Scuffling at the plate, Zimmerman still excels at the hot corner

OK, so Ryan Zimmerman is hitting just .179 (7-for-39) with two RBIs through the first 10 games of the season.

But even though the Nationals third baseman isn't getting balls to fall in, he's still bringing his A-game on the defensive side.

"If I'm not getting any hits, I'll just take hits away," Zimmerman said yesterday. "That's the plan."

The plan was executed to perfection yesterday. Zimmerman made a couple spectacular defensive plays in Sunday's loss to the Reds, two of which came on bunt attempts and the third on a Ryan Ludwick smash down the third base line.

"Highlight film," said manager Davey Johnson. "All in one day."

The pick of the litter was Zimmerman's diving play to his right in the seventh inning, when he turned a would-be Ludwick double into an out. Zimmerman laid out toward the line, gloved the hard ground ball, hopped to his feet and then fired across the diamond to nail Ludwick at first.

It turns out the play at first wasn't even all that close, because, strangely enough, Ludwick had bellied out to make the turn at first base, thinking his hot-shot had gotten past Zimmerman and gone down the line for an extra-base hit.

"That was phenomenal," Johnson said. "Ludwick thought for sure that was a double, and he was figuring on trotting into second. I've never seen that."

Johnson played with a guy who is arguably the best third baseman to ever play the game in Brooks Robinson, and was asked after yesterday's game whether Robinson would have made the play Zimmerman did.

"No," Johnson responded.

As for Zimmerman's issues at the plate, he can take a little solace in the fact that he's hitting the ball hard. The offensive woes aren't due to Zimmerman feeling lost in the batters' box or not seeing the ball well; he just isn't getting hits to fall in.

After a 10th-inning strikeout yesterday, Zimmerman spiked his helmet and bat to the ground - emotions we don't usually see out of the Nats' third baseman.

"It's frustrating," Zimmerman said. "But you know, it's 10 games. It's not going to be the last time I hit whatever I'm hitting for 10 games. I'll probably do worse at some point over the next eight years, I'm sure. It's so early. But it's frustrating. Any time you continually hit the ball day in and day out pretty hard and get nothing to show for it, nobody wants that to happen."

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