Auburndale native Jordan Zimmermann talks no-hitter, playoffs
By Paul Lecker
Washington Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said he thought something special might happen about midway through his start against the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
The Auburndale High School graduate and former University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point star survived a tough fifth inning and went on to toss the first no-hitter for the Nationals since they moved from Montreal in 2005, blanking the Marlins 1-0 to win his 14th game of the season.
Zimmermann rolled through the first four innings before the Marlins hit him hard in the fifth.
“I started probably thinking about it in the fifth inning,” Zimmermann said. “I gave up three hard hit balls, but they were all right at guys. Usually that doesn’t happen. So I thought something special was happening.”
After the first two outs, Zimmermann issued his only walk of the game but got the next batter out and settled in from there.
On his 104th pitch of the game, with two outs in the ninth inning and a 2-1 count on the Marlins’ Christian Yelich, Zimmermann thought the chance at the no-hitter might be over. Yelich ripped a ball into the left-field gap, but rookie left fielder Steven Souza made a diving catch to save the no-hitter and set off a wild celebration on the final day of the regular season.
“I felt OK before the game,” Zimmermann said. “The bullpen was a little ugly. I got on the mound, and everything came back to me. I was able to spot my fastball and throw strikes.”
Zimmermann finished the regular season with a 14-5 record and a 2.66 ERA. He struck out a career-high 182 in 199 2/3 innings, while walking a career-low 29, helping the Nationals to their second National League East Division title in the last three seasons.
“I don’t think I am doing anything different,” Zimmermann said. “I feel like I am doing the same thing as the last couple of years. I am getting big outs when I need to and not giving up that hit with guys in scoring position.”
The Nationals will open the National League Division Series at home on Friday against the winner of Wednesday night’s Wild Card game between the San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He said he has not been told what game he will start in the best-of-five series.
Zimmermann had two appearances for the Nationals in the 2012 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing five runs in four innings as the Cardinals won the series.
He said Washington is ready to handle the pressure of postseason baseball this time.
“We’re more experienced now than back then,” said Zimmermann, who was selected to the National League All-Star team the past two seasons. “Two years ago made us all realize what it’s like in the playoffs and how crazy it is. We’re ready for it.”
Zimmermann still resides in Auburndale during the offseason, enjoying the hunting and fishing seasons in Wisconsin. He said back as a student at Auburndale High School, graduating in 2004, he never thought anything like what is happening to him now was possible.
A little more than a decade later, the 28-year-old Zimmermann has tossed a no-hitter, compiled a 57-40 career record, and has a chance to help his team reach its first World Series.
“I went to Point, and after my sophomore year I played in the Northwoods League (with the Eau Claire Express in 2006),” Zimmermann said. “It was my first time pitching to wood bats and Division I hitters. I had a really good year (1.01 ERA in 11 games), and thought I had a decent chance at getting drafted.
“I went back to Point for my junior year and had a really good year and was drafted, and it kind of went from there.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com).