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After solid series, Zimmerman hoping to get back on track

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After solid series, Zimmerman hoping to get back on track

When the Nationals were scuffling at the plate for the majority of April, the club remained confident that most of its veterans would soon begin performing up to the level of their track records. 

And if this past weekend is any indication, the hope is that might be the case with Ryan Zimmerman. During the three-game sweep of the Braves, he went 5-for-12 with a double, a home run and five RBI -- a sign that perhaps the longtime National infielder is beginning to rediscover his power stroke.

"His timing is getting there," Matt Williams said. "You miss most of last year and it’s not like it’s riding a bike. You just don’t pick it up again. So the timing’s starting to come." 

It's been two years since the Nats have seen a fully healthy, productive Zimmerman. He spent much of 2014 on the disabled list due to a hamstring injury, and was never really himself when he returned late in the season. When he's right, however, Williams knows he can pencil in a corner infielder who's usually good for 20-plus home runs and close to 100 RBI year in and year out. 

With last year's injury troubles behind him, Zimmerman hasn't panicked because his start to the season hasn't been up to his usual standards. Just under a month and a half into the season, he's hitting just .232. But on the flip side, he's notched 22 RBI, second on the team only to the guy he hits behind, the sizzling Bryce Harper.

"You know it's kind of funny because my average obviously isn't what I want it to be, but I feel good at the plate," Zimmerman said after Sunday's 5-4 victory. "Usually when you're having success and the numbers look like what they look like, you're struggling, you feel lost. But honestly all season I felt great."  

"He's going to get going, everybody knows that," added Harper. "Zim's such a good hitter so being able to have a guy like that behind me is huge. Being able to have a guy that's gonna see a lot of pitches, gonna drive me in most of the time. Hopefully I can get 100 runs cause he's gonna get 100 RBIs."

For much of his tenure in D.C., Zimmerman has been one of the few constants in the Nats batting order. But since the team's transformation into a playoff contender and the emergence of young guns like Harper, it's been easy to forget (for some, anyway) the consistent production the mild-mannered Virginia native has given the organization over the years.

As for 2015, Zimmerman is confident that he's still got it, and that by the end of the season, he'll post the type of numbers that many Nats are accustomed to seeing from him. 

"I've done the same thing for 10 years now," Zimmerman said. "And by the end of the year, it's always worked. So I've just got to trust that and stick with it and grind it out."

[RELATED: Ramos shines on special Mother's Day in Nats' comeback win

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Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

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USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

Sean Doolittle has gotten his wish - the Washington Nationals will now have a bullpen cart for the remainder of the 2018 season. 

In a release on Thursday, the Nationals announced that they will unveil a the WGL Energy Bullpen Cart on their upcoming Friday night game against the Miami Marlins. The cart will be at all remaining home games at Nationals Park.

Both the Nationals’ pitchers and opponents will be able to utilize the cart to enter a game as a reliever. The cart will transport the relief pitcher from the bullpen to their dugout instead of the traditional long trout out to the mound. 

Players are not required to use the vehicle if they do not want to. 

Earlier this season, Doolittle was the first National ever to use the bullpen cart at Chase Field, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Afterward, he noted that although he had less time, he was not out of breath and “loved it.”

In addition to the Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers, the Nationals are the third active team to have a bullpen cart. Per the release, this is the first season that the bullpen cart has been used in MLB since 1995.

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Ozuna homers, Cardinals beat Nationals for 8th straight win

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Ozuna homers, Cardinals beat Nationals for 8th straight win

Marcell Ozuna homered and Austin Gomber tossed six shutout innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

St. Louis has won a season-high eight straight. The Cardinals, who are 18-9 since the All-Star break, captured their sixth successive series after taking the first three of the four-game set.

Daniel Murphy homered in the ninth for Washington, which has lost four in a row and seven of nine to fall below .500 and nine games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The current skid began with a loss to the Cubs on a two-out, walk-off grand slam.

Ozuna homered in the second inning, his 14th of the season and his first since July 30.

Gomber (3-0), in his fourth start of the year, gave up three hits, struck out six and walked four.

Bud Norris pitched the ninth to pick up his 23rd save in 27 opportunities.

Harrison Bader and Yadier Molina added run-scoring hits for St. Louis, which improved to 19-9 since Mike Matheny was fired and replaced by interim manager Mike Shildt.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter extended his on-base streak to 33 games with a walk in the fifth. It's the longest current streak in the majors. Carpenter left the game in the seventh after he was hit on the hand by a pitch from Matt Grace, but X-rays were negative.

Jeremy Hellickson (5-3) left in the fifth inning after colliding with Bader on a play at the plate following a wild pitch. Hellickson gave up three runs, two earned, on three hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two.

Bader, who had three hits, also made a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Bryce Harper in the fourth.

The Cardinals, who have an NL-best 12-2 mark in August, remain one game behind Philadelphia for the second wild card spot. They are four games behind Chicago in the NL Central.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg threw a simulated game on Wednesday. He threw around 70 pitches and could be ready to return early next week, manager Dave Martinez said.

Cardinals: LHP Brett Cecil was activated from the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday. Cecil, who had been sidelined with inflammation in his right foot, pitched four scoreless innings in four appearances with Triple-A Memphis. LHP Tyler Webb was optioned to Memphis.

UP NEXT

RHP Tanner Roark (7-12, 4.12) will face RHP Luke Weaver (6-10, 4.66) in the finale of the four-game series on Thursday. Roark has won his last four decision, Weaver is 1-4 with a 5.13 ERA in nine career games against NL East foes.