The ball seemed attracted to Ryan Zimmerman’s glove like a magnet. Every time pitcher Ross Detwiler fired his sinking fastball to a New York Mets hitter on Friday night in a 6-4 win it seemed like the ball was pulled to the left side of the infield. And for a Nats pitcher there is no more comforting feeling.
Zimmerman recorded five outs in the first four innings and none of those plays was a routine one. He made another in the seventh after Detwiler had left for the night and maybe saved his best for last when he snared a hard-hit ball by Scott Hairston with a runner at first and none out in the eighth inning and started a beautiful 5-4-3 double play that stoned a New York rally before it even started.
“That’s why they gave him the Gold Glove a couple of years ago – and they need to give him another one right now after this game,” Detwiler said. “It was ridiculous. It seemed like everything from the second to about the fifth inning was hit over to him and he had to go either to his right or to his left and he made all the plays, he made all the throws.”
It’s possible none of his plays qualified as a true web gem. None were overly flashy. But it is Zimmerman’s ability to make the difficult look easy that hurts him sometimes with a national audience. They know he’s good. So are other third baseman – Scott Rolen, David Wright and the like. But unless you watch Zimmerman play every day it’s hard to understand that he’s turned the hot corner into his own little art gallery.
No one is better charging balls and making throws on the run. His soft hands let him snag most hard-hit balls anywhere close to him. The plays look relatively routine, but, teammates say, they are the kind that most third basemen won’t make. And you wouldn’t even really blame them for it.
“You hope he gets on ESPN for this one,” Detwiler said. “They usually don’t put him on there because he makes those plays look easy.”
A long pause, a shake of the head, a wry smile.
“He had a good one today.”
In the third inning, Andres Torres smashed a ball in front of home plate and with Zimmerman playing in to guard against the bunt it looked ticketed for left field. Instead he ranged towards the foul line, reached up and snared the ball backhanded before firing to first in one motion from the third-base bag. The ball bounced on one true hop for first baseman Adam LaRoche and the out was recorded.
The previous inning, Zimmerman robbed Mets catcher Kelly Shoppach of a hit when he dove to his left to intercept a hard shot and gunned a throw to LaRoche from his knees. All in a night’s work.
“Best in the business and I’ve seen a lot of good ones,” MASN analyst Ray Knight exclaimed on the television broadcast. “Quick feet, great agility. The ability to put the glove where the ball is. Such great eye-hand-coordination. Man, it’s a joy to watch this kid come out every day and play just defense.“
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