Adams back in spotlight with Zimmerman on IL (Nats up 2-1)

Matt Adams has been in this position before. It happened last year. It happened earlier this year.

Adams has known throughout his tenure with the Nationals that his playing time would be limited when Ryan Zimmerman was healthy. But he’s also known he would need to step in and become a regular if and when Zimmerman suffered injury, an all-too-frequent occurrence in recent years.

So when Zimmerman went down Sunday night with a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis that sidelined him two months earlier this season, Adams knew it was time to step up again.

How does he approach the situation?

Adams-HR-Swing-Red-Sidebar.jpg“Try to keep an even-keel mind,” the veteran first baseman said. “Not try to get too high or too low, and keep going out there and doing what I can to help the team win.”

Adams did just that during Tuesday night’s 11-1 romp over the Rockies. Before the Nationals’ eight-run explosion in the bottom of the seventh, they were engaged in a tight ballgame. And Adams’ pair of RBI singles were critical to that slim lead.

Of particular note was Adams’ seventh-inning RBI single off Rockies left-hander Sam Howard. It was the latest evidence of the lefty slugger’s surprising reversal of fortunes this season at the plate. A career .213 hitter off southpaws, Adams is now batting .270 (10-for-37) with three homers and an .857 OPS against them this year.

That’s in stark contrast to his numbers against righties: He’s batting only .228 this season, way down from his career .274 average.

Perhaps more consistent playing time will help Adams begin to revert back to his career norms. The Nationals haven’t revealed any timetable for Zimmerman’s return, but the spotlight certainly is on Adams now to fill the void as long as needed.

“When you come off the bench and you play once or twice a week, it’s tough,” manager Davey Martinez said. “You get your pinch-hits, but now he’ll get consistent at-bats. I think you’ll start seeing the average go up a little bit because he’s playing every day and he’s seeing pitches every day, consistently.”

Note: Max Scherzer remains on track to return from the injured list to start Thursday’s series finale against the Rockies, Martinez said. The club will need to make a corresponding roster move to activate Scherzer, and it may have to be a position player because they need to keep Joe Ross on the roster at least through Saturday.

Monday’s rainout not only forced today’s doubleheader, but it also leaves the Nationals needing a fill-in starter for Saturday’s game against the Dodgers. Ross, who pitched 5 1/3 innings Sunday night in Atlanta as Scherzer’s replacement, is lined up for that outing, though nothing has been announced yet.

As things currently stand, the Nats figure to send Aníbal Sánchez, Ross and Stephen Strasburg to the mound this weekend to face the Dodgers. They would then have Patrick Corbin, Scherzer and Erick Fedde on track to face the Braves next week.

Update: It’s been a sluggish start to today’s doubleheader opener. Neither side scored in the first three innings, but both sides had chances. In the end, the Rockies struck first with a fourth-inning run off Fedde. He has been falling behind hitters and has been in jams throughout the start so far, but he has emerged with only the one run allowed. His teammates will need to provide some offensive support at some point.

Update II: Martinez had an interesting decision to make in the bottom of the fourth. With the bases loaded, two out and the pitcher’s spot up, he decided to send Gerardo Parra to the plate. That meant he was pullilng Fedde after only 79 pitches across four innings, in the opener of a doubleheader. But he felt like he needed to take his shot right there. It worked, sort of. Parra drew a bases-loaded walk to “drive” in the tying run. But that’s all the Nats got. So now they need five innings from their bullpen. So far, so good. Matt Grace retired the side in the top of the fifth on only 10 pitches. Adam Eaton then led off the bottom of the inning with a homer off Chad Bettis’ first-pitch curveball. So the Nats have taken a 2-1 lead.

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