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Zimmermann leads Nats over Marlins

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Zimmermann leads Nats over Marlins

MIAMI -- There are only two pitchers in the majors leagues this season who have made 18 starts and never failed to complete six innings. One is Justin Verlander, the reigning AL MVP, Cy Young Award winner and All-Star Game starter.

The other is Jordan Zimmermann.

Zimmermann has no hardware on his mantel. He's never been named an All-Star. He's not even considered one of the three most-accomplished members of the Nationals rotation.

Make no mistake, though, the 26-year-old right-hander is plenty appreciated inside his own clubhouse, especially when he throws six scoreless innings and leads the Nationals to a 5-1 victory over the Marlins like he did Friday night.

"Unfortunately a lot of things are based on wins and losses for pitchers, and unfortunately we've never scored a lot of runs for him, ever, and he doesn't get that many wins," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "But he's Mr. Consistency, I guess you could say. You know what you're going to get out of him. Never too emotional. He's the same guy every time."

And that guy most often pitches well enough to win. He frequently doesn't emerge with another notch in the W column, the byproduct of some of the worst run support in baseball over the last two years. But on nights like this, when his teammates jump out to a 5-0 lead on a lackluster Marlins club, Zimmermann starts looking more and more like an elite big-league pitcher.

"Last year, I thought he pitched like a No. 1," manager Davey Johnson said. "And he's continued it this year. And he's been getting not hardly any run support. He's grown up, to me, even more so this year."

The stats are starting to reflect that. It's not only Zimmermann's ability to eat up innings each time he takes the mound. It's his ability to hold the opposition to as few runs as possible.

He's been credited with 16 quality starts in 18 tries, including eight straight. He's surrendered zero or one earned run in 10 of those 18 starts, including four straight.

Zimmermann's season ERA now sits at 2.48, which now ranks fifth in the National League. Better than Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Better than All-Star starter Matt Cain. Better than Verlander.

Not that the soft-spoken Wisconsin native makes a big deal out of it.

"That's what I try to do every time out, go 6-7-8 innings," he said. "I guess this year I've just been lucky enough to put a nice little streak together."

Friday night's start might well have been Zimmermann's best of the season. He retired eight in a row at one point, striking out four consecutive batters. And when he completed the sixth inning on only 87 pitches, he appeared poised to go much deeper into the night.

Johnson, though, had already decided he wasn't going to push his young starter in this game. Zimmermann hadn't thrown a ball at all during his four-day All-Star break -- he did, on the other hand, catch a bunch of walleye near his home in Auburndale, Wisc. -- and his manager didn't want to take any chances.

"I was kind of a little quick on the hook because I felt like I didn't know what he did over the break," Johnson said. "And I wasn't going to let him throw over 90 pitches."

So Johnson handed the ball to his bullpen with a five-run lead in the seventh, then watched as Henry Rodriguez nearly made a game of it. The erratic right-hander issued two walks and an RBI single over a four-batter span, and suddenly Johnson was summoning Michael Gonzalez to get out of the jam.

The veteran left-hander did it as efficiently as possible. He recorded two outs on one pitch, snagging Austin Kearns' comebacker and then tossing to first base to complete the double play that killed the Marlins' one hope of getting back in the game.

The rest of the night was matter of fact, with three more relievers combining to record the final six outs and ensure Zimmermann would be credited with his sixth win against six losses.

Afterward, Mr. Consistency was stoic as usual, happy to get the win, not at all upset to have received the quick hook from his manager.

"We had a fresh bullpen, and I think that's what Davey was thinking, too," Zimmermann said. "Give those guys some work. Six innings and no runs and hand it over to one of the better bullpens? I'll live with that."

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm