With two fluid, powerful swings, Ryan Zimmerman led the charge and dispelled the impending bad news. He sent two balls into the stands, powering the Washington Nationals past the Atlanta Braves in Sunday’s 9-2 win. The franchise’s best player when the team struggled for years continued his barrage at the plate; he is locked in one of the hottest hitting streaks of his career. He guided the offense to 18 hits, a team record at home, to cap an important series with a dominating finish. [...]
Through the first three months of the season, Zimmerman was close to a ghost at the plate, something he attributed to his ailing right shoulder. But since a cortisone shot in the shoulder on June 24, he has produced offensive numbers at an all-star pace. His batting average hovered at .218 but is up to .273 thanks to a torrid 40-for-102 stretch. He had three home runs before and since has launched 11 of them, including two impressive shots on Sunday.
“I’ve come back and started being the player that I should be,” he said. “The more you get healthy, and the more consistency you have in your lineup, the more runs you’re going to score.”
Zimmerman’s first home run seemed accidental. With Bryce Harper on first because of a fielder’s choice, Braves starter Jair Jurrjens tossed an 84 mph change-up to Zimmerman with a 2-2 count. Zimmerman had already fouled off one pitch, and the outside change-up looked destined for the same fate. Zimmerman half-swung through it, his arms fully extended. But the ball sailed into the right-center field seats, just above the out-of-town scoreboard. “Sometimes when you clip those, they go further than you think,” he said.
On Zimmerman’s second home run, Jurrjens jumped ahead on Zimmerman with a 1-2 count. He then tossed him an inside 83 mph change-up, which tailed in on Zimmerman’s hands. Zimmerman dropped his eyes onto the ball, kept his head down and swung through, keeping his hands low and inside. The sweeping, upper-cutting swing drove the ball deep into the left field seats.
“He is swinging the bat so good it’s scary,” [Davey] Johnson said. “You feel like every time up there he’s going to hit a rocket. As tired as we were, offense getting 18 hits, scoring nine runs, that’s a pretty good pitching staff. Says something.”