The last-place Washington Nationals have recently shown how good they can be offensively. Their starting lineup is about to get even stronger as they’re ready to welcome one of their best players back after a nearly two-month absence.
The Nationals’ third baseman has been out since May 25 due a small tear in his left shoulder, as he opted for rest and rehabilitation over surgery. Zimmerman was leading Washington (38-61) with eight homers and 27 RBIs when he was sidelined, and the Nats went 16-32 without him to fall to the bottom of the NL East.
“Big addition for our club,” manager Manny Acta told the Nationals’ official Web site. “He’s our leader on the field and our legit threat in the lineup.”
Zimmerman, who led the Nats with 24 homers and 91 RBIs last year, rejoins a team that set season highs in runs and hits Sunday. Willie Harris had five RBIs and Jesus Flores had five of Washington’s 17 hits in a 15-6 win over Atlanta.
On Saturday, Washington pounded out 14 hits to beat the Braves 8-2.
“Two games doesn’t dictate a season,” Acta said. “I know that we’re better than what we have shown.”
No one may be happier to see Zimmerman than Jason Bergmann (1-6, 4.03 ERA), who will take the mound in the opener. He’s gotten seven runs of support while going 0-5 with a 3.31 ERA in nine starts during Zimmerman’s absence.
“Seeing Zimmerman back in uniform will be a boost to everybody,” said Bergmann, who pitched two innings of relief Friday in a 7-6 loss to the Braves.
Zimmerman returns to face Zito (4-12, 5.62), who goes for his second win over Washington this season. On June 8, the left-hander allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings of a 6-3 victory over the Nationals, his first in four career starts against them.
Walks continue to plague Zito, though, as he’s given up 12 in his last three starts. He’s issued 60 walks this season, three behind NL co-leaders Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado and the New York Mets’ Oliver Perez.
In his final start prior to the All-Star break, Zito walked a season high-tying six over five innings of a 7-3 loss to the Mets on June 10, although he didn’t get the decision. Zito went 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in his last four starts before the break.
“It’s hard to group the first half together,” he told the Giants’ official Web site. “I’ve felt like a different guy the last four games. I just want to keep going and be more like myself in every start.”
San Francisco (40-58) was swept at home by Milwaukee over the weekend, falling 7-4 on Sunday. After the game, the Giants dealt second baseman Ray Durham to Milwaukee for two minor leaguers.
“I know this organization, they’re trying to go young and they’re rebuilding for the future. It didn’t shock me,” Durham said.
With Durham gone, rookie Emmanuel Burriss will likely see most of the playing time at second. He went 2-for-5 on Sunday and is hitting .291 in 50 games this season.