By the time the shadows had receded and Ryan Zimmerman could finally see the ball yesterday afternoon, the Nationals already trailed by six runs. He came to the plate against Lance Lynn in the fifth with the Nationals all but dead, and the face of the franchise revived them as much as he could.
The 98-win Nationals still have the same best player as they did when they were the 59-win Nationals, and on Monday, even in a rout, Zimmerman played like it. He clobbered the first home run in Nationals playoff history off Lynn, a rocket into the bullpen beyond the left field fence.
Zimmerman finished Game 2 going 2 for 4 with a sacrifice fly. He smoked the ball in all three at-bats that came after the third inning, after the sun stopped making it hell to even see pitches. After a maiden playoff game that felt tense, Zimmerman had settled into his usual rhythm Monday.
“Today was definitely a lot less hectic,” Zimmerman said. “I think once you get into the groove a little bit — it’s definitely a different feeling the first day. It’s different. To play a couple games, get those under our belt, kind of get a lot of firsts out of the way, I felt a lot more comfortable today than I did yesterday.”
Zimmerman also made a tremendous play at third base, a diving stop his left followed by an arcing throw across the diamond from one knee. For the series, he’s now 3 for 9, and only Ian Desmond and Michael Morse match his three hits.
His hardest-hit ball did not even go for a base hit. In the seventh inning, he scalded an 88-mph splitter from Edward Mujica to left field. The liner settled into Matt Holliday’s glove and scored Jayson Werth, and after Holliday’s odd, nine-hop throw to the infield, it turned into a double play as a Bryce Harper was tagged out at third.
Zimmerman finished his day with a single to right on a 101-mph fastball from Trevor Rosenthal. Zimmerman was the same outstanding hitter in the playoffs as he had been in the regular season, and that included getting the first homer of his postseason career out of the way.
“It’s not bad,” Zimmerman said. “It would have been nice to do it in a win, but I’ll take it.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals’ 12-4 loss in Game 2 displayed how they contrast with the Cardinals and left them with a three-game series for the season.
The Cardinals are Jordan Zimmermann’s kryptonite, Boz writes.
The Nationals’ starting rotation has let them down after a dazzling season, Barry Svrluga says.
The 1 p.m. Wednesday start isn’t fan friendly, Dan Steinberg writes.
Bryce Harper is dealing with strep, the Sun Monster and a bunch of strikeouts, James Wagner writes.
The Cardinals rebounded when they had to, Katie Carrera says.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
Garcia off Cardinals’ roster