Ryan Zimmerman was reportedly good to go for Monday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, but Dusty Baker held Washington’s first baseman back so he could continue to rest his ailing back and not test it against a harder-throwing pitcher.
“He’s doing better,” Baker explained before the series opener with Atlanta. “He’s doing a lot better. I just didn’t think it was worth — I just decided to wait until tomorrow and then against a knuckleballer he doesn’t have to rotate quite as hard, quite as violently to catch up with his fastest pitch, so I decided to wait until tomorrow, and hopefully he can be in there — hopefully quite a few games until the next off day.”
It probably didn’t hurt that Zimmerman has pwned R.A. Dickey in their respective careers, entering play on Tuesday 12 for 36 (.333/.366/.556) against the veteran knuckleballer, with two doubles and two home runs off Dickey over 36 at bats.
Zimmerman improved to 14 for 39 with four homers off Dickey last night, homering in the bottom of the first to put the Nationals up 2-0, and again in the home-half of the sixth to put the Nats back up on top, 6-5.
The two-home run game was the 18th multi-home run game on Zimmerman’s career, and his second home run of the night, his 19th of the season, tied him for the all-time franchise lead in home runs with Vladimir Guerrero (234).
More importantly, for those who prefer to ignore the franchise’s Montreal-based past, Zimmerman is just three home runs shy of tying Frank Howard for the all-time home run lead in D.C. baseball history (237).
“That tells you that he’s had an outstanding career and he’s having an outstanding year,” Dusty Baker told reporters when informed that Zimmerman tied Guerrero’s home run mark, remarking that it seems Zimmerman is tying or setting a franchise mark every day.
“This franchise had some heck of a players from the Montreal days,” Baker added.
“When you look at Andre Dawson and Tim Raines and Vladimir Guerrero and the list goes on and on. They had some dynamite players. Tim Wallach.
“These are some of the records he’s broken.”
Zimmerman also has Wallach’s mark of 360 career doubles within reach, with 357 so far in his career, and he’s 27 walks away (555 to 582) from tying Gary Carter’s walk record.
More important than any of the career marks, of course, especially considering he just came back from the back problem, is the fact that the 32-year-old, 13-year veteran is healthy and tearing it up after a couple of years of battling injury issues and doing all he could just to stay on the field.
After last night’s game, Zimmerman has a .372/.415/.726 line, 19 doubles and 19 home runs in 58 games and 234 plate appearances, over which he’s generated 193 wRC+ and been worth 2.6 fWAR.
And also, his third hit of the night last night came off left-hander Ian Krol, on a fastball, so it was not just knucklers he was squaring up.
“I planned on putting him in there against a knuckleball, like I said,” Baker explained after the Nationals’ 10-5 win, “... not to have him rotate too much and test his back, but he caught to a good fastball for his third hit and it was good to have Zim back.”
Good to have him back last night, and good to have him back this season.