Zimmerman’s feet feel good, in nice groove at plate

ATLANTA - Ryan Zimmerman continues to crush baseballs since his return from a second bout of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

The 34-year-old drilled a three-run homer off of Luke Jackson in the eighth inning Friday night in the Braves’ 4-3 win over the Nationals. It was Zimmerman’s fifth homer of the season and second in the past five days.

Zimmerman-Doubles-Blue-vs-NYM-Sidebar.jpg“I feel great,” he said. “I think the body feels really good, I feel like I’m moving around pretty well. My first few at-bats, like I said, Dallas (Keuchel) was really good. But, yeah, I feel like I’m in a good spot to come back and help over this last month and then obviously in to the playoffs as well.”

Zimmerman has hit .308 since his return with a double, two homers and seven RBIs. The Nats have also benefited from having his glove back at first base.

“He’s swinging the bat really well,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “He’s playing well. His body feels good. I joke around with him about being a September call-up, but he’s doing what he normally does when he’s healthy. That’s a good sign.”

The problem in this series so far is the Nats have had only one rally each game that plated runs.

Against the first-place Braves, the Nats must find a way to break through early in games and put together multiple rallies. On Thursday, the Nats got Anthony Rendon to second base and they had two men on in the first on Friday but were unable to set the tone with early runs. Zimmerman’s 6-4-3 grounder in the first extinguished the scoring opportunity.

The result is two losses and the Nats watching their deficit grow to nine games in the National League East.

“I don’t think we really care about that stuff. We play them seven times, but it’s going to be hard to beat them seven games out of seven,” Zimmerman said. “At this point, we’re just trying to split series, win series. Four-game series are hard to win, so come back win these next two and that would be a huge comeback.

“But you just try and win series, two out of three, three out of four. It’s hard to sweep people, hard to take seven games, especially from a team like (the Braves). That’s a really good team. Obviously, we’re still trying to win the division and things like that, but I think we’re just more focused on game to game and playing good baseball.”

In the sixth inning, Zimmerman was able to prevent another double play by beating out the relay throw to first base for a fielder’s choice.

“Look like I was 33 or 32?” he joked. “Steal a base tomorrow maybe. Yeah, it feels good. You know the extended time that I had in the minor leagues and the extra week or two gave me a chance to be on my feet and play three or four nine-inning games and get some at-bats. And also the way Howie (Kendrick) and Matt (Adams) have been playing, I’m not going to have to play every single day. That’s going to help me stay healthy. I’m just excited to be back, excited to help out anyway I can.”

Zimmerman’s offense will be important these next 20 games to make sure the Nats hold on to their wild card spot.

* The Bowie Baysox raced out with six runs early on and held off a late Double-A Harrisburg rally to win 7-5 in the third game of the Eastern League Western Division championship series at FNB Field. The Baysox lead the best-of-five series, two games to one. Rhett Wiseman hit a three-run homer for the Senators. Game 4 is today at 3 p.m. Harrisburg is 17-9 in elimination games since 1987.

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