Each season, Ryan Zimmerman hits a stretch of two or three, even four, weeks where he crushes the baseball like Babe Ruth. (Well, maybe not Ruth, but someone really good.) In 2011, for example, he hit .402/.437/.590 over a 29-game span from late July to late August. Last season, after a miraculous cortisone shot in his then-ailing right shoulder, the third baseman went on an unbelievable tear: he hit .374/.446/.734 for 35 games from June 24 to Aug 3. In July alone last year, he clubbed 10 home runs.
This season, Zimmerman hasn’t done that yet.
“I haven’t really hit that one streak that I usually hit yet, where I get hot for two or three weeks at a time,” he said after his walk-off home run on Friday night. “Hopefully this can start that.”
Before that home run, Zimmerman had been hitting the ball well but he wasn’t doing much damage. The shot snapped a streak of 47 at-bats without an extra-base hit. In July, he is hitting .303/.343/.414 but with only five extra-base hits. This season’s 121 OPS+, which adjusts for ballparks, is the same as last season, but his .171 ISO, essentially his ability to hit for extra bases, is down from .196. His season slash line of .281/.353/.452 is respectable and slightly under his career mark, but he is the Nationals’ $100-million middle-of-the-order bat.
The Nationals offense has struggled mightily this season because several key pieces of the lineup can’t seem to get hot at the same time. But with Jayson Werth mashing in all of July, Wilson Ramos in a groove since coming back from the disabled list on July 4, Bryce Harper and Denard Span showing signs of getting back on track after the all-streak, and Ian Desmond steadily consistent, Zimmerman could join them now. (Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon, however, are mired is recent mini slumps.)
The Nationals need a truly productive, extra-base-hitting Zimmerman. He is their three-hole and clean-up hitter, flipping between both. He is the best on the team with runners in scoring position, hitting .329 in 70 at-bats this season, 20 points better than next-best LaRoche and 40 points better than Ramos. The Nationals are 46-12 when they score at least three runs, the threshold that can easily be accomplished with key hitters in their lineup in a groove. Also, they are 26-8 when Zimmerman drives in at least one run and 7-3 in games in which he homers.
Traditionally, August is Zimmerman’s hottest month of his career, with a .314/.382/.533 and a .915 OPS. Could these next few weeks be Zimmerman’s annual hot stretch?
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 9, Indianapolis 8: Tyler Moore went a ridiculous 3 for 5 with two home runs and six RBI. He hit a grand slam, solo shot and a double. He is hitting .444 (16 for 36) in his past 10 games with 11 RBI. He is hitting .321/.413/.557 in 28 games at Syracuse. Caleb Clay allowed three hits over six innings, but then Cole Kimball coughed up four runs in 2/3 of an inning. Erik Davis notched his 11th save.
Potomac 5, Salem 2: Matt Purke notched his first Potomac win with 5 1/3 innings, five hits, two runs, one earned, one walk and six strikeouts. Cameron Selik tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings and Rafael Martin notched the two-inning save. Caleb Ramsey went 3 for 4 with two RBI. Cutter Dykstra went 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Lakewood 5, Hagerstown 4: Nick Lee allowed two runs over six innings and struck out eight. Derek Self blew the save and Cody Davis the loss. Shawn Pleffner, Wander Ramos and Stephen Perez each notched two hits.
Jamestown 8, Auburn 4: Jake Johansen tossed five scoreless innings and struck out six while walking only one. Greg Zebrack and Brenton Allen each notched two hits. Allen drove in two runs. Jean Carlos Valdez went 1 for 1 with two walks.