Sunday, May 1, 2011 4:48 p.m.
By Rich Dubroff
Somehow, the Nationals have to survive without Ryan Zimmerman. It wont be easy. It wont be fun.
On Tuesday, Zimmerman will undergo surgery to repair the abdominal tear thats plagued him all season and sent him to the disabled list three weeks ago.
Life without Zimmerman truly began on Sunday, a day after the surgery was announced, and the Nationals scratched out a 5-2 win over the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park.
Manager Jim Riggleman will use Jerry Hairston and Alex Cora at third in Zimmermans absence. On Sunday, he decided the lineup needed an infusion of experience, and sat
Danny Espinosa, stuck in a 2-for-20 rut. Riggleman played Hairston at third with Cora at second. By the way, he also played Ivan Rodriguez.
The resulting lineup featured seven regulars older than 30 and 25-year-old Ian Desmond.
Riggleman says hell make do with what he has until Zimmerman returns in six weeks or so.
Were going to best utilize everybody on the roster to scratch out as many wins as we can, Riggleman said.
At some point, Zims going to walk in the door and its going to feel like we made a major trade with this star coming in.
The Nationals hope that this absence wont be as devastating as his last significant injury was. In 2008, Zimmerman missed 48 games with a tear in his left shoulder, and the team cratered, losing 32.
By the time he returned in late July, the season was over, and the Nationals were on their way to 102 losses.
In the 19 games since he went on the disabled list, the Nationals are 10-9. Not bad.
Were not Ryan Zimmerman, Cora said. Weve been playing for a while, and we know how to win.
The biggest winner of the bunch is Rodriguez, who drove in the final two runs in the eighth inning with a single, and gunned out San Franciscos Darren Ford in the top of the eighth.
Ford is extremely fast, but not too fast for Pudge. For the second time this week, he snared a speedster. On Thursday, New Yorks Jose Reyes was the victim.
Buster Posey led off the eighth with a walk off Tyler Clippard, and Ford ran for him, and Clippard threw a change-up to Pat Burrell, and suddenly the threat was gone.
It doesnt matter whos running, Rodriguez said. It could be fast, it could be slow, it could be average. Im always ready. Im always ready for anybody.
Nearly 40 and resigned to backing up Wilson Ramos, Rodriguez preened when the talked about his throw.
Thats like going 4-for-4, he said.
Rodriguez got to catch Jordan Zimmermanns second win of the season. Zimmermann (2-4) made it through six innings, and allowed two runs. He had just two 1-2-3 innings, the fourth and the sixth, but the final one was sticky.
He threw 107 pitches, but the final 10 were to Nate Schierholtz, who fouled off four straight before Zimmermann punched him out on a slider.
I felt strong the whole time, Zimmermann said. Towards the end, I still felt strong. I felt like I threw only 80 pitches.
The 107 were the most Zimmermann has thrown since returning from Tommy John surgery last August, and Riggleman is closely watching.
Well take a look at how many innings he gets through the year and at some point make a decision about how many well let him get, Riggleman said.
Zimmermann, counted on to be the de facto staff ace in Stephen Strasburgs absence, has had an erratic first month of the season. Never dominating nor embarrassing, he was workmanlike on Sunday. He says hes stronger than he was before his 2009 surgery
I felt like that before the season even started. Zimmermann said.
Nine of the Nationals 10 hits were singles. The other was an RBI double by Cora. His two hits were a season high. Cora had just five hits and was batting .139 entering the game.
Of the starters, only Nix (.316) has an average above .242, so Riggleman was desperate to try and generate some offense. In their previous 10 games, the Nationals scored just 28 runs.
I wasnt thinking about the age thing, but weve really got some good professional hitters, players that we can put in there, Riggleman said. Zim is out, so we make some adjustments.
Jayson Werth equaled a season high with three hits, and in the first inning, showed some of the frustration thats marked the offensively-challenged Nationals. With two outs, he lined a ball to center and decided to try to make it to second. Aaron Rowands throw was in time, and Werth fired his helmet 70 feet and a shin guard about 50.