WASHINGTON (AP) — Jordan Zimmermann rebounded from a mini-slump to throw eight scoreless innings, Ryan Zimmerman hit a pair of doubles and handled two chances with aplomb in his left field debut, and the Washington Nationals beat the slumping Philadelphia Phillies 7-0 Tuesday night to open a three-game series.
Zimmermann (4-2) allowed five hits and struck out four, recovering well from four middling starts that had raised his usually impeccable ERA to 4.07. He got all the support he needed when the Nationals scored three in the third inning off David Buchanan (1-1), making his third career start.
Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with one RBI after being reinstated before the game following 44 games on the disabled list with a broken right thumb. Of greater interest was his first major league appearance in the outfield after more than 1,100 games as a third baseman, a move necessitated by his throwing problems and the need for a strong hitter to play left field while Bryce Harper recovers from thumb surgery.
Like many infielders-turned-outfielders before him, Zimmerman learned the action isn’t as fast and furious when stationed 300 feet from home plate. Playing deeper than a usual left fielder and using a glove borrowed from teammate Jayson Werth, Zimmerman made a nice read on a slicing line drive from Chase Utley in the fourth inning to make a catch that drew a disproportionately grand ovation considering it looked more or less routine.
Zimmerman also caught a shallow flyout by Marlon Byrd in the sixth before being removed for defensive replacement Nate McLouth after seven innings.
“I feel like I’m athletic enough to at least blend in and not cause problems,” Zimmerman said before the game.
The Phillies lost their fourth straight and were shut out for the eighth time this season, failing to get any impetus from a pregame team meeting called by manager Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg addressed focus and fundamentals, but there’s only so much the manager could do about Zimmermann’s mid-90s fastball and debilitating slider. Philadelphia is 9-18 since May 4.
Besides creating confusion with their identical “Zim” nicknames and the inevitable spelling errors that result from the extra “n,” Zimmerman and Zimmermann were supposed to be part of the bedrock of a perennial contender in Washington. Zimmerman’s path has been derailed by chronic shoulder problems, and the stint on the DL with the broken thumb gave the Nationals a chance to try him as a left field fill-in until Harper returns in a month or so.
But it’s Zimmerman’s bat that’s really needed by the Nationals, who slumped at the plate for most of May and have been hovering around .500 in the NL East. They started hitting better in a weekend series against the Texas Rangers, however, and have scored 26 runs in their last four games.
Zimmerman doubled to left in the second and to right in the fifth, and each time a black padded glove was brought to second base for him to wear to protect his thumb as he ran the bases. Werth added a two-run double in the third, Denard Span had three hits, and Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon homered for the Nationals.
Their bullpen spent after three extra-inning games followed by an 11-2 beatdown Monday night, the Phillies let Buchanan take one for the team. He pitched six innings, allowing seven runs and 10 hits.
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