Bill Ladson

Hard-hit balls a good sign for Zimmerman

Hard-hit balls a good sign for Zimmerman

WASHINGTON -- Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman ended up having the worst regular season of his career, hitting a career-low .218, but now he is in the postseason, and the tide may already be turning.

In a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Friday's Game 1 of the National League Division Series, it was as if Zimmerman was starting his season over again, going 2-for-4. Both singles came against left-hander Clayton Kershaw, and they were both hit hard. It's a very encouraging sign going forward for a Nationals team that could face left-handed starters four times in this best-of-five series.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 LAD 4, WAS 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 9 WSH 5, LAD 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 WAS 8, LAD 3 video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 LAD 6, WAS 5 video
Gm 5 Oct. 13 LAD 4, WSH 3 video

Zimmerman's single in the third inning was hit the hardest. The liner traveled to left at 112.7 mph, according to Statcast™. It was Zimmerman's hardest hit (but not batted ball) of the Statcast™ era. His previous high was 111.7 mph earlier this season. That same hit on Friday was also the hardest of any batted ball against Kershaw in the Statcast™ era. Coincidentally, the previous record of 112.1 was set on a double by the Nats' Michael Taylor on June 20.

"I really had a good approach against Clayton," Zimmerman said. "We pushed him to the brink, which was around the fifth inning. That's hard to do. He is really good. We had a good chance."

Even though Zimmerman went hitless in his last two at-bats, the balls were hit hard. In fact, Zimmerman thought he had two extra-base hits.

"The first two at-bats, I was able to get two hits. The third at-bat, I hit it well to right-center, but I hit it on the wrong side of the ballpark," Zimmerman said. "The last at-bat, I just missed a slider."

Up next for Zimmerman is another left-hander in Rich Hill on Sunday (1 p.m. ET on FS1). Against Hill, Zimmerman is 6-for-9 (.667) with two home runs and three RBIs.

"He's seeing the ball well and it's right on time," manager Dusty Baker said. "We anticipate more of that tomorrow during the game. And he just missed two home runs, one to right and one to left. And so, that's a great sign, when he's hitting the ball like that."

Zimmerman has a good feeling the hits will come.

"The season has been a grind, but I'm starting to feel pretty good. Hopefully we can keep it like that and make a run," Zimmerman said. "When you start new, whatever happened during the regular season doesn't count. We are just trying to win. I'm trying to have a good at-bat every time out."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for since 2002 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.