WASHINGTON (AP) — Ryan Zimmerman came forward to make a head-high running catch on a slicing line drive off the bat of Chase Utley, a routine play that drew a disproportionately grand ovation from the home fans.
"That's almost the awkward part of it," Zimmerman said. "Yeah, I caught the ball. Yeah, like, 'I can catch a fly ball.'"
He might have been embarrassed by all the fuss, but it was nevertheless a landmark moment in career of the player long considered the face of the Washington Nationals franchise. It was his first putout as an outfielder after more than 1,100 games as a third baseman, part of a good night all around for him and his club Tuesday in a 7-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Jordan Zimmermann rebounded from a mini-slump to throw eight scoreless innings, Zimmerman hit a pair of doubles and handled his two chances with aplomb in left field, and the Nationals moved back to .500 by taking the opener of the three-game series.
"There's nothing like getting into the first game and getting a couple of balls," Zimmerman said. "And getting a couple of hits helped, too."
Zimmermann (4-2) allowed five hits and struck out four, recovering well from four middling starts that had raised his usually impeccable ERA to 4.07. He got all the support he needed when the Nationals scored three in the third inning off David Buchanan (1-2), making his third career start.
"May was a pretty rough month for me, and hopefully June has better things to come," Zimmermann said. "I wanted to go nine, but eight'll be good enough."
Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with one RBI after being reinstated before the game following 44 games on the disabled list with a broken right thumb. Of greater interest was his move to the outfield, a switch necessitated by his throwing problems and the need for a strong hitter to play left field while Bryce Harper recovers from thumb surgery.
Zimmerman said he was initially hesitant to try the outfield, but he realized his chronic shoulder problems mean his days as a regular third baseman are numbered. Ever the team player, he said he just wanted to help the club win — even if there's likely not a Gold Glove in it for him, like the one he won playing third in 2009.
"I feel like I'm athletic enough to at least blend in," he said. "And not cause problems."