Apr 16, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) hits a two run single against the Houston Astros during the sixth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals defeated the Astros 6 - 3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Ryan Zimmerman was 3 for 24 with a walk and 5 K's in six games against the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays on the last homestand. After a 1 for 4, 3 K performance in the series finale with the Rays, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told the D.C. press corps that he wasn't sure that the Nats' 27-year-old third baseman was 100% healthy. Zimmerman had already missed time with inflammation in his right shoulder which was diagnosed an an issue with the AC joint. Was it still bothering the Nats' '05 1st Round pick? "I don't know," Johnson told reporters, "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."
Michael Morse was struggling too. Danny Espinosa had been fighting it all season, at least from the left side of the plate. "'We're not striking fear in the opposing pitcher," Johnson said, "They're having it too easy with us. Those guys need to get going." The Nats' manager, however, said his biggest concern was getting his three-hole hitter hot. "Offensively we're just coming up a little short," Johnson explained, but, "The only thing that really concerns me is that we've gotta get Zim going. We need to get Zim in a happy place." Two days later, after Zimmerman had gone 0 for 8 in the first two games of the three-game series with the Orioles in Baltimore, the Face of the Nats franchise received a cortisone shot in his ailing right shoulder.
After having the shot, the Nationals' infielder told reporters he finally felt some relief. Though Zimmerman said he had been capable of playing, his shoulder, he admitted, was an issue. The cortisone shot, Zimmerman explained, would allow him to stay on the field and in the lineup until the season was over and he could deal with the shoulder and not miss any time. "'To go out there today and feel a little bit like I could do the things that I've always been able to do,'" Zimmerman told reporters, including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak, "... gave me a little bit more confidence and just made (me) happier."
Zimmerman went out the next day and went 2 for 4 in the series finale with the Orioles. Then, against Colorado, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a double. 3 for 5 with a double and a home run. 2 for 4 with a double and a home run. "It feels better," Zimmerman told reporters when asked if the cortisone shot had been the difference, "I think I can do things and prepare and swing like I've always swung before. It just freed it up a little bit and let me do things like I've always done it. It's hard to try and make adjustments and do things the way you don't really do them [normally] and be successful."
In eight games after getting the cortisone shot, Zimmerman went 14 for 37 (.378/.410/.730) with four doubles, three home runs, 13 RBI's, two walks and six K's. The Nats' Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winning third baseman capped off the road trip with a 3 for 5 performance against the Braves in which he hit a double and a 430ft HR to left field. Zimmerman's post-shot resurgence also coincided with Michael Morse getting things going at the plate. The 30-year-old outfielder, who had lat issues delay the start of his 2012 campaign, went out on the road for the trip through Baltimore, Atlanta and Colorado with a .209/.236/.313 line.
After going 18 for 44 (.419/.432/.605) with two doubles and two home runs in the 10-game trip, Morse returns to the nation's capital with a .291/.310/.427 line after 27 games and 116 plate appearances. Asked how important it was for the team to have Zimmerman and Morse getting hot, Davey Johnson told reporters after the series finale with the Braves on Sunday, that it's made a big difference. "[Zimmerman's] been swinging the a lot better. He just looks happier and with him and Michael Morse swinging the bat, we can have some fun in the second-half. No doubt about it."
Six games remain in the "first half," starting with tonight's game against the the NL West's first place San Francisco Giants and Tim Lincecum in Nationals Park. Jordan Zimmermann and the NL East's first place Nats start the final homestand before the All-Star Break with a 45-32 record and a 3.5 game lead over the second-place New York Mets. Can the offense keep it going now that they're back home in the nation's capital? Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain will be a true test of whether or not the Nats' offense is now capable of striking fear in opposing pitchers...