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Washington Nationals’ lineup for series opener with Atlanta Braves + Ryan Zimmerman = All-Star

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Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals start a four-game, first-half-ending series with the Atlanta Braves tonight in D.C.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into play tonight, Ryan Zimmerman is just four home runs away from passing Frank Howard for the most home runs in D.C. baseball history.

In the first half of a big, bounce-back 2017 campaign, after years of struggling with a variety of injury issues, Zimmerman, started the day on Friday with the sixth-highest average in the majors (.330), the fourth-highest slugging percentage (.610), the fifth-highest OPS (.982), fifth-highest wOBA (.407), and ninth-highest wRC+ (152).

On the year, the Washington Nationals’ 32-year-old first baseman has a .330/.373/.610 line, 22 doubles and 19 home runs in 76 games and 306 plate appearances, coming off a .218/.272/.370, 18 double, 15 home run campaign in 115 games and 467 PAs in 2016.

Zimmerman talked to reporters this week, in a press conference with teammates after his second career All-Star selection was announced, about his health being the biggest factor in his success so far this season.

“The last three years have been tough,” Zimmerman acknowledged. “I think injuries... and honestly just not playing to the ability that I knew I was capable of playing, it’s frustrating. This year has been a lot more fun than the last two and a half or three years, just being out there every day and being with the guys and [helping] the team win.

“All of us love to compete and when you’re hurt and can’t do that, I think that’s the most frustrating thing for anyone who plays a professional sport.”

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday that he thinks Zimmerman can keep it up if he can stay healthy in the second half.

“When Zim’s healthy, I think he’s as good as anybody,” Rizzo said. “He gives us a great right-handed bat in-between our two lefties. If he stays healthy, especially his lower body, his feet and his hamstrings, if they stay healthy this guy is going to put up consistent numbers throughout and he takes really, really good care of himself.

“He’s in terrific shape at 32 years old, and we expect big things for him not only the rest of this year, but to be Ryan Zimmerman throughout his contract.”

Zimmerman is due $14M in 2018, $18M in 2019, and there is an $18M club option for 2020 (or a $2M buyout) included in the six-year/$100M extension he signed with the Nationals in 2012 (which also includes a 5-year/$10M personal services contract when his playing days end). Will he be able to keep it up throughout the rest of his contract?

Let’s worry about the rest of the season for now...

HERE’S THE LINEUP FOR TONIGHT’S SERIES OPENER WITH THE BRAVES: