Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals for The Washington Times.
Adam LaRoche strolled through the Nationals clubhouse early Saturday morning, his left arm in a hefty sling, as he made his first appearance since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery Thursday. Sunday afternoon, before heading out to the field to watch his son play catch with Jayson Werth and several other Nationals and their children, LaRoche talked about the first operation of his life.
The Nationals have won eight in a row and are one game under .500 as they get set to open a Father's Day matchup with the Orioles with a chance to reach the break-even mark for the first time since May 11. They're tied for third place in the National League East and just 3 1/2 game back in the NL Wild Card standings but none of that will change their plans for this season, general manager Mike Rizzo said today.
With Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel still not fully recovered from the left intercostal strain that forced him out of Washington's game with St. Louis Tuesday night before the bottom of the second inning, the Nationals placed Ankiel on the disabled list Sunday morning retroactive to June 15.
As Ian Desmond continues to manage an issue with his left quad, he'll get the day of Sunday with the Nationals looking for their ninth straight victory. Desmond got last Sunday off as well, piggy backing on an off-day so he could get two days of rest and that's what the Nationals are doing here as well.
With a victory this afternoon, the Nationals will reach the .500 mark with a 36-36 record on June 19. It would be the latest in a season since 2005 – the first year baseball returned to D.C. – that they were .500 or better.
Jordan Zimmermann threw 6 1/3 innings, allowed two earned runs and got his team on its way to its eighth straight victory. He also fell behind often, pitched just two 1-2-3 innings and termed his own effort a "battle" where he didn't have his best stuff and "had a tough time throwing strikes with my fastball." If that's what a bad start for Zimmermann looks like, the Nationals will gladly bear with him.
Cole Kimball was out in right field at Nationals Park early Saturday morning playing catch under the watchful eye of Nationals trainer Lee Kuntz, the second straight day the right-hander has throw pain free after resting a week with shoulder inflammation.
With a chance to win eight games in a row, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman has made very few tweaks to the lineup that has taken him this far. Jerry Hairston Jr. will again play left field with left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz on the mound for the Orioles and Ivan Rodriguez will catch after Wilson Ramos played in Friday night's game. Jayson Werth will again lead off and today's pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, will hit eighth -- the sixth straight game the Nationals have used that formula. They've, obviously, won all six. Should the Nationals win today, it would be their longest winning streak since 2005 and would give them a 19-12 record inside the confines of Nationals Park this season -- compared to 16-24 on the road.
Rick Ankiel did not take batting practice today and was receiving treatment before the game on the strained left intercostal that caused him to be pulled from Tuesday's game before he registered an at-bat and miss the last two games. He is, however, progressing and told manager Jim Riggleman that he's felt better every day.
As Ryan Zimmerman began his rehabilitation process and baseball activities a few weeks ago, hitting and running came back for him fine. Throwing, though, continued to cause soreness and stiffness in the area of his surgically repaired abdomen. Zimmerman enlisted the help of Nationals infield coordinator Jeff Garber and the two have been working to alter his throwing motion for several weeks now.
The Nationals have a chance to win their seventh game in a row tonight so if you were expecting them to alter the lineup construction that has gotten them the past six wins, you'd be barking up the wrong tree -- as the expression goes.
There's no way it could all possibly be attributed to his return, but it's also impossible to ignore that the Nationals are 3-0 and are averaging just over eight runs per game since Ryan Zimmerman returned to their lineup.
The Nationals franchise-best errorless streak came to an end after 130 2/3 innings but the one error didn't tarnish what has become on of their unquestioned strengths: defense. And it all starts with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa up the middle.
Adam LaRoche underwent successful surgery to repair a SLAP tear in the labrum of his left shoulder Thursday morning.
The Nationals have an opportunity tonight to win their sixth game in a row tonight for the first time since September 2009. They'll need to beat Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse, who tossed a complete game last time he faced the Nationals, thwarting a possible Nats series victory in St. Louis.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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