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Zimmerman leads Nats not with words but example

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Zimmerman leads Nats not with words but example

Ryan Zimmerman is the last guy in the Nationals clubhouse who is going to gather his teammates together and offer an impassioned plea for better play on the field. There isn't an ounce of cheerleader in the man's body. Never has been, never will be.

Which doesn't mean Zimmerman can't still be a leader of this ballclub. Leaders come in different shapes and sizes and personalities. Some lead with their words. Some lead with the example they set, both on and off the field.

And nobody has set a better example for others in the 10-year history of the Nationals than the guy who was the organization's first-ever draft pick upon arriving in the District.

Has Zimmerman ever been criticized for lack of hustle? For not putting his team ahead of his own personal benefit? For passing blame onto others? For giving anything less than his best?

His career might be considered by some a disappointment, but that's a result solely of the injuries he has suffered over the last decade, most notably a right shoulder that hasn't been 100 percent since maybe 2009 and led to his well-publicized throwing woes at third base.

All those injuries, especially in recent years, have made us forget at times a significant point: Ryan Zimmerman, when healthy, is an awfully good baseball player.

Consider his average career stats over a 162-game season: A .282 batting average, 25 homers, 97 RBI, 91 runs scored, a .348 on-base percentage, .473 slugging percentage and .821 OPS. There are 11 full-time third basemen in the Hall of Fame. Only five had a career OPS higher than Zimmerman. Only three had a higher slugging percentage.

Now, this isn't to suggest Zimmerman is going to wind up in Cooperstown some day. He won't play enough games in his career to merit serious consideration, and his defense at third base (once legendary) deteriorated to the point it was a severe black mark on his record. He may prove to be a very good first baseman over the remainder of his career, but his offensive numbers won't look as impressive on that side of the diamond as they did on the other.

This is only to serve as a reminder just how good a player Zimmerman is when he's able to play. And boy has he been showing it over the last few weeks.

Wednesday night's game in St. Louis was merely the culmination of a red-hot streak at the plate for Zimmerman. He launched two homers, including the 200th of his career, which happened to come on the 10th anniversary of his first career hit. He also drove in the winning run with an RBI double to right. In fact, all three of the runs he drove in during this game gave the Nationals the lead.

Over his last 10 games, Zimmerman is hitting .359 with seven homers, 19 RBI and a 1.346 OPS. How good is that? Well, do you remember his torrid stretch in 2012 after receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder? During his best 10-game stretch that summer, he hit .370 with four homers, 16 RBI and a 1.147 OPS. This stretch has been better.

And boy have the Nationals needed this one, especially Wednesday night. That was yet another game that was slipping from their grasp, but Zimmerman did everything he could to seize control right back.

That's leadership. When his team needed him most, he stepped up and delivered.

Not with his words. But with his performance on the field and the example he has always set off it.

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.