Jordan Zimmermann’s major league debut will forever be remembered for the two rain delays that spanned a total of 2 hours and 43 minutes. It will be remembered for the lack of humanity inside Nationals Park, with perhaps one-tenth of the announced crowd of 12,473 actually in the building when Zimmermann threw his first pitch and perhaps 70 still lingering by the time Joel Hanrahan threw his last.
But above all else, the select few in the smallest crowd in Nationals history who stuck it out to the end will remember that Zimmermann’s big league debut resulted in a Washington victory.
It’s quite possible the top prospect in the Nationals’ farm system will never experience another ballgame quite like this. Zimmermann, though, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I couldn’t ask for a better first start,” he said. “I mean, getting the win, pitching against the Braves … just a great day.”
With six superb innings of two-run ball, the 22-year-old right-hander led Washington to a 3-2 win over Atlanta that won’t go down as a work of fine art but still counts the same in the standings.
And considering their troubles in that department through the season’s first two weeks — this was their second victory in 12 games — the Nationals gladly will take it.
“Hey, we did what we had to do,” manager Manny Acta said.
Career win No. 1 for Zimmermann was made possible not only by the young starter’s solid work on the mound but by a Washington lineup that squeezed out three runs against Braves ace Derek Lowe and then a remade bullpen that at last managed to close out a victory.
With his team clinging to a one-run lead in the sixth, Acta made the decision to pull Zimmermann despite a pitch count that stood at just 72. The manager has long believed in letting a young starter depart on a high note, and he was true to his word Monday when he sent up a pinch-hitter with two outs, two on and his team up a run.
“He was going to go out there again if he didn’t get to hit,” Acta said. “But that was an opportunity for us, not only to add runs but also to take him out on a positive note.”
In order for that positive note to remain by nights end, though, the Nationals beleaguered bullpen had to record nine outs without surrendering a run. And that’s just what they did.
Kip Wells pitched a scoreless seventh. Joe Beimel and Garrett Mock combined to pitch a scoreless eighth (with a 33-minute rain delay in between). And Hanrahan made quick work of the ninth, overcoming a one-out walk to get through unscathed and earn his first save after blowing opportunities both Friday and Saturday.
“Any time you mess up, you want to get right back out there,” Hanrahan said. “Yesterday was a long day, knowing I wasn’t going to pitch. … It felt good to get out there and get the job done finally.”
Even if the scene at the end barely resembled a major league ballgame.
“It was different,” Hanrahan said. “It was kind of like pitching in high school again. They’ve got 10 fans there. You can hear everything they say.”View Entire Story
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