When Ryan Zimmerman landed on the disabled list with left plantar fasciitis on June 10, he was the worst offensive first baseman in baseball among those with enough at-bats to qualify. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage was .611. But since his return on July 28, Zimmerman has increasingly been an offensive wrecking ball, with a .661 slugging percentage.
Wednesday’s performance was another powerful display of his ability and another reminder of a healthy Zimmerman’s talent. He smashed a solo home run in the fourth, then another in the sixth and then a key RBI double in the eighth. He entered the game with 11 go-ahead RBI this season, and then he added three more.
“It’s pretty special,” closer Jonathan Papelbon said. “There’s nothing fazing him right now. He’s locked in. I’ve always said throughout my career, I’d rather face a great hitter than a hot hitter and he’s as hot as they get right now.”
Zimmerman, 30, has had hot streaks before. After a cortisone shot in June 2012, he hit .370 with four home runs in 10 games. In an 11-game stretch in September 2013, he clobbered nine home runs. But this stretch may be Zimmerman’s hottest. Since coming off the disabled list on June 28, no one in the majors has hit the ball harder than Zimmerman; his 97.73 mph exit velocity off the bat is tops, according to BaseballSavant.com.
He is hitting .288 with a 1.023 OPS, 11 home runs and 33 RBI in 35 games since resting his foot injury. In the past nine games, he has seven home runs. In the three-game series against the Cardinals, he went 7 for 14 with four home runs and 8 RBI. Over the past several years, injuries have too often stopped Zimmerman from hitting like himself.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” Zimmerman said, with a smile, when asked if this was his career-best hot stretch. “I’d rather just come to the field and keep doing the stuff that I’ve been doing before the game and staying consistent and going out with that approach and not trying to do too much and just the ball hard.”
When Zimmerman hits the ball as he is now, he can nearly carry an offense by himself. And with Bryce Harper being avoided by opposing pitchers and dealing with a glute injury, a hot-hitting Zimmerman behind him in the lineup makes the Nationals more dynamic.
“Just seeing the ball really well and hitting the ball to the big part of the diamond,” Manager Matt Williams said. “[Wednesday] was vintage Zim. On the last hit, staying on a ball and getting it in there [to right field].”
With his second shot on Wednesday, Zimmerman reached a milestone: career home run No. 200. He has meant so much to Nationals history, from his early years as their one star through awful seasons to the first division title in 2012 to now. Throughout it all, he has always lead with his play on the field. No one has played more games in a Nationals uniform, or hit as many home runs.
“I’m getting old,” Zimmerman said when asked about his milestone. “It’s hard to think about things like that when you’re still playing. But it’s not too bad for a guy who was supposed to be a defensive specialist,” he added, referring to the label attached to him by Nationals officials when he was first draft in the first round in 2005.
“Anytime you do anything in this game, it’s humbling,” he continued. “It’s a really, really hard game. Anytime you can do anything special like that, it’s fun.”
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NATIONALS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 6, Buffalo 2: Paolo Espino gave up one run over 6 1/3 innings. Darin Mastroianni went 3 for 5 with four RBI. Caleb Ramsey drove in a run.
Richmond 3, Harrisburg 2: Brian Rauh allowed three runs, two unearned. Wander Suero and Abel De Los Santos combined for five scoreless innings. Brian Goodwin scored a run and walked twice.
Myrtle Beach 4, Potomac 2: Austen Williams gave up three runs, all unearned, over six innings. Rafael Bautista, Drew Ward and Estarlin Martinez each had two hits.
Hagerstown 10, Kannapolis 9: Erick Fedde gave up three runs over five innings. Ryan Brinley and David Napoli each blew a save. Andrew Stevenson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz and Matthew Page each drove in two runs.
Mahoning Valley 11, Auburn 5: Matthew DeRosier allowed six runs over three innings. Victor Robles, Kelvin Gutierrez and Ian Sagdal each had two hits.