Zimmermann “stayed more on line” in dispatching reeling Cubs

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann gave up three extra-base hits in the first two innings Thursday against the Chicago Cubs. After that, it was almost smooth sailing in a 9-2 Nationals sweep of the Cubs.

The first big hit was the home run by Anthony Rizzo off a fastball in the first.

But Zimmermann was able to settle in later, striking out three straight hitters following Darwin Barney’s second-inning triple off Zimmermann’s slider.

“I went off the game plan to Barney and I threw a slider and he hit that triple,” Zimmermann said. “Against Rizzo, I fell behind, I wasn’t going to walk him, I came right after him, and he swung 3-0. But I felt good, everything was working. After the second inning, I felt like I could locate any pitch any time.”

The Cubs led 2-1 and that was quickly erased by a three-run homer from Kurt Suzuki. The 4-2 advantage was plenty for Zimmermann to work with. After the Cubs scored single runs in the first two innings, they managed only two more hits against Zimmermann and he struck out five more hitters.

“I felt I had a pretty good fastball tonight and we stuck with it,” Zimmermann said. “The slider wasn’t very good, so we went with the curveball. I was able to locate the fastball and go up and in when I wanted to and bounce a curveball when I needed to. I got a lot of swings and misses that way.”

Zimmermann said he was never distracted during the two bench-clearing near-brawls.

“I went underneath and played catch when there was that real long delay. It was fine,” Zimmermann said.

It was a nice bounce-back following his shortest outing of the season last week against St. Louis, in which he lasted 3 2/3 innings and surrendered eight runs.

“I was staying more on line tonight and I wasn’t flying open at all and I was able to keep the fastball down,” he said. “When I can do that, I usually get better results.”

Zimmermann became the third Nationals starter to record at least 10 wins this season, joining Gio Gonzalez (18) and Stephen Strasburg (15).

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