- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

It’s a particularly bad time of the season for Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to start slumping. His hitting drought could cost him the National League Rookie of the Year award.

Zimmerman, one of the NL’s leading candidates, is hitting just .160 (4-for-25) with one RBI and one extra base hit over his last six games. Meanwhile, Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla — Zimmerman’s main rookie rival — is hitting .429 with three home runs and five RBI over his last six games.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson gave Zimmerman last night off against the Atlanta Braves and started September call-up Melvin Dorta at third base.

“[Zimmerman’s] a little out of whack right now,” Robinson said. “It’s a bit of everything. Mentally he’s not there. Physically he’s not there.”

Zimmerman and Uggla are near the top in most of the NL’s rookie batting categories. Entering last night, Uggla was tied with Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder for the home run lead with 26.

Zimmerman leads all rookies with 97 RBI and is just three shy of becoming the 49th rookie in major league history to record 100 RBI in a season.

Since 1988, only four rookies have driven in 100 or more runs: Hideki Matsui (2003), Albert Pujols (2001), Carlos Beltran (1999) and Mike Piazza (1993).

In addition to RBI, Zimmerman leads all of baseball’s rookies in go-ahead RBI (22), doubles (41) and walks (58). Zimmerman also is tied for seventh in the NL with 41 doubles.

“Whoever deserves to win at the end will win,” Zimmerman said. “There are so many good candidates it’s almost a joke to look at and try and analyze it and see who’s doing the best or who’s going to win because there are seriously five or six people that deserve it. Prince is hitting .280 with 26 home runs and 76 RBI, and no one even talks about him.”

Robinson moved Zimmerman up to the No. 3 hole in his batting order during the first series after the All-Star break, and the Virginia product has produced.

“Especially with Felipe [Lopez] and [Alfonso] Soriano in front of me, they get on base, and they usually get into scoring position,” Zimmerman said. “I’m lucky to be in the position in the lineup where I’m at.”

Schneider day-to-day

Catcher Brian Schneider sat out his second consecutive game last night with a mild left groin strain.

Schneider, who is riding a career-high 10-game hitting streak, said his groin bothers him the most when he’s swinging, not from squatting behind the plate. Robert Fick was the starting catcher last night. Schneider is hitting .251 this season with a career-high 51 RBI.

Schneider said he injured his groin late in Saturday night’s 8-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. He said he is likely to play tonight or tomorrow.

“If I’m not in there tomorrow, it’s going to be the very next day probably,” Schneider said. “I want to get back in there. I feel good at the plate, and everything is going good. I’m going to try and get in right away.”

Extra bases

Fox has picked up Saturday’s game at the NL East-leading New York Mets, with the start time being changed to 1:25 p.m. The game originally was scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will not air the game. …

Eleven Nationals, including Chad Cordero, Nick Johnson, Schneider and Zimmerman, took a tour of the Pentagon yesterday. The players visited the Army Operation Center, where they took pictures and autographed Nationals gear for the soldiers.

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