Notes: Zimmerman unfazed by near miss
Third baseman shrugs off critics after flirting with cycle
HOUSTON -- One day after flirting with one of baseball's most difficult accomplishments, Ryan Zimmerman was laid back and unfazed about the near miss.
His manager thinks it's just a matter of time before Zimmerman hits for the cycle.
Zimmerman had a single, triple and home run against the Astros on Tuesday night and came up with a chance to get the vaunted cycle in the seventh inning. He grounded out to end the effort.
"Some of the guys told me I needed a double to complete it," Zimmerman said with a smile on Wednesday. "But you don't go up to the plate trying to get a double. You think about it a little, but not while you're up at the plate."
The 22-year-old third baseman says he had missed the cycle by one hit one other time in his 1 1/2 seasons in the Majors and came close a couple of times in the Minors. He admits it would be nice to reach that goal, which has been done by only one Nationals player, Brad Wilkerson, April 6, 2005 at Philadelphia.
"It would be cool," Zimmerman said. "But it's hard to do. The triple is actually the hardest one to get, especially for someone like me who doesn't hit many of them.
"Some of the guys were joking with me about it before my last at bat. They were saying, 'Hit a double, blah, blah.' I didn't let it bother me."
In a blowout game, an 11-6 win over the Astros, a lot of people were thinking about the cycle when Zimmerman went for it.
"It is something you always want to see a guy do," manager Manny Acta said. "Especially when they get the triple, which is the toughest one to get. But I guarantee you, he'll have a couple of them in his career."
Good problem: Acta has four players rotating for the three outfield spots and thinks it is a nice dilemma to have.
New acquisition Wily Mo Pena, Nook Logan, Austin Kearns and Ryan Church are all playing well enough to be on the field so Acta is trying to give them all playing time.
"It shouldn't be a problem because we've just got a month to go," Acta said. "We will rotate them just as we feel it should go, whoever gives us the best chance to win that day. It's better than not having enough players out there.
"This time of year, most of the guys have enough at-bats that it shouldn't be a problem. We want to see Wily Mo a lot to see what he can do and we want to see if Nook can continue having the success he has had."
Logan was back in the lineup a night after he collected a Nationals record five hits, but said he doesn't think he has any guarantees.
"I think that would help anybody," he said of the five hits. "But I understand we've only got three spots and a lot of guys deserve to play. I know me and a couple of others are playing well now."
Another chance: Left-handed outfielder Ryan Langerhans cleared waivers after the Nationals designated him for assignment last Saturday. So the Nats outrighted him to Triple-A Columbus as they had hoped to do.
The former Atlanta Brave, who came over in a trade from Oakland on May 2, never showed the promise he did in his first two full seasons in the Major Leagues when he hit .267 and .241 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. When the Nats designated him, he was hitting just .156.
"We had already seen the better version of him in the years he spent with the Braves," Acta said. "That's the player we were envisioning when we got him. We hope he can go down there and get some at bats and work his way back."
Acta said there is "a very good chance" Langerhans will be one of the September callups when Major League rosters are allowed to expand.
Defense counts: Catcher Brian Schneider is one of the National League's top guns in throwing out potential baserunners. So while he's hitting only .232, the Nationals are not worried about him.
"I always think he can be a better hitter than he has been," Acta said. "I thought that since the days in Montreal. But his main value to us is catching and running the pitching staff."
Schneider ranks second in the Majors in throwing out would-be basestealers in the last three-plus seasons with 102 (behind the Yankees Jorge Posada with 113). From 2004-2006, Schneider trailed only the Cardinals Yadier Molina in percentage of runners thrown out, 36.9 to 45.9.
Still, Acta knows the low batting average bothers Schneider.
"He's very hard on himself," Acta said. "But I think with time he'll get to the point of hitting better."
Coming up: The Nationals wind up the four-game set and the season series with Houston on Thursday when left-hander John Lannan (1-2, 3.94) faces right-hander Juan Gutierrez 0-0, 4.50) at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Jim Carley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.