Righty's 76-pitch complete game puts him in historic company
Manny Randhawa and Joe Harris
ST. LOUIS -- Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann brought an 18-inning scoreless streak with him when he took the mound in Friday night's series-opener against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. And though he came out on the losing end of a 1-0 pitchers' duel, Zimmermann turned in another masterpiece, allowing three hits in his second complete game of the season.
His scoreless streak ended with Matt Adams' home run in the second inning, but he was on his way to a more impressive feat. He needed only 76 pitches to go the distance, breaking the Nationals' record he set at 85 pitches last season and putting him in some historic company.
In the last 100 years, only nine other pitchers have turned in complete games of eight innings or more with 76 pitches or fewer. Former Orioles right-hander Jose Bautista has the record with a 70-pitch effort in an eight-inning complete game in a September 1988 loss to the Mariners, while former Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook was previously the last to join the group with 74 pitches over nine innings in a win over the Padres on July 25, 2007.
"I had a good fastball again tonight, down in the zone, and the curveball and sliders were there when I wanted them," Zimmermann said. "Really it was one mistake, on a changeup that was down the middle, and he made me pay."
Zimmermann's most trying inning was the second, when he threw 18 pitches, including the changeup he hang to Adams.
Less is more
Since 1914, below is a list of the top 10 complete games of eight innings or more with 76 or fewer pitches.
No. of pitches
Vs. SEA, 1-0 loss
Vs. SD, 10-2 win
Vs. MIL, 7-1 win
Vs. COL, 7-2 win
Vs. CIN, 9-1 win
Vs. CHC, 4-3 loss
Vs. CHC, 4-1 win
Vs. LAD, 1-0 loss
Vs. BRO, 3-2 win
Vs. STL, 1-0 loss
"He's been really good," Washington manager Matt Williams said of Zimmermann. "He hung a changeup to Adams and didn't get that pitch where he wanted to get it. Other than that, he induced some double plays and we played good defense behind him."
Zimmermann required only nine pitches to get through the third, seven for the fourth and five for the fifth. He threw 14 pitches in the sixth before returning to a single-digit pitch count in the seventh, when he threw seven. In his eighth and final frame, he threw five pitches.
"I was throwing a lot of strikes, and they knew that, and they were coming up hacking," Zimmermann said. "I was locating the fastball and I got a lot of ground balls tonight, and those guys behind me played great defense and turned a couple of double plays, which was great."
In all, outside the third and sixth innings, the right-hander threw 44 pitches over seven innings. But Washington's offense couldn't back Zimmermann's stellar performance, getting shut down by his counterpart, St. Louis starter Lance Lynn.
"He threw the ball extremely well," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Zimmermann. "We've had a couple good games where we come out against Zimmermann and he's going to be greedy, he's not going to give us much. Good fastball and we know it, and it's one of those that you have trouble catching up with. He was another guy that effectively used his offspeed pitches and made really good pitches once we started getting something going for the double plays."
Lynn shut the Nationals down for eight innings. He was perfect through five, and finished having allowed only two hits, a Jose Lobaton single in the sixth and a Jayson Werth single in the seventh, and no walks.
"I'm sure everybody in here, offensively, will go up and say something to him [Zimmermann] at some point," veteran first baseman LaRoche said. "He understands it, though. ... You need to push a run or two across and you can't do it, and then a guy goes out and does what he did. It's frustrating, but it happens."
Said Lynn: "That's tough. He threw the ball well, he's got good stuff. He's been doing it for years now, where he's going out there throwing the ball well, going deep into games. He did it again tonight. It's crazy how one swing costs you the game."
Zimmermann (5-3) has posted a 0.36 ERA (one earned run in 25 innings) over his last three starts.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com.