- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2014

Jordan Zimmermann isn’t the demonstrative type. The “Oh, no — oh, yes!” celebration of the dramatic final out of his no-hitter Sunday against the Marlins was about as much as emotion as fans have seen from the Washington Nationals right-hander.

Except maybe in his lights-out relief appearance against the Cardinals in the Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series.

On the eve of his first postseason start of 2014, and the second of his career, Zimmermann was asked about both of those moments Friday afternoon.

Of the no-hitter his last time out, he admitted to watching the replay of the final out, featuring Steven Souza Jr.’s remarkable diving catch in left field, a few times. Like most in the ballpark, Zimmermann’s initial reaction to the ball hit by Christian Yelich was despair — he said after the game he was sure it was a double. On second viewing, he enjoyed watching that though evolve to a head-high fist pump when Souza made the catch.

“I thought it was pretty funny,” Zimmermann said. “You don’t know really know what you did at the time when you’re out there, but after looking back and me throwing my head back like it was a double, I thought it was pretty funny.”

He has not, however, spent much time dwelling on his two previous playoff outings. They were a mixed bag. He got the ball for Game 2 in St. Louis and lasted only three innings, surrendering five runs in what became a 12-4 Cardinals rout.


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Three days later, he was summoned from the bullpen by Davey Johnson to pitch the seventh inning in a 1-1 game. With the Nationals Park crowd roaring, Zimmermann struck out the side on 12 pitches, helping pave the way for Jayson Werth’s eventual walk-off home run in the ninth that allowed Washington to avoid elimination.

“It’s exciting going out there, for sure, and the fans are going crazy and get you all amped up,” he said Friday of that relief appearance. “It was a fun moment and hopefully we have a bunch more of those coming up.”

Looking forward is the message from Zimmermann and all the Nationals as they begin their second-ever postseason series. They’re eager to get started, especially knowing how well they played down the stretch even after clinching the division.

But Zimmermann acknowledged that the experience gained in 2012 should have some value this time around.

“We didn’t really know anything coming in two years ago,” he said. “Jayson’s about the only guy that said it’s going to be crazy and something you guys never experienced. After going out there and experiencing it one time, I think we’re all more prepared now and kind of know what to expect.”

As for what to expect out of Zimmermann on Saturday in Game 2, his track record against San Francisco is strong. He’s 5-2 with a 2.79 ERA in eight career starts against the Giants, walking just nine and striking out 43 in 51 2/3 innings. (Contrast that with his mark against the Cardinals, who he still has never beaten — 0-5 with a 6.04 ERA in eight regular-season starts.)

The Nationals expect to see what they always see from Zimmermann, said manager Matt Williams.

“He’ll go out there, he’ll be aggressive, he’ll challenge the strike zone, throw balls in the strike zone, work quickly,” Williams said. “He’s not going to change that. The secret to his success is what he showed in the final game of the season, and that’s balls in the strike zone, pound the zone, work quickly, get us back in the dugout.”

It will, once again, be on the short list of the biggest games Zimmermann has started in his life. But whether the Nationals are up a game or down a game in the series when he takes the mound, Zimmermann’s focus will remain the same.

“As long as I’m pitching,” he said, “I don’t care where or when.”

 

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