Associated Press photo
Jordan Zimmermann showed rare emotion after striking out the side as a reliever.
After starting Game 2 just three days before, Jordan Zimmermann came in to make the first relief appearance of his career. Zimmermann had taken the loss on Monday after giving up five earned runs in just three innings of work.
Zimmermann had seen his fastball feasted on by the same Cardinals lineup in Monday's game, but showed no hesitation in Game 4. He struck out the side on a total of 12 pitches, seven of them 97 mph fastballs.
Zimmermann ranked third in the National League during the regular season with an average fastball velocity of 93.9, but nobody had ever seen him throw that hard.
"I knew I was only going to be out there for one inning, but I wasn't trying to throw it harder," Zimmermann said. "Adrenaline just took over."
"He came in, and I mean, he was hyped," manager Davey Johnson said. "That's the hardest I've seen him throw all year.
The jump in velocity was not only seen on his fastball, but also his slider. Zimmermann hit 91 mph three times with the breaking ball, impressing teammates and coaches even more with that pitch than his heater.
"It was unbelievable, just a 91 mph nasty slider?" Detwiler said. "That was a huge shot in the arm; the crowd went crazy after the third out."
Johnson could only laugh.
"I mean, 91 mph slider? You've got to be kidding me," he said. "That's pretty good, wasn't it? Some guys in our club said: 'That's our next closer.' I said: 'No way.'"
Zimmermann finished off the seventh inning, but there was more work for the Nationals bullpen to do. Tyler Clippard spelled Zimmermann in the eighth and picked up right where he left off.
Clippard also got out of his inning on three strikeouts. He started by getting Carlos Beltran to go down swinging, then caught Matt Holliday looking. After a five-pitch walk to Allen Craig, he got Yadier Molina swinging on a 94 mph fastball.
Clippard walked off the mound with a scream and several fist pumps, another boost of energy to the Nationals and their crowd.
Drew Storen pitched the ninth and began with two strikeouts before getting Matt Carpenter to pop up to Ian Desmond. His second strikeout was the eighth consecutive out by strikeout by the Nationals' bullpen; only the 2005 Angels have matched that number in a postseason game.
"It was electric," Johnson said. "It's been that way most of the year. But in both cases, the job they did was they rose to the occasion. All of them were throwing harder than I've seen them throw."
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman acknowledged their effect on the offense and the team as a whole.
"With the way Ross threw and the way those guys threw out of the bullpen, we were like: "Come one, we can't afford to lose this game with the way they've pitched against that lineup.' That was pretty impressive."