ST. LOUIS - Sixteen days ago, on May 29, Jordan Zimmermann woke up the owner of a 4.07 ERA.
Not awful by any means, but not the type of number we expect to see next to Zimmermann's name on a stat sheet.
He had just gotten a no-decision in a Nationals loss to the Marlins the previous night, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits over just five innings.
It was his third start in six outings that went shorter than six innings.
To that point, Zimmermann had a 1.46 WHIP, and had notched just five quality starts in his 11 trips to the mound. For a guy who was Mr. Consistency for the Nats the previous couple of seasons, Zimmermann had gotten off to a shaky start.
Over his last three outings, however, Zimmermann hasn't just been consistent. He's been consistently tremendous.
While he got stuck with the loss last night, Zimmermann threw a 76-pitch complete game, allowing just one run on three hits over eight innings of work.
In his last three starts, Zimmermann has twice delivered a complete game. Spanning 25 innings, he has allowed just the single run, walked two and struck out 21.
If you happened to be concerned by the right-hander's performance earlier this season, I think it's safe to say you can breathe easy now.
Zimmermann's ERA has dropped from 4.07 to 2.98 in three starts. He earned National League Player of the Week honors last week for the first time in his career. He looks like he's right back on track.
After last night's loss, Zimmermann singled out fastball command as a big key for him in the start against the Cardinals. That's been the area that manager Matt Williams says has improved most in Zimmermann's game recently, and those playing behind him don't disagree.
"I would say that's huge for any pitcher," Adam LaRoche said. "If you can't control the ball, I don't care if you throw 100 miles an hour. You're not going to consistently be good. Yeah, when he is, which is the majority of the time, we have a lot of games like this. He gets quick outs and really dominates when he's got his stuff. The majority of the time I've seen Jordan, he's had it. That's kind of who you get when he takes the mound."
Earlier this season, Zimmermann struggled with his off-speed command, and wasn't his typical dominant self. Now, he's clicking again, which is bad news for the rest of the National League.