It looks like Jordan Zimmermann's teammates - along with the rest of the baseball world - are finally starting to appreciate him.
Of all the moves Davey Johnson has made this season, the best may have been resetting his pitching rotation after the All-Star break with the 26-year-old right-hander at the top. Zimmermann has been the team's most consistent pitcher all season, with an major league-leading 19 quality starts in 21 outings. In fact, he has never pitched fewer than six innings - one of the two criteria for a quality start, along with three or fewer earned runs. He's only missed that second target twice, allowing four runs twice in May.
Thanks to the break and the shift in the rotation, Zimmermann got to pitch consecutive games, July 8 against Colorado and July 13 against Miami, as he put together one of the best months a Nationals pitcher has ever had: 4-0 with an 0.97 ERA, 31 strikeouts and just four walks in 34 innings. That earned him his first National League Pitcher of the Month award, a recognition that many of his supporters feel is long overdue.
But that's not all. His teammates finally showed him some love and started hitting for him, averaging 5.5 runs per game in July after managing just 4.1 over the previous three months. In his four wins last month, that support ballooned to six runs a game. Compare that to a four-game personal winless stretch in June, during which the Nats scored just 13 runs total while he allowed nine earned runs. As a result, only now after 16 starts in which he has allowed two runs or fewer, does Zimmermann have a winning record at 8-6.
To say he's on a roll is an understatement. Zimmermann has not allowed more than one earned run in a game since June 22, and he put together a run of 18 scoreless innings, including back-to-back six-inning shutout performances, from July 8-23. He's also showed remarkable control, allowing no walks in two of his past four starts, and one in each of the other two.
Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Zimmermann may be baseball's best kept secret. While Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg grabbed the headlines in the first half and made the All-Star team, Zimmermann toiled in obscurity until the Nats' bats finally came around. But now he's front and center on a team that's moving toward an exciting conclusion to the NL East race.
Marty Niland blogs about the Nationals for D.C. Baseball History. His thoughts on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.