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May 20, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) throws a pitch in the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

In a rotation of equals, Jordan Zimmermann’s mental toughness sets him apart

In a starting rotation with five of the best pitchers in all of baseball, it’s not easy to stand out from the pack. In past years, Nationals’ right-hander Jordan Zimmermann has been, without a doubt, the ace of the rotation. He’s been the guy who regularly pitches deep into games, keeps the other offense off the board, and, more importantly, gives the Nationals a chance to win the game.

This year, however, things are different. The Nationals have the best rotation in all of baseball, and while several starters have had their fair share of struggles this year, any one of them could be an “ace” on several big league rotations.

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But for Zimmermann, there are several things that he does that help him stand out from at least a couple of the pitchers on the rotation. While he may not be as dominant as Scherzer, his mental toughness, in my opinion, puts him well ahead of the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.

Strasburg and Gonzalez have been inconsistent all season long, and a big reason for their struggles is that they often allow minor rough patches early in the ball game to affect the rest of their start. Zimmermann is different, and his mental toughness is a big reason why he’ll be getting a lot of money when he becomes a free agent this winter.

Last night’s game was a perfect example of how valuable Zimmermann has been to this ball club. The right-hander struggled in the first inning, giving up two runs. For some pitchers, giving up two runs early in the game can set the stage for more trouble later in the game. Zimmermann, however, was unfazed by his early struggles and ended up dominating, allowing just the two runs on five hits while striking out six over seven great innings.

Zimmermann overcame his first-inning hiccup, kept his team in the game, and ultimately earned his fourth win of the season.

Next: The curious case of Bryce Harper