Quick Links

Zimmerman brings his season all the way back


Zimmerman brings his season all the way back

NEW YORK -- Mark DeRosa was talking to Ryan Zimmerman after last night's game at Citi Field, one in which Zimmerman had homered (yet again) and driven in a run (yet again), and noted how far the 27-year-old third baseman had come since his stunningly poor start to the season.

"You made it back," DeRosa told his teammate.

"Well," Zimmerman responded, "I made it back to where I guess it's respectable now."

OK, so Zimmerman's overall season numbers -- a .287 average, 22 homers, 84 RBI, an .835 OPS -- aren't off-the-charts good. Especially for a guy who has in his career cracked the 30-homer barrier, the 100-RBI plateau and has hit over .300.

But considering the hole he dug himself into through the season's first half, it's bordering on remarkable how good Zimmerman's season-ending stats will look.

On the morning of June 24, Zimmerman was hitting .218 with three homers, 22 RBI and a .590 OPS that ranked among the worst utility infielders in baseball. His right shoulder was barking, he couldn't drive the ball to the gaps and that 100 million contract extension he had signed during spring training sure didn't look too smart on the Nationals' part.

Zimmerman, as steady and level-headed a player as you'll find in the big leagues, admits now he was concerned.

"I'm OK with the slow starts, but not being able to swing the bat and do the things health-wise, I was worried about that," he said. "Because I know my body pretty well. Everyone in this room plays hurt. Everyone in every locker room. Nobody's healthy. And I've played hurt a lot just like everyone else. But it was a different kind of feeling. It made me nervous."

That morning of June 24, with the Nationals preparing for their series finale in Baltimore, Zimmerman received a cortisone shot in the shoulder. Doctors couldn't promise him it would work. And they couldn't tell him how long the effects of the shot would last.

But it did work. And it has lasted. Zimmerman hasn't needed another shot since, and he barely worries about his shoulder right now.

And the numbers he's posted in 72 games since that day in Baltimore are nothing short of dominant: a .339 average, .405 on-base percentage, 19 homers, 62 RBI and a 1.021 OPS.

He currently owns an NL-best 16-game hitting streak. He's also driven in a run in nine consecutive games, an ExposNationals franchise record.

"We're riding him," manager Davey Johnson said. "Zim's swinging the bat good and playing good."

It only constitutes one-half of a season, but had he compiled those numbers over six months, Zimmerman would be the runaway favorite to win National League MVP honors.

He won't, of course, win MVP. He might receive a handful of top-10 votes.

But he doesn't care about that. What preyed on Zimmerman's mind most of all during his early season struggles was the fact the Nationals were enjoying the best year of their brief history, and he (as the senior member of the club) was doing little to contribute to it all.

"That was a trying time, I guess you could say," he said of those June days when he faced an uncertain future. "That was about as tough a six-week stretch as I've ever had in my career. To be able to look up there now and know I've been able to battle back from that -- and more importantly, can actually help the team win now -- I'm pretty proud of it."

Quick Links

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .


Quick Links

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.