July 13, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (right) greets third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (left) at home plate after Zimmerman hit a two run homer during the the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Ryan Zimmerman was recognized as the NL's Player of the Week for the week ending on July 22nd after an eight-game stretch against the Nats' NL East rivals in which the 27-year-old third baseman was 15 for 30 (.500/.571/.1.067) with two doubles, five home runs and four walks in eight games. The Nats were 4-4 over that stretch, winning the final two games of a four-game set with the Braves to start a streak of six-straight wins going into Friday night's game against the Brewers. Over the course of the six-game streak, the Nats' '05 1st Round pick was 10 for 28 (.357/.379/.643) with two doubles and two home runs. At the end of this month, it would be a surprise if the Nationals' three-hole hitter wasn't named the National League's Player of the Month.
Twenty-three days into the month of June, the eighth-year pro had a .218/.285/.590 line on the year with 10 doubles and three home runs in 55 games and 242 PA's. An issue with inflammation in the AC joint of his right shoulder was holding the Face of the Nats' Franchise back. Zimmermann finally made the decision to have a cortisone shot so that he could stay on the field and help what was then and is now the NL East's first-place team. For a player eight years into his MLB career, who'd just signed a 6-year/$100M dollar extension this past Spring, the idea of not being able to contribute to what the Nationals are doing this year was too much.
"It was not fun to struggle like I did for that long," Zimmerman told CSNWashington.com's Julie Donaldson after the series with Atlanta in the nation's capital last weekend, "Dealing with the shoulder, and trying to do things to help the team, but it just wasn't working out. So, to kind of battle through that and then come back to the way I've been playing the last month and helping us win. It's very rewarding."
Zimmerman had the shot before the Nats' June 24th game against the Baltimore Orioles. Since then the Nats' Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning third baseman has posted a .372/.429/.736 line with 11 doubles, 11 HR's and 11 walks in 29 games and 133 PA's. The sustained stretch of success at the plate left the middle of the order slugger with a .273/.336/.457 line on the year before Friday night's game.
The decision to have the cortisone shot and stay in the lineup was a relatively easy one, the Nationals' third baseman explained in a recent interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Mike Wise. He decided to do it so that he could be a part of what the Nationals are doing this summer. If he needs to address the shoulder issue this offseason he will, Zimmerman said, but the idea of missing significant time now when he's finally part of a winning team was something the third baseman wouldn't consider. "If it's something that we need to clean up in the offseason, it's a simple three-to-five weeks," the infielder explained, "Which in the offseason is nothing, but when we're in first place and I haven't had a winning season in seven years, three-to-five weeks is like three-to-five years for me to be off the field."
Though he's never participated in the post season, the Nats' right-handed hitting middle of the order bat has set a precedent over the course of his first seven seasons that bodes well for the next few months. Though Nats fans are used to Zimmerman struggling in June (.243/.301/.389) career, he's got a .314/.387/.518 career line in July (.370/.437/.750 so far in July this year), a .314/.380/.549 career line in August and a .293/.358/.460 September/October line. And the Nationals have never been relevant at that time of the year as anything other than a spoiler in the past.
What will a motivated, hopefully healthy Zimmerman do in the next two months if the Nationals continue on their current path?
• Listen to Zimmerman's interview with 106.7 the FAN's Mike Wise Here: