Ryan Zimmerman had, by anyone’s standards, a phenomenal week last week. It would have been phenomenal had Zimmerman’s walk-off grand slam Friday night against Philadelphia been all he had to show for it, but the Nationals third baseman also hit .500 (12-for-24) with two doubles, three homers and eight RBI.
Monday afternoon he was rewarded with the National League co-Player of the Week award, earning the honors with San Diego catcher Nick Hundley.
This is the second NL Player of the Week award for Zimmerman, who has come back from May abdominal surgery to put up what have become standard numbers for him. After missing six weeks of the season, Zimmerman’s average is now up to .312 on the season with a .378 on-base percentage and .487 slugging percentage. He’s worked out the kinks in his new throwing motion and looks as sure as ever at third base. He reeled off a 19-game hitting streak earlier this season and he’s slowly worked his power back into the equation with four homers and two doubles since August 11.
Zimmerman is the only National to ever win the Player of the Week honors twice (he also did so in August of 2007.)
– Brian Bixler got the start in center field Monday night, just his second start of the season there. Bixler hasn’t started a game since July 31 — his last start in center field — but he’s been a valuable member off the bench as a defensive replacement and speed on the basepaths.
Getting him a starter in center Monday night was twofold: it allowed Nationals manager Davey Johnson to get Bixler a full game’s worth of at-bats and also time to give Rick Ankiel a “mental break.” Ankiel returned from the disabled list on July 1 and has played in 55 of the Nationals last 56 games.
“I’ve been going with Ankiel a lot and he’s been playing hard,” Johnson said. “With the addition of another long reliever, it’s been easier for me to handle the roles and the bullpen and the pitching staff but the guys that I haven’t really been giving a lot of playing time is Bixler and (Alex) Cora. I look at them both as middle infielders and the two guys that I want getting a lot of reps (Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa) are there.”
It plays into Johnson’s theory that you need all 25 men on your roster contributing to win a ballgame. He’s proved that he firmly believes as much on several occasions as he’s emptied his bullpens and his bench if a win is on the line but in order to have all 25 guys contributing, they need to remain sharp which means getting a game full of at-bats and action every now and then.
“I want it all to be functioning smoothly,” Johnson said. “I compare it to an automobile. If you check the spark plugs and you change the oil and make sure you’ve got gas in it and check the air in the tires, it usually can run pretty smooth. A ballclub’s the same way. All the parts need to be functional and running smoothly. When that happens, you’ll win.”