Dusty Baker told reporters after Ryan Zimmerman's 4 for 4, two home run game against the St. Louis Cardinals last month that he hoped it was a sign of things to come for the 31-year-old first baseman.
"It was great," Baker said. "To see Zim swinging the bat in the middle of the order. That's huge for us and that's huge for him and his confidence to hit two home runs sandwiched between some singles in there, that shows he wasn't just trying to hit home runs, he was trying to make good solid contact and happened to hit home runs, so definitely encouraged by that."
In 17 games and 71 plate appearances since that game, the 12-year veteran has gone 12 for 66 (.182/.211/.348) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, three walks and 21 Ks over that stretch, which includes last night's 1 for 4 performance in LA.
Zimmerman doubled in his second at bat against Dodgers' lefty Scott Kazmir, sending a line drive to left-center, but in a key plate appearance in the fifth, after Kazmir walked Daniel Murphy to load the bases in front of Zimmerman, he went down swinging at a 1-2 pitch that was out of the zone.
That strikeout left Zimmerman 0 for 9 with four Ks in 10 PAs with the bases loaded this season. With runners in scoring position, Zimmerman is 10 for 59 (.169/.284/.305) with two doubles and two home runs.
"Usually he's awesome," Baker said when asked about that bases-loaded at bat. "I mean the guy is hitting .400 for his career with the bases loaded, his track record says that he's one of the best there is around."
He isn't quite hitting .400 with the bases loaded in his career, but Zimmerman has a .283/.312/.500 career line with the bases loaded.
Last night in LA, Zimmerman took two pitches for strikes to start the at bat. Baker was asked if a more aggressive approach early in the count might have made a difference.
"Well, yeah, it's tough to hit with two strikes," he said.
In at bats that end on 0-2 counts this season, Zimmerman is 1 for 27 (.037/.034/.037), in at bats he starts down 0-2, he's 5 for 49 (.102/.145/.163).
Zimmerman wasn't the only one who struggled to come through with runners in scoring position last night.
As a team, the Nationals were 1 for 10 with 10 left on base in what ended up a one-run loss. The two runs the Nats did score in the 3-2 loss came on solo home runs by Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa.
"We did have a lot of opportunities early, but like I said, we didn't capitalize on them," Baker told reporters.
Asked if there was any adjustment the Nationals could make, Baker said attacking pitchers early in the count was a good approach.
"I was taught you jump on them early in the count, because they're trying to get ahead of you. And a lot of time that's going to be the first pitch to hit. We've just got to be more aggressive early in the count."
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