In bench role, 'healthy' Zim ties team record

August 8th, 2021

ATLANTA -- On the day when tied a Nationals franchise record with 1,767 games played, he reminded everyone just how much damage he can do, even as a part-time player in his 16th Major League season.

Making his first start since July 31, Zimmerman laced two doubles and a single for a pair of RBIs in the Nationals’ 5-4 loss to the Braves at Truist Park on Sunday afternoon.

Zimmerman already held plenty of other Nationals/Expos records -- plate appearances, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, and RBIs, among others -- but this record highlights his longevity with the only franchise he’s known. And for it to come against the Braves, the team he’s recorded the most RBIs against (130), makes it all the more fitting.

“Any time you can do something like that, it’s an honor,” Zimmerman said. “It’s obviously a fun accomplishment. I’ve just been lucky to be in one place for a long time. It’s humbling and nice to be able to play as many years as I have.”

Manager Dave Martinez wanted to get Zimmerman’s bat in the lineup against lefty starter Max Fried, and got creative by playing Josh Bell in the outfield for the first time since 2016. Zimmerman was quick to reward him with his fourth three-hit game of the season and the 122nd of his career.

Zimmerman was the beginning and end of the Nationals’ offensive output in the series finale. He got Washington’s first hit by lacing a double to right field in the first inning and also had the club’s last hit of the day, a two-out RBI double to center in the ninth. He represented the tying run, but was stranded on Bell’s groundout to second.

Between those two hits was Zimmerman’s hardest-hit ball of the day, a 102.8 mph single to right-center that knocked in Victor Robles and narrowed the deficit to two.

“He’s had an unbelievable career. He really has,” Martinez said. “I’m glad I was a part of it today to watch him go out there and tie the record, and the way he did it. A couple doubles, a couple RBIs. He had a great day. I often joke around with him, with the way he’s playing, I think to myself, ‘You maybe could squeeze out another year or two in that body.’ He laughs and says, ‘Let’s just get through this year first.’”

Looking beyond this season may be hard, but moving to a bench role has helped extend Zimmerman’s career and allowed him to continue rewriting Washington’s record books. Up next after taking sole possession of the franchise's games-played record? His 1,115 singles trail only Tim Raines (1,163) for the most in Nationals/Expos history.

“Those days off have helped me keep my body healthy and ready to go when I do get a chance to play,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s definitely different than anything I’ve done in the past, but it’s been good for me, I think. My body feels great, and for the most part when I do get a chance, I’m healthy and ready to go.”