GREAT GAME, GREAT WIN
[August 16th] -- Ryan Zimmerman was beginning to fall into another slump. He's was 0-9 over his last two games and was striking out at an alarming pace. He hadn't had an RBI in ten days, and it had been a while since he'd hit a home run. He needed to shake things up.
And oh, how he did.
He struck out in his first at bat against the Braves' John Smoltz, and looked pretty bad while doing it. Then, just like "that," things changed. In the third inning, Zimmerman hit a sharp grounder past the third base bag, barely fair, but into Chipper Jones' glove. Jones jumped, twirled, and let go a strong throw to first, though it was just off the mark. First baseman Adam LaRoche had to move off the bag to get to the throw, and Zimmerman dove head first towards the bag, beating LaRoche's tag and driving in the first run of the game. Wow. Great play. A couple of innings later, Zimmerman handled a sharp grounder and threw to first, pulling Nick Johnson off the bag. Although the runner was called safe, and Zimmerman was charged with his 10th error of the season, replays show that Nick got to the bag before the runner. Wow. Bad play. His next time up, Ryan launched his 16th homer of the year, deep to left center field, giving the Nationals a 6-3 lead on Smoltz and the Braves. Wow. Great play. The next inning, John Smoltz of all people hit a line shot past the bag at third. Zimmerman dove to his right, snared the ball in foul ground, raised himself and threw a strike to first to nip Smoltz. Wow. Great play. The next inning, Billy Traber started to tire. With the Nationals up by a couple of runs and a runner on third with two out, Andruw Jones came to bat as a pinch-hitter. He hit a very hard but very playable grounder wide of third. Just as Zimmerman moved to his left to field the ball, the head of Jones' sawed-off bat landed at his feet and bounced near his head, causing the kid to flinch, allowing the ball to get past him, and the run to score. Wow. Bad play. Later in the game, Zimmerman hit a high-hopper to Chipper Jones, who fielded the ball quickly and threw to first, b-a-r-e-l-y getting the hustling Ryan Zimmerman.
That's the kind of night it was for the kid.
I'm not going to say something stupid like, "Zimmerman is slump-proof," because no baseball player is. What I will say, however, is that Ryan Zimmerman is a professional hitter, that he makes adjustments every time he comes to the plate, and those type of hitters don't often get into prolonged slumps. He doesn't rely on just the home run ball, or just balls hit into the gaps. He bunts when he needs to and hits to right field when he has to. I was thinking the other day that it's going to be a joy to watch the kid throughout his career, to watch him improve and became a super-star. He'll probably end his career somewhere around the year 2024. Then I realized that I'll be 68 years old when he calls it a career. Hmm... I HOPE I LIVE LONG ENOUGH to watch him finish his career.
NATS NOTES: I've never quite figured out what Bernie Castro has to do to win a full time job in the major leagues. He's been an all-star at virtually every minor-league level. In his first taste of the big-leagues, he hit .288 with the Orioles, and that only earned him a ticket out of town. He signed with the Nationals, a team with an "all-star" blocking his chance to play with the big club. Castro changes the game with his speed. He is competent with the glove. Sadly, my guess is that he'll never get the chance to start in the majors, at least here in Washington .... What's happened to Austin Kearns? He went 0-5 with two more strikeouts and his average is now down to .264. I'm afraid that Kearns is at best a slightly-above-average major league outfielder, a guy who is going to hit .260-20-70 or so with a low OBP .... Billy Traber certainly didn't look as sharp as he did in his last start; maybe it was the retro uniform .... Brian Schneider got two hits, one a long home run ... perhaps he won't be throwing things for awhile.