Washington Nationals: Why Ryan Zimmerman’s success is key in NLDS

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

If the Washington Nationals are going to win the NLDS, they need Ryan Zimmerman to have better success against the Chicago Cubs

Over the final couple weeks of the regular season, Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was on a tear at the plate. He drove in a run in six of the final ten games that he’s appeared in and is getting set to play in his fourth postseason in a curly W uniform.

However, Zimmerman will face a Cubs team in the NLDS that has had his number over the last couple of seasons. If you go back to 2016, he is 8-for-56 against Cubs pitching with no home runs, six RBI’s, and has 17 strikeouts.

Everyone remembers that May afternoon in 2016 at Wrigley Field when he went 1-for-7 and left 14 on base behind Bryce Harper. Three days after that 13-inning loss to the Cubs, Dusty Baker decided to move up to Daniel Murphy to cleanup in the order after Zimmerman was in the middle of Harper and Murphy.

This season, Zimmerman was 4-for-24 against Cubs pitching, but did have a RBI double against Jon Lester on June 29. The other two RBI’s he had against Chicago were against John Lackey, who is more likely to be in the bullpen for this series.

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Heading into this series, the national headline is going to be about how quick Harper can get his timing back. One would expect Joe Maddon to test that early, but if Harper gets hot, don’t be surprised if he goes to that 2016 strategy and puts him on base ahead of Zimmerman.

Now, Zimmerman is coming into this postseason with a lot of confidence. In the month of September, he hit .329 with seven home runs and 20 RBI’s. His .659 slugging percentage was the second highest in any month this year.

One thing that will be in Zimmerman’s favor for this postseason is that he has good numbers with runners in scoring position this year. In those situations, he hit .311 with 11 home runs and 73 RBI’s. The 73 RBI’s were second on the team behind Anthony Rendon.

When you look back at Zimmerman’s season, one of the moments that stood out was back on September 17. In a moment similar to what he might face in this series, he hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning that gave them the lead over the Dodgers. True, the game didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it is a moment he can draw back on.

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So, while you watch this series, keep an eye on how the Cubs decide to pitch Zimmerman. While he is a career .357 hitter in 14 postseason games, it will be interesting to see if the struggles against the Cubs comes back to rear its ugly head in October.