Nationals' Zimmerman on hitting struggles: "I want to get out of this"

Two trends remained the same Friday at Camden Yards, and both didn't help the Nationals' cause.

Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel was close to dominant in twirling eight innings against the Nationals for a Friday night win, and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman continued to struggle at the plate.

Zimmerman went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and two groundouts. He has now gone 3-for-27 (.111) in his last seven games. Dating back to June 10, Zimmerman is 5-for-44 (.114).

But whether it was Hammel or Zimmerman's recent issues at the dish, the third baseman's struggles still were a concern to Nationals manager Davey Johnson, following the Orioles' 2-1 win in the series opener.

"(Zimmerman) is talking with (Nationals hitting coach) Rick Eckstein," Johnson said. "He feels pretty good. He is seeing the ball good. He hit the ball hard up the middle. That is the way it is going. He will come out of it. It is a tough time for him. We need him."

Ryan-Zimmerman-sidebar.jpgJohnson said he doesn't think anything is physically wrong with Zimmerman, who missed 17 games with a shoulder issue early in the season. He also said he won't move Zimmerman down in the order despite his recent struggles.

"I thought about that, but I like him where he is at," Johnson said. "I know what he can do. He doesn't have to prove anything. I still like the chances every time he is in there."

Zimmerman admitted the rough few games at the plate have weighed on him, but all he can do is keep working.

"It is tough," Zimmerman said. "It is frustrating. Nobody wants to continually do bad. But it happens. You just got to keep fighting and keep going and do everything you can each night to help the team win.

"Nobody wants to do better than me. I want to do better. I want get out of this. I want to do more to help the team. Until that happens, I still got to help the young guys and play good defense. I can't pout or worry about myself. I just got to keep going and it will turn around."

Shortstop Ian Desmond said you have to look at Zimmerman's struggles and see where the team is. Even with the loss to the Orioles Friday and with major injuries to Drew Storen, Jayson Werth and others, the Nationals have won 40 games and still reside in first place in the NL East.

"To me, personally, it is not a big deal," Desmond said of Zimmerman's streak. "We are in first place and our three-hole hitter is not hitting yet. He is going to get hot at some time. Numbers are numbers. He is going to put up the same numbers he puts up every year. It might just be a little later this year. He is the type of guy who can carry us. I fully expect him to do that."

Michael Morse said that Zimmerman can erase these hitting troubles at the plate because of what he has shown his teammates in the past. He has the track record of a good hitter, and this is just a time where you have to keep swinging to get out of it.

"Ryan's character is one of the best in the game," Morse said. "He is going to pull out of it. Things aren't going his way right now. He hit a ball hard and the guy caught it. It will turn, I know it will."

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