On the current NL East layout, Zimmerman’s probable return and Zimmermann’s start

The Nationals wake up this morning in fourth place in the National League East.

That’s a weird sentence to write.

Sunday’s loss to the Rangers combined with yesterday’s off-day allowed the Mets (who have now won three in a row and seven of their last 10) to move percentage points above the Nats in the division.

Still, the Nats, at 27-28 on the season and yet to hit their stride, are just 3 1/2 games back of the division-leading Braves.

This lengthy homestand will end with three games against the Phillies, who are in a world of hurt right now. The Phils have lost nine of their last 13 games and have been making fielding and baserunning errors seemingly on a nightly basis.

I’m not one to look at a series in early June as a “big series,” but with the Nats facing the struggling Phillies in D.C. in a set where the Phils will send rookie David Buchanan and Kyle Kendrick to the mound in two of the three games, this seems like a nice opportunity for Matt Williams’ team to get things going in the right direction before heading out west for a long road trip.

Three against the Padres, four versus the Giants and three against the Cardinals lie ahead on that tough trek out west.

The Nats should get Ryan Zimmerman back tonight after more than seven weeks on the disabled list with a fractured right thumb. Zimmerman played nine innings in left field at high Single-A Potomac last night, and while he would get a little more playing time out there before rejoining the Nats in an ideal scenario, the team needs his bat back in the lineup.

The roster move hasn’t been announced yet, but look for Zimmerman to return tonight, and likely start his first big league game in left field.

zimmermann-throwing-white-close-sidebar.jpgHow much will runners test his arm in left? I would, if I were them. Not that Zimmerman doesn’t have good arm strength when healthy, but he is coming off a long layoff and hasn’t had much experience with needing to hit a cutoff man in a game situation. If I’m an opponent on the bases, I’m making Zimmerman show me that he can get me out with his arm, at least early on.

Ryan Zimmerman will likely be back tonight, and Jordan Zimmermann will get the ball in the series opener against the Phillies.

Zimmermann has delivered just four quality starts in his 11 outings this season and worked seven innings just twice, this after posting 21 quality starts in his 32 outings in 2013, and going seven innings or more 19 times.

Mr. Consistency has lacked just that so far this season.

He and the Nats continue to say that it’s merely been some location mistakes for Zimmermann this season, that his fastball has sat up in the zone a bit too much, and that he hasn’t really gotten a feel for his slider just yet. That’s leading Zimmermann to rely more on his fastball and changeup, and less on his sharp slider (typically his main out-pitch) and his curve.

Zimmermann did dominate the Phillies last season, going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA against them.

We’ll see if the Zimmerman(n)s can spark the Nats tonight.

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