The offense has been in Zimmerman’s hands recently, and he continued to lead it. “It was kind of a bittersweet day,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
The Nationals ended the series where they began. After dropping the first two games of one of the most important series in team history, they rebounded and reclaimed their 31
2-game lead in the National League East. Just as before, their third baseman is still hitting everything that comes near him, and their cleanup hitter, key infielder and backup outfielder keep contributing in bigger ways with each game.
Zimmerman finished 3 for 5, driving in three runs with two home runs. Michael Morse added three hits. Danny Espinosa continued to show that his hitting from the left side of the plate is catching up to his swings from the right side; he went 3 for 4 with two runs driven in. Roger Bernadina notched three more hits, and in limited time, has proved to be valuable. Even backup catcher Sandy Leon added a two-run double. The offense notched a double-digit hit total for the third time in the four-game series, and gave starter Ross Detwiler plenty of cushion for his strong seven-inning performance.
“When your three-hole hitter is doing what he’s doing that just takes the pressure off everybody in the lineup,” Johnson said. “Everybody doesn’t feel the burden of the offense and scoring runs because he’s going to produce runs.”
Through the first three months of the season, Zimmerman was close to a ghost at the plate, something he attributed to his ailing right shoulder. But since a cortisone shot in the shoulder on June 24, he has produced offensive numbers at an all-star pace. His batting average hovered at .218 but is up to .273 thanks to a torrid 40-for-102 stretch. He had three home runs before and since has launched 11 of them, including two impressive shots on Sunday.
“I’ve come back and started being the player that I should be,” he said. “The more you get healthy, and the more consistency you have in your lineup, the more runs you’re going to score.”
Zimmerman’s first home run seemed accidental. With Bryce Harper on first because of a fielder’s choice, Braves starter Jair Jurrjens tossed an 84-mph change-up to Zimmerman with a 2-2 count. Zimmerman had already fouled off one pitch, and the outside change-up looked destined for the same fate. Zimmerman half-swung through it, his arms fully extended. But the ball sailed into the right-center field seats, just above the out-of-town scoreboard. “Sometimes when you clip those, they go farther than you think,” he said.