WASHINGTON -- The return of Ryan Zimmerman proved to be a big lift for the Nationals on Tuesday night. He played his first game since April 12 and helped Washington pound the Phillies, 7-0, at Nationals Park.
Zimmerman went 2-for-4 with an RBI and played left field for the first time in his big league career, making two putouts. It almost didn't matter what Zimmerman did with the glove. Manager Matt Williams was more than pleased to have one of his power hitters back in the lineup.
"It's nice to have it the way we wanted to have it initially. We are still missing a guy [Bryce Harper]," Williams said. "Our guys swung the bats tonight. … It was all around good. It was a good victory for us."
Zimmerman missed almost two months because of a fractured right thumb, but it looked like he didn't miss a beat as far as swinging the bat. Williams said it helps that Zimmerman often takes the ball to right field.
"He hits the ball the other way so well, so he can stay on a pitch," Williams said. "That's his natural stroke. It happens quickly for him because he can do what he did tonight -- get a two-strike pitch and hit it into right field. I think that's the biggest thing for him."
Zimmerman also said it helped that he played three games in the outfield for Class A Advanced Potomac before he returned to the Nationals.
"Getting in the games down there, being able to do the work while I was on the DL helped a lot," Zimmerman said. "There is nothing like getting into the first game, getting a couple of balls. Getting a couple of hits helped, too. I felt good."
Center fielder Denard Span already sees a difference in the lineup now that Zimmerman has returned at full strength.
"He gives headaches for other teams," Span said. "You have Jayson [Werth], you have [Wilson] Ramos, [Adam] LaRoche and you are adding 'Z' back in the lineup. It just makes the lineup a whole lot deeper. It doesn't give the other pitchers a break."
But it was a team effort when it came to the victory. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was outstanding, allowing five hits in eight innings and striking out four. It helped that he threw his slider for strikes.
May was rough for Zimmermann, who had 5.06 ERA during the month. In his first start in June, he looked like the pitcher who won 19 games for Washington last year.
"I was hitting my location," Zimmermann said. "When I wanted to throw a ball, I was throwing a ball and not leaving it over the middle [of the plate]. We had a really good game plan. [Ramos] and I were on the same page. It was one of those nights where it was fun to be out there. I had everything working."
Almost everyone in the starting lineup contributed to the victory. It all started in the third inning, when Washington scored three runs against right-hander David Buchanan. With one out, Werth swung at a 3-0 pitch and hit a two-run double to left-center field, scoring Danny Espinosa and Span. LaRoche followed and he grounded out, but Anthony Rendon scored the third run.
In the fifth inning, Zimmerman drove in the fourth run of the game when he doubled near the right-field line, scoring Span.
Washington used the long ball the rest of the way. In the sixth, Buchanan allowed a solo home run to Ian Desmond and a two-run homer to Rendon.
"That's what happens. You get into hitters' counts, leave the ball up and they started hitting it. So I tried to continue to battle," Buchanan said. "Unfortunately, the ball stayed up in the zone and we got hit around."
The Nationals are back at the .500 mark with a 28-28 record.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.