Jun 2, 2015, 4:40 PM EST
With a taxed bullpen, a doubleheader to manage and the highest-scoring MLB team in town, the Nationals turned to Jordan Zimmermann on Tuesday hoping for a long and efficient start. They got just that, as Zimmermann carved up the Toronto Blue Jays in his best game of the 2015 season so far on a dark and rainy afternoon in Washington.
Zimmermann was brilliant through eight scoreless innings with six scattered hits and a walk allowed. He even got a single off Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey, who himself had his best start in about a month with two runs allowed across six innings.
Dickey was good, but Zimmermann was better in the 2-0 win. The right-hander is now 5-2 with a 2.88 ERA on the season, having thoroughly moved past his inconsistent April to join Max Scherzer as a powerful one-two punch in the Nationals’ rotation.
“If we get in a situation like we have been where the bullpen has been used pretty heavy, you know when he goes out there, he’s gonna give you an opportunity to rest those guys as much as possible and can go deep in a game,” manager Matt Williams said.
“It’s really helpful. We can have games like today where two is enough and length and all of those things that we talked about. It’s important to have that. It helps rest your bullpen. It doesn’t put pressure on your offense to go out and score four or five. So days like today, like this game, can happen… It starts with the guy that steps on the mound in the first inning. They can take control of the game one way or another. Like today, Jordan was in control from the first pitch on and did a great job for us.”
The Blue Jays entered the day average 5.15 runs per game, tops in the majors. Their lineup is a gauntlet of big bats with four-time All-Star Jose Reyes setting the table at the top.
For Zimmermann, keeping Reyes in check was the key.
“The biggest thing was keep Reyes off the bases. Those guys in the middle aren’t going to hurt you if Reyes isn’t on base, and I was able to do that tonight. I felt good from the beginning,” he said.
To shut down a team that generally has no problem scoring runs made Zimmermann’s day even more impressive to teammates.
“I think the Blue Jays are a great hitting team,” Bryce Harper said. “They hit for a lot of power and do things the right way up there at the plate, so tough team to face, but having Jordan out there, it’s a guy you want on the mound every single night, and he’s very good. So all the credit to him.””I think the Blue Jays are a great hitting team. They hit for a lot of power and do things the right way up there at the plate, so tough team to face, but having Jordan out there, it’s a guy you want on the mound every single night, and he’s very good. So all the credit to him.”
Zimmermann got through eight innings on 105 pitches before Drew Storen took over to earn his 17th save of the season. The day went about as well as the Nationals could have planned and Zimmermann was happy to hand the ball over after doing exactly what was asked of him.
“That’s Drew’s job, and he can have it. I was fine going eight and giving my team a chance to win, and Drew did a great job,” Zimmermann said.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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