Despite the injuries the Washington Nationals are working through this season, they still have a couple of healthy, powerful bats on the roster, belonging to Josh Bell and Ryan Zimmerman.
Friday’s inter-league contest in Baltimore gave manager Davey Martinez a rare opportunity to put both career first-basemen in the same lineup by employing Zimmerman (.278/.341/.475) as the designated hitter.
Although Bell (.248/.308/.464) continued his hot hitting with his 15th home run, the combo was otherwise underwhelming in a 6-1 loss to the Orioles.
The switch-hitting Bell finished 1-for-4, and Zimmerman was 0-for-3, and the two combined for five of the Nats’ 11 strikeouts against five different Baltimore pitchers.
“It’s nice to get us both in there, to kind of create some depth to the lineup,” Zimmerman said after the game.
“We got some guys out right now, so obviously to get us both in there is good for us.”
Bell gave the Nationals a short-lived 1-0 lead with a monster, 448-foot solo blast to center field to lead off the fourth inning, but the Nationals stranded another man on base that inning and seven for the game, going 0-for-8 as a team with runners in scoring position.
“I think Josh had some good at bats tonight, obviously the big home run,” Zimmerman said.
“I felt good up there tonight. I obviously didn’t get anything to show for it, but I think my first three at bats went 3-2, saw the ball really well, they just made some good pitches to finish at bats on me.”
Martinez believes having both bats in the lineup will benefit the team.
“We know that those two guys can drive in runs, the guys at the top in front of them, if they get on, we’ve got two big bats behind them that can possibly drive in some runs for us,” he told reporters.
Despite Friday’s results, Martinez believes the combination will click.
“JB hit a home run today. I’ve got to get Zim to relax a little bit, get the ball up in the zone a little bit. He chased a lot of balls today,” Martinez said.
Zimmerman knows more consistent playing time might help the rhythm of a streaky hitter like him, but he also knows his role on the team.
“I’ve said all year I know what I signed up for, I understand I’m not going to be able to get consistent at bats all the time,” he explained.
“Of course, I think getting those 3-4-5 at bats a game for a few days in a row really helps, instead of getting a pinch hit against a tough guy, or maybe going 3-4 days without getting a pinch hit,” Zimmerman continued.
“I understand the job and the role that I’m supposed to play, and unfortunately lately it hasn’t worked out, but I don’t feel bad up there, so I think that’s a good thing.”
Two more games in a cozy, AL ballpark will give the Nats two more opportunities to put Zimmerman and Ball in the lineup together, but Martinez is looking for ways to pair the two in the order against NL teams.
Bell has been taking fly balls in left field before games, and Martinez says until starting left fielder Kyler Schwarber returns from his hamstring injury, he’ll keep Bell as an option there to keep the lineup as potent as possible.
“We’re going to continue to do that, get him comfortable out there,” Martinez said before Friday’s game.
“Like late in games, we have to make some kind of move or something and we can get Zim in the game somehow, some way, that we can use him out there.
“(Bell)’s getting better. He says he’s starting to feel a lot more comfortable than he did when he first went out there, so that’s good, if he can do that it gives us some options.”