Zimmermann went right back to being dominate and struck out Jack Hannahan to end the brief threat and the eighth.
With Jordan Zimmermann due up third in the bottom of the eighth it was a question whether Davey Johnson would let him finish the game or opt for the fresh reliever. When Danny Espinosa singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth and Kurt Suzuki stepped into the batters box it would Jordan Zimmermann who stepped into the on deck circle. He would get a standing ovation when he came up to bat, but his work wasn’t finished. He had the most dangerous part of the Reds order to face.
Shin-Soo Choo is the current NL leader in OBP with an OBP north of .500 and Jordan Zimmermann had kept him off base all night. The ninth would be no different as he flew out to Bryce Harper. Cesar Izturis would then pop out to Steve Lombardozzi and suddenly the only person standing between Jordan Zimmermann and a complete game shutout was former NL MVP Joey Votto. It wouldn’t take Zimmermann long to get him either as Votto would give the ball a ride, but too close to a waiting Bryce Harper. This one was in the books and those in attendance on a cool night in April witnessed the best game ever pitched by someone in a Nationals uniform.