Johnson: “Since I’ve been here, that’s the best-pitched game I’ve seen”

Tonight was Davey Johnson’s 268th game as manager of the Nationals.

In his mind, the previous 267 starting pitching performances simply don’t compare to the one put together by Jordan Zimmermann tonight in a 1-0 win over the Reds.

“Since I’ve been here, that’s the best-pitched game I’ve seen,” Johnson said. “Low pitch count, really went after ‘em. Never had any qualms at all about letting him hit (in the bottom of the eighth). Even if there was a runner on third and nobody out, I’d let him hit. Low pitch count, throwing the ball good. He earned every right to go all the way. And it was fun to see.”

Zimmermann delivered his second complete game in his last three starts. He allowed three runs over nine innings two outings ago against the Marlins, throwing 103 pitches. Tonight, Zimmermann surrendered just one hit and one walk, and needed only 91 pitches to finish off a tough Reds lineup.

Couple tonight’s effort from Zimmermann with last night’s performance from Gio Gonzalez, and Nationals starters have now allowed two hits over their last 17 innings. They became the first team to hold the Reds to zero or one hit in back-to-back starts since Brooklyn did it back in July 1900. This was also the last time a D.C. team allowed zero or one hit in consecutive games since August 1917 against the White Sox.

Zimmermann improves to 4-1 on the season and his ERA now sits at an even 2.00.

“He’s always been pretty aggressive, but he made good pitches all night,” Johnson said. “He was pitching out front all night. You get a club like that, they’re going to swing, put balls in play, but they’re not going to center on many.

“What he did today more so than I’ve seen, like with (Shin-Soo) Choo, he started him off with a little curveball. Used his curveball, which has been his third pitch, he used that more than I’ve seen in the past. He just, in fastball counts, to good fastball hitters, he used his slider. Just a heck of a ballgame. I was impressed all the way through. What’d he end up with 92 pitches? (It was actually 91.) 91? Phenomenal. Great. Unbelievable.”

The only real jam Zimmermann got in all night was when he walked Corky Miller with two outs in the eighth. The Reds pinch-ran with the speedy Derrick Robinson and called on Jack Hannahan, who had been hitting .350 on the season, to pinch-hit.

“I thought he beared down the whole game, but against Hannahan, pretty good fastball hitter, he blew one of them by him and then fouled one off and then he threw him actually a high slider, but his slider’s got some bite to it,” Johnson said. “Just a phenomenal game. Fun for me to watch him.”

The only run support Zimmermann needed came when Jayson Werth singled in Bryce Harper, who had tripled one batter prior. Harper worked a seven-pitch at-bat, then smoked a Homer Bailey pitch into the right field corner.

“I mean, he had a 3-2 split which was down and in and I don’t even know how he got the bat on it,” Johnson said. “It was a heck of an at-bat, and then stretched it into three. And then Jayson got a good hit to drive him in.”

Johnson has wanted his starters to be more aggressive and stop being so fine, trying to make the perfect pitch. Gonzalez and Zimmermann have done that the last two nights.

“My guys, if they attack hitters like they have the last two days, it’s gonna be a problem,” Johnson said. “I don’t care good hitting team, bad hitting team. You don’t get a lot of pitches to look at, you’re behind all the time, mixing your pitches up, low pitch counts, you’re feeling strong all the way through that game.”

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