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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Zimmerman Hit by Pitch, Forced to Leave Another Loss

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By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2008

Impossible as it may sound, the Washington Nationals' season almost plunged farther into unrecoverable depths. Losing has been an infection -- Washington lost its ninth consecutive game last night, falling to the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-4 -- and the injury bug again bared fangs. Yes, somehow, it almost got worse.

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After being hit on the right hand with a pitch, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman exited and was taken for X-rays. The results were negative, and Zimmerman is listed as day-to-day with a right hand contusion. After the game, he said he might have a precautionary MRI exam. If good news ever emerged from a Washington loss, that Zimmerman did not break his hand on the play would undoubtedly qualify.

"It actually doesn't feel that bad," said Zimmerman, whose hand was wrapped after the game. "The X-rays were good. It's a little swollen, but other than that, it feels better now than it did when I came out."

A 90-mph fastball, riding high and inside, smacked against Zimmerman's right hand in the third inning. The crowd of 31,658 at Nationals Park held its collective breath. Zimmerman flipped away his bat and clutched his hand. Manager Manny Acta and a trainer emerged from the dugout, but Zimmerman stayed in the game and walked to first base. He left after that inning.

The injury wound up being part of another chapter of torpid play by the Nationals. Their ninth straight loss ties the season's longest run of futility. Said Zimmerman: "It's been a crazy year for us, I think. It seems like anything that can go wrong has and anything that can go right hasn't."

Last night, Washington could not anchor itself to the positive feeling generated by its starting pitching. Staff ace John Lannan was ineffective, allowing eight runs on nine hits with seven strikeouts and three walks in 5 2/3 innings.

Philadelphia used two three-run innings to power to victory. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins (2 for 4, three RBI), center fielder Shane Victorino (2 for 4) and first baseman Ryan Howard (2 for 5) led the Phillies.

Zimmerman returned to the Nationals' lineup July 22 after missing 48 games because of small labral tear in his left shoulder earlier in the season. He rehabbed without surgery, a decision that initially appeared questionable, but returned after eight weeks.

"I was starting to feel good," Zimmerman said of his return. "I was seeing the ball pretty well, walking. It's frustrating [to get injured], when you finally start getting back into the groove."


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