NEW YORK -- Ryan Zimmerman's batting average was looking rather small to the naked eye in these early days of the season, but Nationals manager Dave Martinez raved about how well his primary cleanup hitter was swinging.Indeed, some Statcast™ metrics showed that Zimmerman was one of the unluckiest guys in
NEW YORK -- Ryan Zimmerman's batting average was looking rather small to the naked eye in these early days of the season, but Nationals manager Dave Martinez raved about how well his primary cleanup hitter was swinging.
Indeed, some Statcast™ metrics showed that Zimmerman was one of the unluckiest guys in the game, smashing hard-hit balls into opposing gloves again and again.
His luck finally turned Wednesday night in Washington's 11-5 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. Zimmerman became the third player in Nationals/Expos franchise history to record a triple and two homers in the same game, joining Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero and Sean Berry. The 33-year-old first baseman finished with four RBIs to show for his three hits in four at-bats.
• Zimmerman passes Zeile for most homers among Z players
"I felt like for a while he has been hitting the ball really well," Martinez said. "I said, 'The hits will start coming.' He showed it today. If we can keep him going, we're going to start getting explosive."
Hitting coach Kevin Long had also been giving Zimmerman encouragement, and after showing up Wednesday with a .121 average, Zimmerman raised it 40 points.
"K-Long and even Davey, those guys have just kind of been saying, 'Just keep hitting the ball hard, man. Just keep doing what you're doing and things will change,'" Zimmerman said. "Things like this happen a couple of times during the year. When it happens at the beginning of the year, everyone looks at the numbers and everything's magnified because you don't have that many at-bats.
"But I just try to go out there every time and hit the ball hard. I've been doing that pretty consistently. Just had some bad luck. So hopefully I can keep it going after this one."
In the first inning, Mets starter Steven Matz threw a full-count changeup at 82.9 mph with runners at first and second and one out. Zimmerman swung and Yoenis Cespedes hardly moved in left field. The ball rocketed over the left-center-field wall at 106.9 mph, per Statcast™, landing 398 feet from home plate for a three-run homer.
Zimmerman was also the recipient of some good luck for a change on his seventh-inning triple. He looped a ball to right off Mets reliever Paul Sewald, and right fielder Jay Bruce came racing in and dove only to have the ball skip past him.
But Zimmerman's second homer was another no-doubter, coming off Seth Lugo in the ninth.
"Zim tore the cover off the ball," reliever Ryan Madson said. "So that was fun to see."
The Nats took a unique approach with Zimmerman in Spring Training. They kept him out of Grapefruit League action with the exception of a March 2 game that included two at-bats. He worked mostly on back fields in an effort to stay healthy heading into the season.
But then the season started, and Zimmerman started slowly. He stood in for his first at-bat against Matz on a 4-for-41 skid. He was 7-for-58 overall through his first 18 games, with just one homer and six RBIs. His slugging percentage sat at .207, his OPS at .410. He had driven in three runs across his previous 13 games, but then he matched that total with one big cut.
Entering Wednesday's play, Zimmerman was averaging an exit velocity of 96.2 mph, tied for second best in the Majors among the 244 hitters who had put at least 25 balls in play. His .273 average on hard-hit balls put in play was the second lowest among the 62 hitters who had smacked at least 20 hard-hit balls. The MLB average coming into Wednesday was .509 on those hard-hit balls.
"You can't make that excuse for every single at-bat," Zimmerman said. "But it was definitely nice to have a good game."
Brian Heyman is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.