WASHINGTON -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche stood near the pitcher's mound and tossed the game ball to Jordan Zimmermann
, the Washington right-hander, after their team's 8-0 victory over the Miami Marlins
on Friday night.
Zimmermann didn't miss the ball and he certainly didn't miss his spots against the offensively challenged Marlins.
The Wisconsin native was brilliant while pitching a complete-game, two-hit shutout, and Jayson Werth
had a key two-run double in a big sixth inning as the Nationals beat the Marlins to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
"It is probably one of the best ones I have had up here," Zimmermann (19-9), who leads the National League in victories, said of his outing. "I just felt so good. I had really good stuff early."
"You could tell from the first pitch of the ballgame Zim was not going to be denied," said Washington manager Davey Johnson, who is chasing one more playoff appearance in his final year as the Nationals skipper. "He was throwing hard. It was over-matching stuff."
"In the ninth inning he was still bringing it" at 95 miles-per-hour, Johnson added. "You could tell from the get-go he wanted it bad. That was pretty obvious. It gives him an opportunity to win 20. He has one more start."
The Nationals (83-71) are a season-high 12 games above .500 and are 15-4 this month as they chase the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates for a wild-card spot. The weak-hitting Marlins fell to 56-98 and could do little against Zimmermann, who made quick work of the Marlins with his fourth complete game of the season in a game that lasted just 2:22.
"He was really good. He pitched tough. He had really good stuff. You could tell from the first couple innings that we were going to have our work cut out for us tonight," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. "Zimmermann, you got to give him credit. He understands the magnitude of this game for them and where they are."
"We are still in a pennant race," Johnson said. "We just have to keep it going."
Chris Coghlan's two-out single in the ninth was the only Marlins hit other than Donovan Solano's single in the sixth inning. Zimmermann threw 107 pitches and 79 were strikes.
Zimmermann struck out nine with one walk as he won his fourth start in a row and lowered his ERA to 3.18. He got a nice ovation from the home crowd of 34,752 when he came to bat in the last of the eighth before he fanned.
"A dominating pitcher," said Washington's Denard Span, who had a good view from center field. "His fastball was electric. He was buckling me out there. He had everything going out there tonight, for sure."
Zimmermann got help from the surging Washington offense as the Nationals broke open a scoreless game with seven runs in the sixth to tie a season high for runs in an inning.
Washington took a 2-0 lead on a two-run double by Werth, and Bryce Harper made it 3-0 with an RBI double to right-center. Later in the inning Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon had RBI singles and Denard Span made it 7-0 with a two-run triple.
Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (two hits), playing on his 28th birthday, had an RBI double in the seventh to make it 8-0.
Marlins starter Jacob Turner (3-8), who did not allow a run in the first five innings, is now 0-9 on the road this season.
The Marlins entered the game with a team batting average of .232, the worst mark in the National League.
NOTES: Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 2.96), whose next start has been pushed back twice due to forearm soreness, is slated to start Saturday against (Tom Koehler, 3-10, 4.51) of the Marlins. "I believe 90 percent he will be good to go," manager Davey Johnson said before Friday's game. Johnson said Strasburg would do normal pregame work Friday, such as throwing off flat ground. If Strasburg can't go Saturday, Johnson said he may use Dan Haren on three days' rest. Johnson said Haren volunteered to pitch if needed. ... The Nationals now have five players with at least 20 homers after Bryce Harper went deep on Thursday. Harper is only the second player to hit 20 homers in a season twice by the age of 21. The other four Washington players with at least 20 homers are Ryan Zimmerman (25), Jayson Werth (23), Ian Desmond (20) and LaRoche (20). ... Coghlan was born in nearby Rockville, Md., and said his family moved away from the area when he was 9. He started in left field. ... The Marlins are 6-14 in starts made by Turner while the Nationals are 22-9 in starts made by Zimmermann.
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