Zimmerman helps prop Nationals up after Harper’s injury

Published 2:53 am Sunday, August 13, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ryan Zimmerman’s resurgence continued when the Washington Nationals needed it most. The all-star first baseman born in Washington, N.C. gave the Nationals support to endure the loss of superstar Bryce Harper.

Washington opened its weekend set with San Francisco late Saturday night. Storms postponed Friday’s series opener, and downpours on Saturday delayed the game by three hours. The first pitch was thrown out at 10:06 p.m., and Washington found itself in a tough spot shortly after.

Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson was tagged for a solo home run by the second batter he faced, Joe Panik. Harper took the plate in the bottom of the first, hoping to help match the Giants’ early run. He hit a hard shot that was stopped on a diving snag made by San Francisco first baseman Ryder Jones.

Harper sprinted to first base to try and beat the play. He was thrown out, and his foot slipped on the top of the wet base. He hyperextended his knee and flipped forward. Harper needed to be helped to the dugout and exited the game.

“We just ask for prayers that it’s not serious,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said after the game.

Bryce Harper clutches his knee after sustaining an injury running to first base against the San Francisco Giants, Aug. 12, 2017. (Ashley Vansant/Washington Daily News)

Harper was later diagnosed with a bone bruise. He avoided any significant damage to tendons and ligaments in his left knee. The Nationals, aiming for the World Series, are hopeful to have him back by the end of the season.

In the meantime, though, Washington was propped up by the franchise’s cornerstone. Zimmerman was the next National to take the plate after Harper went down. He brought a hushed crowd and concerned dugout back to life when he dropped a full-count, two-out double into the left-centerfield gap.

The knock plated Wilmer Difo, tying the game at one apiece. Zimmerman came in to score on Daniel Murphy’s single to left field. The first-inning run stood as the game winner in a 3-1 series-opening victory on Saturday.

“At the time, you just continue to play the game,” Zimmerman said after Saturday’s game. “We’ll see what happens, but yeah, I don’t think it changes anything at that moment.”

Baker added, “It was very important. It was a downer for our team, downer for our fans, and our guys seemed to pick us all up.”

Zimmerman continued to lift the Nationals up even after the relatively good news on Harper’s injury. Washington dropped the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, but endured a seesaw affair on the backend. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Zimmerman cranked a 395-foot shot to center to break a 1-1 tie.

The Giants tied the game at 2-2, and the rubber match went into extra innings. Murphy opened the 11th with a single, and Zimmerman blooped one into shallow center to put runners on the corners. Anthony Rendon was intentionally walked, setting up Howie Kendrick for his first career grand slam — a jack to left-center that let the Nationals walk off to win the series.

Zimmerman has 27 home runs on the season, which is six shy of his career best from 2009. After batting .234 in July, he’s hitting is trending upwards with a .262 average through the first half of August.

Zimmerman and the Nationals return to action today when they host the Los Angeles Angels.