Notes and observations from the Nats' 11-9 win over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night at Turner Field:
Zimmerman's big return: Dusty Baker told reporters Saturday that he wanted Ryan Zimmerman to treat his return from the disabled list as a fresh start to his season. On the first pitch the 31-year-old saw, he did just that. Zimmerman launched a solo home run in the second inning against the Braves, the first of three hits on the night in his first game back after being out with a left wrist contusion.
The veteran first baseman certainly wasn’t the only one to have a big night offensively. After all, the Nats put up 11 runs on the scoreboard. But there is something particularly uplifting about seeing a resurgent Zimmerman, who lest we forget was the lineup’s cleanup hitter earlier in the season. At this point in the year, the Nats don’t necessarily need him to perform up to his career average numbers; the offense has plenty of bats to help carry the load. However, if he can add some additional pop to an already explosive bunch, this could be one of the scariest lineups to face in October.
Bullpen tiring: Nats relievers are starting to look like a group pitching in the midst of a 20-game stretch without an off day. The last two nights in particular, Washington has seen a 5-0 sixth-inning lead evaporate and a 10-3 seventh-inning advantage somehow turn into a save situation for closer Mark Melancon in the ninth.
Luckily for the Nats, neither close call cost resulted in a loss. That said, they will go into Sunday afternoon’s tilt with a number of tired arms to look after. Matt Belisle, Koda Glover and Blake Treinen have each pitched in back-to-back games, so it’s up to Gio Gonzalez to go deep in his next start to keep some of the relievers fresh.
Unfortunately, the Nats still have 11 games left in this rough patch. And aside from winning, it’s clear Baker's top pririty is to get his team through it without wearing the players out.
Can anyone slow down Turner? You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true, but it’s probably what other teams are thinking about Trea Turner these days he continues to tear it up. The 23-year-old speedster only notched one hit on Saturday night, but it just so happened to be a three-run shot in the fourth inning that seemingly put the game out of reach.
Of all of Turner’s impressive traits, perhaps the most surprising is his sneaky power. Sure, he only has four long balls on the season, which doesn’t seem like much, but he’s only played in 33 games. If you extrapolate his numbers out over an entire season, you’re talking about 18 home runs, 36 doubles and 27 triples. If he were to amass a season like that, he’d be the first to major league history accomplish it. Add in his knack for stealing bases, and the Nats might possibly have the most dynamic leadoff man in the game at the moment.