As Zimmerman goes, so go the Nationals

As Zimmerman goes, so go the Nationals

As Zimmerman goes, so go the Nationals
NEW YORK -- There was a time when people would ask manager Davey Johnson if he was going to keep Ryan Zimmerman slotted into the three-hole.

That time is no more.

Zimmerman has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing right shoulder a month ago, bringing the Nationals' surging offense along with him.

Entering the series finale against the Mets on Wednesday, the third baseman was batting. 393 (third in the National League) with 11 doubles (tied for third), 11 homers (second), 31 RBIs (first), 26 runs (tied for first) and a 1.233 OPS (second) in 27 games.

"This is why I'm hitting him third," Johnson said. "He's just a great hitter. He had some physical problems, but he's feeling pretty good now, and he's just playing like he normally plays."

After the Nationals' 3-1 win over the Orioles on June 23, Zimmerman's slash line was .218/.285/.305. Since receiving the cortisone shot the next day, it's risen to .277/.340/.467.

Washington's offense has taken a similar leap. The club entered its June 25 series in Colorado averaging 3.8 runs per game, with a .238 team batting average. Entering Wednesday the team has averaged 5.6 runs per game in the 26 games since and has hit .306.

In 10 games against the Mets this year, Zimmerman is hitting .333 with two homers, four doubles, 12 runs and eight RBIs.

"We've played them quite a bit," Zimmerman said, "but it's just like anyone in the division. We play them so much over the course of the year and years past that you know what they have. It's just a matter of them executing their pitch to get you out or you executing your plan for getting what you want."