PHILADELPHIA — Ryan Zimmerman’s only struggle with his torrid stretch this season has been finding the words to describe the feeling when every swing is seemingly a hit.
Let manager Dusty Baker try and find an apt comparison.
“That’s Bonds-like,” he said.
Zimmerman homered, drove in three runs and the dominant slugger in baseball led the Washington Nationals to a 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.
A.J. Cole (1-0) allowed one run over six innings in his first start of the season and helped the Nationals win their fourth straight game.
The Nationals lead the majors with a 21-9 record — the best start in franchise history - and won the last two games without 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper. Harper strained his left groin on Thursday and could return to the lineup Sunday.
Without Harper, Zimmerman has done his best Barry Bonds imitation to carry the offense.
“This whole lineup is kind of like, I don’t want to say a competition, but we each push each other,” he said. “You want to continue to get hits so you can keep up with everyone else.”
Zimmerman leads the league in hitting (.435), hits, home runs, RBIs, and a slew of other major offensive categories. He was robbed of a homer in the second inning on a leaping catch by center fielder Odubel Herrera.
No one but a fan had a chance of snagging Zimmerman’s two-run shot to left in the in the fourth. His 13th homer of the season gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead and gave him a 13-game hitting streak.
“This is as good a start as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Baker said.
Anthony Rendon hit a three-run homer off Phillies starter Vince Velasquez (2-3) in the sixth.
“I love my offense,” Baker said. “If one guy doesn’t get you, the other guy will. Or all of them.”
Zimmerman has homered in 12 of the Nationals’ 30 games and leads the majors with 16 multi-hit games.
Cole, a 25-year-old righty, made seven starts last season for the Nationals and was called up this week when Joe Ross was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse. Cole had to make his first start Saturday because he first had to serve the final three games of a five-game suspension levied last season for throwing at Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang.
Cole struck out two, walked four and gave up six hits.
Zimmerman almost gave him a lead in the second on a deep shot to center that sent Herrera sprinting toward the 401 sign and he made the catch against the fence before it landed 402 feet away.
Velasquez raised his arms in triumph as if he pitched a no-hitter.
He needed more defensive help in the sixth. Zimmerman lined one the opposite way to right that Michael Saunders seemed to lose in the lights. Zimmerman’s shot sailed over Saunders for an RBI double and a 3-1 lead. Rendon followed with his fifth homer of the season for a 6-1 lead that sealed the win.
Cameron Rupp added a solo shot for the Phillies, who lost their fifth straight.
“It seems like when things aren’t going your way, everything bad happens,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
Nationals: Harper is day to day and could return to the lineup Sunday. “He’s better,” Baker said. “When they tell me they’re better, I like to hold him out at least another day.” Rafael Bautista made his first career start in Harper’s place. He singled in the third for his first career hit.
Phillies: LF Aaron Atherr sat out with a sore left wrist. He hurt the wrist on a diving catch Friday night. “He dove to his right and rolled on it a little bit and it’s sore. So he thought a day could be good for him,” Mackanin said.
Willie Mays turned 86 on Saturday. Baker said he always called Mays on his birthday and kept in touch with him, Hank Aaron and other greats of the game. “Some of the (Nationals) still talk about when he came in to see us last year,” he said. “He came in the clubhouse and signed everybody’s autograph. He talked stuff to some of the guys. They still enjoy it.”
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (3-1, 4.04 ERA) wraps up the three-game series for Washington.
Phillies: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-1, 3.18) tries to rebound from his first loss of the season. He allowed six runs to the Cubs in his last outing that made his ERA swell from 1.80 to 3.18.
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