Jordan Zimmermann helped put a lot of troubled minds at ease last night. The 24-year-old former top prospect dazzled in his second MLB start since returning from Tommy John surgery last summer, and in doing so inspired hope in Washington to fans worried that prized possession Stephen Strasburg may never be the same.
Zimmermann allowed just one hit, a second inning double to Gaby Sanchez, in six frames of work Tuesday night. He struck out a career high nine batters on the night, while allowing no walks in the clubs eventual 1-0 extra inning loss. The right-hander was so electric that he retired 14-straight batters before being taken out in the seventh inning, including a frame where he struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth inning.
For Nationals fans it was a breath of fresh air as well as a model of future success. Zimmermann showed in one night of dominance that yes he is the same pitcher he promised to be before injury, and yes, Stephen Strasburg can be too. While Zimmermann isn't quite the elite prospect that Strasburg is, he represents the kind of potential number two starter that championships can be built on, and is an incredibly important part of the future rotation.
Zimmermann used his fastball to paint the corners and keep hitters off balance. Sitting just below 92 MPH on the night, his peak pitch hit 94. He used his heater to pound the strike zone, pitching it for a strike 66% of the time, inducing four swinging strikes. He used that fastball to set up his slider which he threw 14 times for three swinging strikes. In total he only pitched 86 pitches over seven innings while recording nine strikeouts, which is truly remarkable.
With his performance last night Zimmermann may provide one last beacon of hope for the 2010 season as it comes into its final month. The club is no longer in contention, far from it. Their $25 million worth of top picks are not playing in Washington for at least another year, and Adam Dunn appears on his way out. Things may be winding down on the 2010 season, but for me, Jordan Zimmermann is worth going to the ballpark to get a glimpse of.