Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann watched Thursday’s Game 4 of the Nationals League Division Series from a unique position: The bullpen.
It was all hands on deck for Washington in an elimination game so Zimmermann, who pitched poorly in Game 2 on Monday, had to be ready in case manager Davey Johnson needed him.
“Our honorary bullpen member for the day,” as teammate Drew Storen described him.
There was nothing honorary about his performance, however. Zimmermann was called upon in the seventh inning with the game against the St. Louis Cardinals tied at 1-1. He proceeded to mow down the three batters he faced and ignited his fellow relievers and the big crowd. Tyler Clippard also struck out the side in the eighth and Drew Storen struck out two more batters in the ninth on the way to a dramatic 2-1 victory.
“We were joking about him being down there with us in the bullpen before the game,” Clippard said. “He’s one of us now. He proved it. I think we’re going to have to get him a bullpen shirt now.”
Zimmermann, who looked lost against the Cardinals on Monday, was firing pitches as fast as 97 miles-per-hour. That’s something he’s almost never done during the regular season when he needs to conserve his energy to last as much as six or seven innings as a starter. The St. Louis batters – Pete Kozma, pitcher Kyle Lohse and leadoff batter Jon Jay – never had a chance. Kozma whiffed on that 97 heater. Lohse had no chance at a 91 mile-per-hour slider. And Jay was upset at a third consecutive fastball that hit 97 and was called strike three by home plate umpire Jim Joyce. That one was generously deemed on the outside corner by Joyce as Jay screamed “No! No!” at him on the way back to the dugout as the crowd erupted.
“I was just letting it go,” Zimmermann said. “I talked to Craig [Stammen]. I said ‘I don’t know if this coming out of the ‘pen stuff is for me.’ He said just get out there try to tame their emotions a little bit and just let it go. That’s what I did and it worked out.”
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