MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Zimmerman swinging a hot stick

Credits regular playing time for offensive groove

Zimmerman swinging a hot stick

ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Zimmerman couldn't deny it. The Nationals lost a heartbreaker Monday night. They blew a three-run lead and lost to the Cardinals, 8-5, at Busch Stadium.

It was Zimmerman who gave Washington a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh before the bullpen gave it right back in the bottom of the inning, as the Nationals dropped to 6 1/2 games behind the Mets in the National League East race.

"It was a tough loss -- to kind of come back, take the lead," said Zimmerman, who finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and drove in four runs. "That's why the Cardinals have as many wins as they have. They are a good team. They come right back after we had that [big] inning."

Zimmerman starts DP on bunt

Zimmerman is doing everything he can to help the Nationals lately. In his last five games, Zimmerman is 8-for-20 [.400] with three home runs and eight RBIs. Zimmerman said playing every day and not missing games because of an injury is the reason he has been successful in the batter's box. He missed a month of action this summer because of plantar fasciitis.

"I'm just getting back into the groove. It's nice to be healthy and be able to play every day and get at-bats," Zimmerman said. "It's hard being in and out, coming off the disabled list. I've been back for a while. It's nice to get into that groove and being able to play every day and continue to do what I'm doing."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.