Jun 3, 2014, 3:24 PM EST
I think it’s safe to say plenty of people — myself included — predicted Ryan Zimmerman would one day play something other than third base for the Nationals. I think it’s also safe to say very few people — if any — prior to about two weeks ago would have predicted Zimmerman’s first start at anything other than third base would come in left field. (Yes, I am well aware he played one game at shortstop in Sept. 2005. I covered that game. I choose to forget about it for narrative purposes.)
So here we are, with Zimmerman officially activated after 7 1/2 weeks on the DL and starting in left field after playing 21 innings there the last three days at Class A Potomac. How this will play out is anyone’s guess. Common sense says Zim should be able to handle all the routine plays out there. But what happens when there’s a more-complicated play? Or when he has to throw the ball? We’ll see.
Defensive position aside, the real significance of Zimmerman’s return is the domino effect it has on the Nationals’ lineup. Not only is he plugged right into the heart of that lineup, batting fifth behind Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche, but he allows other guys to move a slot down the order. So all of a sudden, the red-hot Ian Desmond is hitting seventh. That’s not a bad-looking lineup.
Updates to come from what should be an eventful night at the ballpark…
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Ryan Zimmerman
C Wilson Ramos
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
RF Marlon Byrd
1B Ryan Howard
C Carlos Ruiz
LF Domonic Brown
3B Reid Brignac
CF Ben Revere
RHP David Buchanan
HP Mike Everitt
1B Ed Hickox
2B Ron Kupla (cc)
3B John Tumpane
7:06 p.m. — And we’re underway. Jordan Zimmermann gets Jimmy Rollins to line out to second base as Ryan Zimmerman watches from about 275 feet away. Zim got a nice ovation from the crowd when his name was announced over the PA system. Gotta say, it’s pretty strange seeing him out there.
7:11 p.m. — And Zimmermann mows down the Phillies in order in the top of the first. He got Rollins to line out, got Chase Utley to ground out to first (with Adam LaRoche making a nifty scoop over there) and then struck out Marlon Byrd. So the ball never came within 250 feet of Zimmerman in left field.
7:16 p.m. — David Buchanan tosses his own 1-2-3 first, getting groundballs to the right side of the infield by both Denard Span and Anthony Rendon. Jayson Werth gave one a ride, sending the ball deep to center field. But it died just at the front of the warning track, so we’re scoreless after one inning here.
7:34 p.m. — A standing ovation from many in the crowd as “the left fielder, No. 11, Ryan Zimmerman” stepped to the plate for the first time since April 12. And then everybody roared when Zim smoked the second pitch he saw down the left-field line for a stand-up double. His swing sure looked good there. Unfortunately, the Nats couldn’t advance him any farther. So it remains scoreless after two innings.
7:41 p.m. — Weird moment in the top of the third. LaRoche and Zimmermann were really slow on an attempted 3-1 grounder, and Buchanan wound up beating it out for his first career hit. Or so he thought. Matt Williams came out to challenge the call, and though it was mighty close, the umps in New York indeed overturned it. So after all that, Zimmermann has three scoreless innings in the books, having retired 9-of-10 batters faced. Nothing has even come close to Zim in left field.
8:01 p.m. — Is there any situation you’d rather have than the bases loaded for Jayson Werth, facing a 3-0 count? I think not. He just added to his resume by drilling a 3-0 offering from Buchanan to deep left-center, skipping the ball over the fence for a ground-rule double. Werth’s updated career numbers on 3-0 counts now: 12-for-18, two doubles, three homers, 16 RBI. Not bad. Not bad at all. LaRoche added another run with an RBI groundout, so the Nats have taken a 3-0 lead after three innings.
8:07 p.m. — Hey, there it is: Zimmerman’s first career defensive chance in left field. Chase Utley sent a sinking liner to shallow left, and Zim came charging in to make a nice play. Not the hardest play in the world, but not routine either. Nicely done. Four scoreless for Zimmermann now.
8:24 p.m. — Five scoreless for Zimmermann, who hasn’t looked this good in weeks. Oh, we also had a proposal on the jumbotron here. I’m told it costs $1,500 to do that! I mean, seriously. Use that $1,500 to buy a nicer ring, dude!
8:38 p.m. — So, the Phillies decided to intentionally walk LaRoche and bring Zimmerman to the plate with two on and two out in the fifth? Did Ryne Sandberg not see Zim’s first at-bat of the night? Apparently not, because Zimmerman proceeded to send an RBI double into the right-field corner. It’s 4-0 Nats, and Zim is now 2-for-3 with two doubles tonight.
8:46 p.m. — Zimmerman’s second career chance in left field came in the top of the sixth on a high flyball to shallow left. Made the catch nice and easy. A real can o’ corn. Still 4-0 Nats, heading to the bottom of the sixth.
8:59 p.m. — Now the Nats are really pouring it on. Desmond launched his 11th homer of the season to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Rendon then added a 2-run blast to right-center. It’s 7-0 tonight, and over their last 19 offensive innings against anybody not named Yu Darvish, the Nats have scored 26 runs. Wow.
9:17 p.m. — It’s Chase here taking over for Mark as he writes his game story. Zimmermann tossed another clean frame in the top of the seventh and now sits at 89 pitches on the night. The Nationals then got two baserunners in the bottom half of the frame – Ramos reach on an E6 throwing error and Desmond walked – but no runs. It’s still 7-0 with the eighth up next.
9:36 p.m. — The eighth inning saw no new runs for either team, but it did see both Zimmerman(n)s removed from the game. Ryan Zimmerman was taken out for Nate McLouth as a defensive replacement to begin the top of the inning, likely because the game is already in hand. Zimmermann was then pinch-hit for in the bottom half of the inning for Kevin Frandsen who will remain in the field in left. McLouth will shift to center to give Span the rest of the night off.
9:50 p.m. — Clippard kept the game at 7-0 in the ninth, Nats win. Washington is back to .500 (28-28) on the year.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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