The Washington Times - June 6, 2011, 01:52AM

In a grave understatement, Sunday was a busy day for the Nationals.

Starting with the major league team’s 9-4 crazy extra-innings beanball affair in Arizona and extending all the way back to Hagerstown where Ryan Zimmerman made his first rehab start and Bryce Harper left the game before completing his first at-bat with a profound limp after taking a pitch to the left knee.

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So, let’s get a few things out of the way…

– Ryan Zimmerman was 2-for-2 with a double, a triple, an RBI, a walk and two runs scored in his first rehab start with Single-A Hagerstown as he continues to make his way back from May 3 abdominal surgery. Zimmerman has never been one to need a lot of time seeing live pitching in order to be ready to jump back in but before you start slotting him into the Nationals major league lineup, he admitted to reporters Sunday that he’s still not 100 percent.

While hitting feels good and running feels good, Zimmerman is still not completely pain free when throwing and until he can say that he’s 100 percent, he doesn’t intend to return to the Nationals active roster. This is by no means a setback. The timetable for the recovery has always been about six weeks but the truth is there’s no hard and fast date that Zimmerman HAS to return by. 

As much as the Nationals offense has a penchant for making his absence absurdly glaring, it’s important to remember that they’ve gone 23-28 without their best player in the lineup. It doesn’t always seem like they’ve done that well without him but that’s an impressive mark considering how much the Nationals lineup falls down like dominoes around their third baseman.

– Harper’s left knee was reportedly bruised after he was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat of the day in the same game Zimmerman was rehabbing in (a game the Suns won 6-5 over Greensboro). Suns manager Brian Daubach told reporters that Harper’s knee was bruised but that he’d be reevaluated in the morning.

By the way, A.J. Cole picked up his first professional victory in the game, throwing five innings, allowing two earned runs off four hits, striking out eight and walking no one. Both runs came on solo home runs and Cole lowered his ERA 3.42 on the season and has walked just six batters in 26 1/3 innings of work this season with 31 strikeouts. He’s allowed just 10 earned runs this season and four of those earned runs have been home runs.

 

About the Nationals 2-2 split with the Diamondbacks…

I wasn’t with the team in Arizona but I’m expecting to find a lot of satisfied players when I head to the visitors clubhouse at AT&T Park on Monday afternoon. The Nationals came out on top in one of their craziest games of the season that featured both managers and two pitchers being ejected, five Nationals being hit with pitches, a near benches-clearing, another impressive performance by reliever Tyler Clippard, an uncharacteristic meltdown by closer Drew Storen, an important shutdown outing from Sean Burnett and Michael Morse’s second career grand slam — less than two weeks after his first.

The Nationals nine-run outburst comes after their second scoreless streak of 19 innings or more this season and on the heels of two straight shutouts at the hands of arguably the hottest team in the major leagues coming into the series.

With that in mind, the Nationals should be thrilled to have started their 11-game west coast trip off with a series split. They head to San Francisco — a team they took three of four from at Nationals Park earlier this season — high on confidence that they didn’t let a late-game comeback by the other team crumble them, and they didn’t let their emotions get the best of them on a day where a brawl easily could have broken out.

(In a related note, the Diamondbacks visit Nationals Park for a four-game set August 22-25 and after the way this series went down, including Wilson Ramos’ deliberate three-run homer trot this afternoon, that could be must-see baseball.)

A lot of things happened on Sunday and while not all of them were positive for the Nationals, there are certain facts that can’t be disputed and one of them is that the Nationals are winners of four of the last six games they’ve played. 

– The 2011 MLB Draft starts Monday night at 7 p.m. eastern and the Nationals will have three picks (6, 23 and 34) on the first day of the draft. We’ll have plenty more on the draft and who the Nationals select later in the evening on Monday so be sure to check back.