ATLANTA - Ryan Zimmerman’s return from plantar fasciitis appears to have lasted only three weeks.
Zimmerman winced as he ran down the first base line for an infield single in the top of the second inning tonight at SunTrust Park and had to depart the Nationals’ series finale against the Braves.
The Nationals didn’t immediately announce a reason for Zimmerman’s departure, but it appeared he aggravated the same right heel injury that sidelined him from late April through late June.
The 34-year-old first baseman has started 11 of the Nats’ 18 games since returning from the injured list June 28. With his single tonight - a hard grounder down the third base line that Josh Donaldson could only knock down - he raised his batting average to .302 (13-for-43) with five doubles and four RBIs since his return.
If Zimmerman needs to return to the IL, the Nationals would again turn to Matt Adams (who took over for him tonight) and Howie Kendrick at first base. The duo performed well during Zimmerman’s prolonged absence, but the move would also weaken the club’s bench.
The Nationals haven’t done much at the plate so far tonight against Kevin Gausman, who was torched for eight runs in one inning the last time he faced them but has tossed three scoreless frames in his return from the minors.
The Braves jumped on fill-in starter Joe Ross for two runs during a laborious, 35-pitch, bottom of the first. But Ross has sharpened up since then, retiring six of the last eight batters he’s faced to get through the third on 62 total pitches.
Update: Ross was able to get through five innings of two-run ball on 88 pitches, and that seemed like enough for tonight. But Davey Martinez let him bat for himself and then re-take the mound for the sixth. And Ross immediately served up a towering home run to Josh Donaldson. Two batters later, he was out of the game, with the Nationals trailing 3-0.