In the 12 games since he returned from the disabled list, Zimmerman has shown signs of life at the plate that the sputtering Nationals’ offense needs.

Zimmerman, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract extension in Februrary, began the season 13 for 58 (.224) with four doubles and a home run in 15 games. Since returning on May 8, after missing 13 games, he is hitting 13 for 46 (.283) with one home run and two doubles, while drawing eight walks.

In Saturday’s game against the Orioles, Zimmerman had perhaps his best day at the plate (3 for 5) this season. He singled in the fourth inning doubled in the sixth inning and smashed a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning – the last two hits important parts of rallies that trimmed the deficit. After two hits the night before, it the first time this season Zimmerman has strung together consecutive games with multiple hits.

“Obviously I haven’t gotten the runs or the hits that I’ve wanted, but I haven’t felt bad at the plate,” Zimmerman said. “These last few days I’ve kind of gotten back to feeling like I want to feel like. I’ve started many seasons not too great and turned out OK. So there’s no panic.”

Given his track record, there wasn’t a reason to be concerned about Zimmerman’s hitting and power outage. Zimmerman is slugging .365, below his career .476 mark. But it seemed like it would be only a matter of time before his production normalized and improve.

With second baseman Danny Espinosa stuck in a season-long slump, slugger Michael Morse still nursing a strained lat muscle, catcher Wilson Ramos done for the season and right fielder Jayson Werth out for months, the Nationals need a consistent and productive Zimmerman.

The trio of Zimmerman, shortstop Ian Desmond and first baseman Adam LaRoche--who has been the Nationals’ best hitter this season-- could hold the middle of the team’s lineup until reinforcements arrive later in the season or others show improvement.

“(Zimmerman) is gonna come back and is starting to swing it really well for us,” Bryce Harper said. “(LaRoche) is swinging it well as always. And Desmond is doing a great job up there. It’s just a matter of time for everybody to get going.”