The second and final "Battle of the Beltways" series between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles was played over the weekend, and the Orioles took 2 of 3 from the Nats. While the Nationals' pitching remained solid (allowing only 5 runs in the 3 games), their offense continued to struggle (they too only scored 5 runs in the series). The aggressive baserunning that we saw in last week's series against Tampa Bay was not present at Camden Yards, mainly because the players just did not get on base.
One of the Nationals' players who continues to struggle offensively is former Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zim started Sunday with an uncharacteristic .218 and has struck out 42 times in 55 games. One thing that baseball experts and analysts and even fans are wondering is if Ryan's shoulder injury, which sidelined him for a couple of weeks last month, is continuing to bother him. Zim is one of those players who would never admit to being in pain, but many wonder if the nagging injury is affecting his swing. Zim says he does not feel pain or discomfort when fielding, but has not confirmed nor denied if it's an issue while swinging a bat. Earlier on Sunday, before they played the Orioles, there were rumors that Ryan would be placed on the 15-day Disabled List in order for him to strengthen his shoulder some more. Others were speculating whether the Nationals would have Zimmerman receive a cortisone shot in his shoulder and let him get some rest during the All-Star break. So those two scenarios were possible; but then came Sunday's game.
Ryan Zimmerman's performance on Sunday reminded me of when my husband and I had to make the agonizing decision to put down our beloved 12-year-old Shepherd-Collie mix, CJ. She had been suffering from some pretty severe arthritis, and had developed a nerve disorder that made her lose control of her bowels. When the vet told us there was nothing else he could do for her, we made the decision to have her euthanised a few days later. But suddenly, CJ found all this energy and was vibrant and spry for a few more days, which made us question our decision. Similarly, while all these rumors and possibilities about Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder are circling around the baseball world, Ryan decides to go 2 for 4 with an RBI on Sunday, raising his batting average a little bit to .223.
So is Ryan feeling OK? Did he just have a stroke of good luck at the plate? We'll have to see how he does in the upcoming series against the Colorado Rockies - if he can hang in there, I would opt for the cortisone shot and rest during the five-day All-Star break. Because really; if they place him on the 15-day Disabled List, who are they going to bring up to take his place? It's not like Syracuse (the Nationals' AAA affiliate) is brimming with red-hot batters who are going to singlehandedly wake up the Nationals' offense. After the Colorado series, the Nationals end the first half of the season against the Atlanta Braves and then open the second half against the other NL East teams. That's when the real contenders will come through, and that's when everyone - not just Ryan Zimmerman - needs to step up and start hitting. Yes, the Nationals continue to lead the Majors in ERA (and for the first time since the 1980s there is a Major League team with 4 of its 5 starters with ERAs of less than 3); but if their batters don't start hitting, the Mets and Braves will kick their butts. Yes, I know I sound like a broken record - but until the Nationals start hitting consistently, I'm going to keep harping on them.
So there you go, Nationals; if you want me to stop picking on your offensive woes, do some hitting and shut me up!