brushback_harperThe Nationals lineup may be healthy, as it has been for the past three weeks, but an element has been missing: home runs. Because several players suffered hand injuries — Wilson Ramos, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman — their strength and timing suffered with so much missed time.  The lack of power from Zimmerman, a middle of the order hitter, has been evident.

In June, Zimmerman hit only one homer in 27 games along with a .212 average. So far in July, Zimmerman’s hitting has been much improved. After Sunday’s 2 for 4 performance, Zimmerman is hitting .392 (20 for 51) in July.

Zimmerman has also smashed two home runs, including the game-tying two-run shot in the fourth inning that pulled the Nationals back into the game. Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo hung a curveball and Zimmerman waited and flicked it into the first row of the right-center field seats, a classic Zimmerman swing and approach. Is this a sign of what’s to come?

“I think when you miss that amount of time it’s tough to come back,” Zimmerman said. “You’ll come back and get hits but to really get in that groove and get your timing down to where you can drive the ball takes a little while. I think a couple of us have missed extended periods of time. Willy missed a little bit. Harp obviously missed a bunch. It’s not easy to miss that many games and then come back basically in spring training mode playing against guys that are in midseason form. Just gotta keep working and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Throughout his career, Zimmerman has usually been a better hitter in the second half of the season than in the first. In recent seasons, that’s partly because he has often gotten hurt early in the season. But as the temperature has heated up, so has Zimmerman. Last season, Zimmerman had only 15 home runs entering the final month of the season, and then he went off for an absurd 11 home runs in September.

In the first half of his 10-year career, Zimmerman has a .270/.337/.452 batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. In the second half, it’s markedly better: .303/.368/.503. The following are Zimmerman’s slash lines per month in his career:

— April/March: .263/.330/.441

— May: .292/.358/.498

— June: .240/.304/.393

— July: .316/.383/.508

— August: .308/.377/.516

— September/October: .289/.350/.490

In other words, not only is Zimmerman slowly overcoming the lingering effects of his thumb and missed time, but he is moving closer to performing in line with his career production. The lack of home runs so far hasn’t concerned Manager Matt Williams.

“What I’m most pleased with is him delivering hits with men in scoring position regardless of homers,” Williams said. “That will come. We know that he’s got power. He knows certainly what to do when he’s up there. It’s one thing to swing for the fences. It’s another thing to drive a run in when it’s needed.”




Lehigh Valley 7, Syracuse 6 (7): The Chiefs scored all their runs in the seventh inning. Destin Hood and Sandy Leon each homered. Gregg Dobbs notched two hits. Mitch Lively allowed seven runs, five earned, on eight hits and four walks over five innings. Manny Delcarmen fired two scoreless.

Syracuse 6, Lehigh Valley 4 (7): James Simmons allowed four runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings. Xavier Cedeno earned the save with 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Zach Walters hit his 15th homer of the season. Brandon Laird and Jhonatan Solano each had two hits.

Richmond 5, Harrisburg 4 (15): Scott McGregor allowed four runs, three earned, over five innings. Before Colin Bates gave up the winning run, the Senators bullpen went eight scoreless, led by Tyler Herron’s three innings. Michael A. Taylor hit his 20th home run of the season. Drew Vettleson collected four hits.

Potomac 3, Salem 2: Oscar Tejeda hit the deciding home run in the top of the ninth. Brian Rauh went four scorless. Jake Walsh earned the win after Richie Mirowski’s blown save. Pedro Severino hit his sixth home run of the season.

Hagerstown 5, Delmarva 4: Wirkin Estevez and Brett Mooneyham each allowed two runs. Spencer Kieboom went 2 for 5 with a home run. A wild pitch allowed Isaac Ballou to score the winning run.

Lowell 6, Auburn 5: Drew Van Orden allowed four runs on 10 hits. Luis Torres fired four innings. Osvaldo Abreu and Wilman, welcome to Post.