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."

Bryce Harper's new Under Armour deal 'largest ever for a baseball player'

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Bryce Harper's new Under Armour deal 'largest ever for a baseball player'

Bryce Harper, along with Angels' outfielder Mike Trout, is widely considered to be "The face of baseball."

The reigning N.L. MVP is off to a scorching start to the 2016 season and with his "Make Baseball Fun Again" campaign generating major buzz, Under Armour has decided to back up the Brink's truck.

The Baltimore-based sports apparel company recently inked Harper to a 10-year endorsement deal that, according to ESPN sports business insider Darren Rovell, is the largest endorsement deal ever offered to a Major League Baseball player.

Under Armour announced earlier Tuesday that Harper signed a multiyear extension but said terms, including the length of the deal and compensation, would not be disclosed. The brand, which has had Harper as an endorser for five years, will begin selling Harper's first signature cleat, the Under Armour Harper One, in July. 
 

Harper has been signed with Under Armour since April 2011, less than a year after he was drafted by the Nationals with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.

Through the first 25 games of the 2016 season, Harper is batting .271 and has 24 RBIs and 9 home runs and was named the N.L. Player of the Month for April.

In locking up Harper for the long haul, Under Armour continues to brand themselves with MVP talent. Harper stands along side 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton, 2015 NBA MVP and world champion Steph Curry,  2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth,  2015 NHL MVP (Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsey Award) Carey Price, and two-time NFL MVP Tom Brady as Under Armour athletes.

NL East: Bartolo Colon passes Pedro Martinez on career wins list

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NL East: Bartolo Colon passes Pedro Martinez on career wins list

When the New York Mets signed Bartolo Colon prior at 40 years old prior to the 2014 season, many in The Big Apple probably saw him as nothing more than a veteran stop-gap arm for the starting rotation. 

But at 42 — the oldest player in the big leagues — Colon is still doing his thing with the Mets, and he's making history while he's at it. 

After pitching eight shutout innings in Monday's 4-1 victory over the Braves, Colon earned his 220th career win, passing Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez to become the second-winningest Domican-born pitcher in MLB history. 

"I think it's truly a great honor," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Colon's achievement, via MLB.com. "Pedro -- as great as he was -- to move ahead of him in wins, it shows the durability of what Bartolo's had to go through to get to this point." 

To Collins' point, Colon's durability has been remarkable in New York; since 2014, he's pitched 428 2/3 innings in 70 games, amassing a 31-27 record with a 4.01 ERA in that span. This year he's off to another solid start at 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA and a 27-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He may not have the arsenal he once did a young phenom with the Cleveland Indians, but continues to find ways to give the Mets just what they need. 

"I mean, I'm amazed he goes out there every fifth day and just goes through it, and nothing seems to faze him," Collins said. 

At 220 career wins, Colon still has a ways to go to catch the all-time winningest Dominican-born pitcher, Juan Marichal, who has 243 victories. But as he nears his 43rd birthday, Colon and the Mets are probably right to only worry about the here and now. 

"I can't think about [Marichal's record]," Colon said. "You just can't get your mind set like that. Right now, I'm just thinking about 221."

Nationals keep rolling against Royals, win fourth straight

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Nationals keep rolling against Royals, win fourth straight

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium: 

How it happened: After getting swept by the Phillies to close their most recent homestand, Nationals manager Dusty Baker called this Midwest road trip a good barometer for where they stand in the early part of this season. He, and many of his players, saw this road swing as a test, knowing they had yet to face one of baseball's best teams.

Four days later and the bar may need to be raised a little higher for these Nationals, as after sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis, they opened their series at the defending champion Kansas City Royals with a convincing 2-0 victory on Monday night. Their brand of score early and let their pitching staff take it from there worked wonders once again.

Gio Gonzalez continued his career-best start to a season with six scoreless frames, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy notched first-inning RBI and the Nats' bullpen held on to push the Nats to club record 18-7 on the season through 25 games.

What it means: The 'they haven't beaten anyone' knock on the 2016 Nats can officially be put to rest. The Nationals are now 4-0 on this road trip, having first swept a 100-win team from a year ago in the Cardinals, to now opening this series against the reigning champs with a win. 

Gio keeps on rolling: Gonzalez battled a high pitch count early, but recovered to give the Nats six scoreless innings on four hits and two walks. Gio now has a 1.15 ERA through five starts this season, going at least six innings in each of those outings. The Nats rotation as a whole has held a 0.92 mark with 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in their last six starts as a group. 

Zim comes up big: Zimmerman has been in quite the skid lately, finishing the month of April hitting .219/.301/.301 with just one hit in his last four games (13 ABs). Zimmerman had been showing positive signs, including the highest average exit velocity on the Nats through the weekend. And on Monday, he came through with a big hit in the first inning, an RBI double to right field to give the Nats an early lead. It was Zim's first RBI since April 26. The Nats have now scored 32 of their 101 total runs this season in the first inning. Zimmerman also smacked a ground-rule double in the ninth inning for just his fourth multi-hit game in 20 games this season.

Harper finally gets a hit: Harper's slump recent slump continued through his first two plate appearances on Monday, as Harper struck out and flew out to make it 16 at-bats without a hit dating back to last Thursday. Harper would finally get one, though, on a bloop single to left field to lead off the top of the sixth inning. Harper broke his slump, but he was quickly thrown out trying to steal second by Royals catcher Lorenzo Cain. He also now has only two hits in his last six games.

Murphy gets No. 1000: Murphy had another solid day at the plate on Monday with three hits and an RBI on a groundout in the first inning. His second hit was No. 1000 for his career. It was a double to center field in the sixth inning and it gave Murphy his 12th multi-hit game in 24 total appearances this season. Only three times this year has he been held hitless. Murphy, by the way, is the 10th player ever to record their 1000th career hit in a Nats uniform. Denard Span was the last in September of 2014.

Up next: The Nats continue their series at the Royals with another 8:15 p.m. start on Tuesday night. Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.03) and former Nats minor leaguer Chris Young (1-4, 6.12) are the starters.