Zimmerman heating up as the weather cools down

The Reds keep on winning, and the Nationals’ incredibly slim playoff chances keep getting slimmer.

Cincinnati finished off a three-game sweep of the Dodgers last night, marking the Reds’ sixth win in their last seven games. The Nats might have gone 4-2 so far on their road trip, but given their current situation, that’s pretty much two losses too many.

Twenty games remain on the Nats’ schedule. To get to 90 wins, they’ll have to go 17-3.

Even if that somehow happens, the Nats would need one of the three National League Central powers (the Reds, Cardinals or Pirates) to tank and play below-.500 ball the rest of the way out.

CoolStandings.com gives the Nats a 1.7 percent chance of making the playoffs, for what that’s worth.

If you’re into pulling positives out of the disappointment that is the Nationals’ 2013 season, you can look at the fact that they’ve now gone 19-9 since that three-game sweep at the hands of the Braves back in early August.

It’ll likely be far too little, far too late, but it’s slightly encouraging nonetheless, I suppose.

There have been a number of reasons for the turnaround. Denard Span now has a 19-game hitting streak. Rafael Soriano has really turned things around of late. Jayson Werth continues to perform at a ridiculous level.

You can also add Ryan Zimmerman to the list of players who have come on recently.

Since that sweep by the Braves, Zimmerman is batting .296, has an on-base percentage of .372 and is slugging .548. He has eight homers in that 28-game span, including five in his last six contests (four of those five have actually been solo shots, which certainly isn’t what you want to see). He also has at least one hit in 16 of his last 19 games.

This recent hot streak leaves Zimmerman with a season line of .276/.348/.455, with 20 home runs. Not where he’d like to be right now, for sure, but those numbers also aren’t too far removed from what he posted last season, when he lit it up in the second half and hit .282/.346/.478 with 25 homers on the year.

Yes, these stat lines are a ways off from what Zimmerman put up in 2009 (.292/.364/.525 with 33 homers and 106 RBIs) and 2010 (.307/.388/.510 with 25 homers and 85 RBIs). His offensive production has dropped in recent years, part of which can probably be blamed on injury issues.

Will he ever be a 33-homer guy again? Maybe not. But if he can hit .285/.350/.490 with 25 longballs in a given season, the Nats would probably take that.

There were stretches this season where Zimmerman’s power was almost completely missing from the Nats’ attack.

He had just four homers during a 47-game stretch from mid-June through the first week of August and just lacked pop during other early season periods. But that pop has returned lately.

Zimmerman still has 20 games to try and keep this roll going. It hasn’t been his strongest season by any means, and individual numbers obviously don’t mean nearly as much when they’re not accompanied by team success. But if Zimmerman can finish strong, his 2013 campaign will probably be a little easier to digest this offseason.

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