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Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman thriving with fresh start in playoffs

Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman thriving with fresh start in playoffs

Nationals teammates Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez each spoke at the end of the 2016 regular season how they viewed the playoffs as a new beginning, how their frustrating years were behind them and how the postseason offered a clean slate. All numbers start at zero again in October and they were determined to use that fresh start to their advantage.

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who also had a tough year involving injuries and struggles at the plate, including a career-worst .642 OPS, thought the same for himself.

"This year was frustrating for me. I'm not going to lie. I've always been a streaky guy and I just never really got going this year. Whether it was missing a little bit of time here or there, or just not being able to get going," he said.

"I was joking the other day. When you have a great regular season, you say 'I want to carry this into the postseason.' Then, when you don't have a good season, you say 'now I get to start a new one.' It's kind of whatever you want to make of it."

[RELATED: Lobaton unlikely hero as Nats win Game 2, draw even in NLDS]

Through two games in the Nats' NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Zimmerman has looked like a new version of himself, a revitalized offensive force delivering exactly what his team hoped he could provide. He has become more important in the Nats' lineup as a right-handed bat with All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos done for the season, and so far the results have been very good.

Zimmerman is 3-for-7 with a walk, having reached in exactly half of his NLDS plate appearances. He hasn't scored or brought in a run, but he is playing better than he was just recently when he closed the regular season going 4-for-19 in his final six games.

Zimmerman, 32, says he also just feels different.

"Something in this last week or 10 days, whether it was in [batting practice] or just having time to get healthy, I feel great at the plate," he explained. "I feel like I'm right where I need to be. I'm having great at-bats. I'm just excited it came. I guess it's better late than never."

[RELATED: Lobaton's series-changing homer defied odds, elements]

Zimmerman has been among several Nats players who weren't offensive standouts int he regular season, but have produced so far through two NLDS games. Catchers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino, in particular, have been huge. Lobaton's three-run homer on Sunday essentially turned the series around.

Manager Dusty Baker, naturally, is encouraged by all of that.

"You need some untimely heroes during these playoffs. We're a team and we stress that all the time. Hey man, if one guy is not performing up to his level, then somebody else has got to pick him up," Baker said.

"This is how teams win. I mean, these guys, I'm proud of them to this point, how they have responded, especially with the injuries to front-line guys. I'm just hoping that some more guys step up."

[RELATED: Dodgers well-aware of Nats' Trea Turner and his threat to steal]

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Nats beat Mariners behind Joe Ross' career day in return from minors

Nats beat Mariners behind Joe Ross' career day in return from minors

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon homered twice and drove in five runs, Joe Ross returned from the minors to allow one run over a career high-tying eight innings, and the Washington Nationals routed the Seattle Mariners 10-1 on Tuesday night.

Bryce Harper added his 14th homer and Jayson Werth hit his seventh off Chris Bergman (1-2), who allowed all of the Nationals' runs and 14 of their 15 hits.

Rendon doubled before his second homer -- and seventh of the season -- completed an eight-run fourth inning. Ryan Zimmerman also had three hits.

Mike Zunino homered off Ross (2-0) in his return from his own minor league stint. Robinson Cano was hitless in his first game back from the disabled list following a thigh injury as Seattle dropped its fourth straight.

Ross showed no signs of the late April struggles that ended with a demotion to Triple-A Syracuse. He yielded five hits and a walk while striking out six, and retired 12 straight batters after a leadoff single to begin the game.

By the time Seattle finally put multiple runners aboard, Washington had already opened a 10-0 lead.

Rendon's second-inning shot around the left field foul pole made it 2-0.

Then Werth, Harper and Rendon all connected in the fourth, helping the Nationals score seven of their eight runs in the inning with two outs.

MORE NATIONALS: WATCH: Werth, Harper go back-to-back, Rendon hits 2 HRs in Nationals win

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WATCH: Werth and Harper go back-to-back, Rendon hits 2 HRs in Nats win

WATCH: Werth and Harper go back-to-back, Rendon hits 2 HRs in Nats win

The Nationals had a big day at the plate Tuesday night.

Washington hit four home runs, including three in an eight-run fourth inning, in its 10-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon hit two home runs – the first a two-run blast to left field in the second inning and the second a three-run shot to center in the fourth. He finished the game 3-for-4 with five RBIs.

Prior to Rendon’s second homer in the fourth inning, left fielder Jayson Werth hit a two-run blast to left field, which was followed by a solo shot from right fielder Bryce Harper in the next at-bat.

Harper’s homer was measured at 450 feet.

At the end of the fourth, the Nationals led 10-0, which also included an RBI single from catcher Matt Wieters and an RBI triple from shortstop Trea Turner.

Tuesday night’s contest was the first of a three-game home series against the Mariners, who play in the American League. The Nationals and Mariners also will play Wednesday and Thursday.

Earlier this season in a 23-5 win over the New York Mets on April 30, Rendon went 6-for-6 with three home runs and 10 RBIs to become the first player to accomplish that feat since at least 1913. He now has seven homers this season.

Harper’s homer was his 14th of the season, tying him for first in the National League with the Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman. The New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge is first with 15.

Though he did not have a home run Tuesday night, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has 13 for the season.

MORE NATIONALS: 2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals