The Washington Times - May 5, 2009, 12:02AM

Ryan Zimmerman is, quite simply, the hottest hitter in the majors right now.

Not only did Zim extend his hitting streak to 22 games tonight with a first-inning single, he never let up. He came to the plate five times. He reached base five times. Two singles, two doubles, a bases-loaded walk, two RBI, three runs scored. As Manny Acta put it: “Whew, he’s a tough out right now.”


Of course, Zimmerman’s effort would have meant nothing if not for the manner in which the rest of his teammates rallied from a 4-0 deficit to score nine unanswered runs and lead the Nationals to a 9-4 win over the Astros.

Washington sent 25 men to the plate from the fifth through the seventh innings. Nine of them got hits. Six of them drew walks. Another was hit by a pitch. Everyone but Jesus Flores and the pitcher’s spot reached base during that stretch.

And, according to one of the guys who inflicted a good chunk of damage, Zimmerman was the catalyst of it all.

“You’ve got to give the credit to Zimmerman for basically staying in there and giving us hope,” Elijah Dukes said. “He was hitting and everybody else was like: Might as well join him.”

Here’s where the new depth in the Nationals lineup is paying off. Not only are those guys capable of hitting themselves, but they’re taking the pressure off Zimmerman and giving him more opportunities to produce at levels he hasn’t managed previously in his career.

Check out the current batting averages and OBP’s of Washington’s standard starting lineup…

Guzman: .368, .368

Johnson: .326, .410

Zimmerman: .333, .393

Dunn: .300, .467

Dukes: .299, .365

Kearns: .267, .421

Flores: .288, .354

Hernandez: .317, .414

The Nationals are hitting .272 as a team and reaching base at a .360 clip overall. For comparison’s sake, last year they hit .251 and had an OBP of .323. It’s still early, but that’s an impressive leap.