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Zimmerman won't return from oblique strain


Zimmerman won't return from oblique strain

ATLANTA — It comes as no surprise at this point, but Ryan Zimmerman won’t have enough time to return from a strained oblique muscle to play before the end of the season.

Sidelined for three weeks with the ailment, Zimmerman has been trying to get himself feeling well enough to return to the field before season’s end. But he continues to feel a pull in the oblique muscle when he tries to swing, so Nationals officials have told him not to take a chance trying to make it back for this week’s final six games.

“At this point, to push him is not smart,” manager Matt Williams said. “He’ll continue to strengthen, start his offseason program and make sure he’s on that path and getting going again for next spring. But [a return this week] doesn’t look likely.”

Thus concludes another frustrating year for Zimmerman, who also missed seven weeks earlier in the summer while recovering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He wound up playing in only 95 games, hitting a career-worst .249 with 16 homers, 73 RBI and a .773 OPS that was 51 points worse than his career average.

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That said, Zimmerman was among the most productive hitters in the league during his most-recent healthy stretch, posting a .311 batting average, 11 homers, 39 RBI and a 1.024 OPS over his final 39 games.

All that leaves the Nationals particularly frustrated by the events of the last six months.

“You look at what it could be,” Williams said. “I know he does. And he gets frustrated by it. … I know he wants to play a full season. And boy, if he can do that, it can be pretty impressive. That’s his outlook, and he’s looking forward to starting that process.”

Zimmerman has played in an average of only 110 games over the last five seasons, a prolonged run that has featured a variety of physical ailments both major and minor. He just turned 31 on Monday, and the challenge only gets greater for any player of his age to keep himself on the field through a long season.

“The only thing that I can say personally from experience: As you get older as a player, if you have an injury and take time off, then you risk something else when you come back,” said Williams, who averaged 99 games played from age 32 through 37. “Because the body just doesn’t react like it does when you’re young. So that being said, I personally would love for him to have a healthy season. It’s been frustrating for him. For him to get out there for 145 games, 150 games, and be able to play that, that would be great. And I know he would be very happy about that. You talk about production, if he can do that, then he’s a vital part of success.”

Zimmerman isn’t the only member of the Nationals’ lineup dealing with a nagging injury. Center fielder Michael Taylor was out again Tuesday after his knee swelled up. Taylor still hasn’t fully recovered from a collision with the fence at Nationals Park on August 27, with fluid building up in the knee. Williams said offseason surgery shouldn’t be necessary, but the club will be careful with him through this final week.

“It’s been much better,” the manager said. “They’ve gotten the swelling down, which is a really good sign. On occasion, if he bangs it, it’s just going to puff up. Once he gets through the season and gets to the offseason and not have those issues, the body will take care of the extra fluid that’s there. I don’t think there’s any issue with it, other than give him some rest.”

Yunel Escobar, meanwhile, has been dealing with an upper back strain and has been out of the lineup the last two days. Williams expects to have the veteran infielder back for most of the final week, with Escobar trying to finish his season strong and perhaps raise his batting average to .320.

MORE NATIONALS: Rizzo defends Williams, himself as Nats season gets worse

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Nationals look to halt red hot Tampa Bay Rays in 2-game series at Tropicana Field


Nationals look to halt red hot Tampa Bay Rays in 2-game series at Tropicana Field

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays, routinely using relievers as starters to deal with a rash of injuries, are pitching their way to victories.

The Rays (37-40) go into a two-game interleague series against the Washington Nationals with the momentum of a three-game sweep of the American League East-leading Yankees. New York hadn't lost three games in a row at any point all season, but the Rays pulled it off, capped with a 7-6 win in 12 innings on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

"That's the best team in the league right now, them and the Astros ... I think coming home from that we had confidence and it all carried over into that series," said Rays rookie first baseman Jake Bauers, who won the game in the 12th inning.

Since beginning their experimental use of relievers as "openers" to start games, the Rays have a 3.07 ERA, and entering Sunday's game, that edged the Yankees for the best ERA in baseball since May 19. They've won five of seven games to again challenge .500, and Sunday's walkoff home run by Bauers was their second this season, after totaling one in three seasons from 2015 to 2017.

The Nationals (41-35) had gone 3-9 in their last 12 games before Sunday night's rain-delayed game against the Phillies, dropping into third place in the National League East. They'll send out Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08 ERA), who has no wins in his last four starts and his ERA has risen from a sterling 2.10 to 3.08.

Gonzalez lasted only four innings in his last outing, giving up five hits and two runs against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. For his career against the Rays, he's 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA, though he's only faced Tampa Bay once since 2012. That was a rough 2015 start at Tropicana Field, lasting 3 1/3 innings and giving up five earned runs on eight hits, walking more batters than he struck out. For his career at Tropicana, he has an 11.25 ERA.

The Rays will have an actual starter on the mound in Blake Snell (9-4, 2.48), who is in line for an All-Star appearance after the first three months of his season. He has just one loss in his last seven starts, and while he has never faced the Nationals, he has generally fared well in interleague play, going 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA in eight career starts.

Tampa Bay, hoping to build on its current momentum, has a tough week ahead, with two games against Washington, then another four against Houston to close out the homestand.

Washington goes from St. Petersburg to a weekend four-game series at the Philadelphia Phillies before returning home for a week.

The Rays got a head start with a Sunday afternoon game and the Nationals saw their prime-time game delayed by rain, keeping them on the field beyond midnight and still needing to fly to Florida for the two-game stopover.


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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.


Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.


Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.