A crowd of 35,085 witnessed history at Nationals Park during game 162 of the 2014 regular season when right-handed starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter in the Washington Nationals’ nine year history to beat the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Sunday afternoon. The complete game outing was one the two-time All-Star never thought would ever happen, but it did.
“Even when I first got called up I thought that were was no way this would ever happen,” Zimmermann said after the game. “My career numbers are something like one hit per inning so I figure if I can make it out of the first [inning], the hit’s coming in the second, but [Sunday] was one of those special days.”
It was a special day indeed. Zimmermann was drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2007 before going to play for the ballclub as their fifth starter in mid-April 2009. Later that year, he experienced elbow pain and was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.
After time away from the club healing, Zimmermann re-entered the Nationals’ rotation in 2010 and has remained a cornerstone of the pitching staff ever since. But as Zimmermann was also quick to point out after his no-hitter, baseball is a team sport and the momentous occasion experienced in D.C. on Sunday would not have been possible otherwise.
“As much as this is me throwing a no-hitter,” he said, “those guys behind me play the defense and I know I had a lot of strikeouts today but I could’ve easily had a few hits in there and these guys were diving all over the place for me, so this is just as much them.”
He’s right. If it were not for the defense in the field, a no-hitter might not have occurred. Manager Matt Williams left his regular starters in for two solid at-bats in an effort to keep their routine and momentum heading into the playoffs. The majority of the Nats’ strongest defenders were then swapped out for younger faces throughout the third and fourth innings to wrap up the day and season. But it wasn’t until the ninth inning that left fielder Ryan Zimmerman was pulled to rest and replaced by Steven Souza Jr.
Souza will now go down in Nationals lore as the guy who saved Zimmermann’s big no-no. Souza made a diving catch with the sun blaring in left field on a September afternoon robbing Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich of a possible hit and keeping the no-hitter intact.
“I don’t think anyone in the stadium expected Souza to get that,” Zimmermann said, “and somehow he turned it up another gear and got it.”
The only blemish on Zimmermann’s day was a walk he issued in the fifth inning. “It still burns me a little but I guess we can live with that,” Zimmermann joked after the game. Otherwise, a solo homerun off the bat of shortstop Ian Desmond in the second inning against right-handed pitcher Henderson Alvarez was all the offense Washington needed to sneak past Miami and win the final game of their 96 win season 1-0 over the Marlins.
“It’s the perfect baseball day,” Williams said about game 162. “Eighty degrees and sunshine and the last day of the season. Lots of moves and some tense moments when it finally came down to it. So all in all, that’s probably the perfect baseball day.”
The 2014 MLB playoffs start up this Friday in Washington against either San Francisco or Pittsburgh.