May 18, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) bats during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Is Ryan Zimmerman healthy? When Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson was asked after the finale of the three-game series with the New York Yankees, he told reporters he couldn't say for sure. Zimmerman went 0 for 4 with a strikeout Sunday, leaving him 1 for 13 with a walk and two K's in the three-game series with NY and causing his manager to wonder aloud whether or not something was bothering the 27-year-old face of the Nationals franchise. "I don't know," Johnson said, "He's such a great athlete and such a talented player. I haven't had much conversation with him about it. But [when] we go on this road trip, I'm going to sit down with him and try to figure it out."
Zimmerman went on the DL with inflammation in the AC joint in his right shoulder after putting up a .224/.324/.345 line in April with four doubles and a home run in 15 games and 68 plate appearances. Upon returning to the lineup, the Nationals' third baseman posted a .262/.333/.357 line with five doubles and a home run in May, but after this weekend's series, the Nats' '05 1st Round pick has a .186/.226/.254 line in June with just a double and a home run in 14 games and 52 plate appearances, leading to some questions about whether or not the shoulder or some other issue is bothering the third baseman. "I'm not totally sure," Johnson told reporters, "That's why I want to sit down and have a talk with him. I know he takes everything seriously."
It's not just Zimmerman struggling at the plate of course. Michael Morse has a .211/.246/.281 line this season, with four doubles and no home runs so far in 14 games and 61 plate appearances since returning from the lat issue which delayed the start of his 2012 campaign and second baseman Danny Espinosa's continues to struggle with a .229/.313/.381 line on the year after he went 2 for 13 in the three games against the Yankees. "Offensively we're just coming up a little short," the Nats' skipper explained, but he then said that, "The only thing that really concerns me is that we've gotta get Zim going. We need to get Zim in a happy place."
"I want us to be aggressive," Johnson said when asked the struggles Zimmerman and Morse have experienced, "and I think that sometimes the middle of the lineup is a little too passive." After searching for the right combination at the top of the order, the Nationals now have Steve Lombardozzi (.268/.331/.342) and Bryce Harper (.294/.370/.525) hitting and getting on base, but now it's the middle of the lineup that's struggling to produce when they come up with runners on. "We're not striking fear in the opposing pitcher. They're having it too easy with us. Those guys need to get going," Johnson continued, "I mean they're certainly talented enough to get going, whatever we've got to do to get it going. The whole season's in front of us with plenty of time. I'd just like to see us getting that head out, throwing the bat, not getting beat, we seem to be getting beat too much."
When the offense struggles as it did against the Yankees, producing just six runs in 32.0 innings in the three-game series against New York, every mistake made is magnified. "When we're scoring low runs, every little thing is a big issue, especially against a good hitting ballclub. I mean, there's no letup in [the Yankees'] lineup, so every little thing, a boot, or a passed ball, you pay for it. And you can get by with it when you're running on all cylinders, your offense is churning, then you pass it by, but our main issue is getting our main guys to swing the bat better."