By The Sports Xchange
ATLANTA — Before Ryan Zimmerman was activated from the disabled list on Saturday, Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker talked to him about forgetting his disappointing season and urged him to hit the reset button.
Zimmerman, who entered the game hitting .222, took Baker’s message to heart. He responded with three hits, including a homer on the first pitch he saw, in the Nationals’ 11-9 win over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night at Turner Field.
“I didn’t know he was going to do it that quick,” Baker said. “First pitch he saw.”
Zimmerman, who was activated earlier in the day after missing 16 games with a left wrist contusion, joined teammates Anthony Rendon (four hits) and Daniel Murphy (3-for-4) to pace Washington’s 17-hit attack.
Zimmerman hit his 13th homer of the season, scored twice and drove in two runs in his return.
Much of the damage came in the fourth inning when Washington sent 12 men to the plate — including eight consecutive hits — and scored eight times.
“I thought there was some hitting going on,” Baker said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen eight hits in a row, maybe since the days of the Pirates and the ‘Lumber Company.'”
The beneficiary of the outburst was starting pitcher Max Scherzer (13-7). The right-hander bounced back from his worst start of the season, when he allowed four runs in four innings against the Colorado Rockies, to pitch 6 1/3 effective innings. Scherzer also contributed two hits, including an RBI single in the eight-run inning.
Scherzer allowed four runs, six hits and three walks while striking out three to even his career record against Atlanta at 2-2.
The Braves pecked away by scoring six runs in the final three innings and forced Baker to bring in closer Mark Melancon to get the last out of the game.
“We came roaring back,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We had some really good at-bats, which is typical when we’ve faced an upper-tier guy. They seem to rise to the occasion.”
Melancon allowed a two-run single to Chase d’Arnaud that cut the lead to two runs. Pinch-hitter Anthony Recker, who represented the tying run, popped out to end the game.
Melancon picked up his 36th save of the season.
“It’s scary every day,” Baker said. “Give those guys credit. They didn’t quit. I’m just glad we won the game.”
The losing pitcher was Tyrell Jenkins (2-4), who has been beaten by Washington in back-to-back starts. Jenkins breezed through the first three innings before being knocked out of the game in the fourth.
“It looked like he was going to go seven,” Snitker said. “He was crisp. His location was good. Then it completely turned upside down.”
Ender Inciarte, Tyler Flowers, d’Arnaud and Jace Peterson each had two hits for the Braves and Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a ninth-inning single.
The Nationals have won three straight overall and 11 of 12 against Atlanta this season. The Braves have lost seven straight.
Washington scored a run in the second inning when Zimmerman hit the first pitch he saw from Jenkins into the seats in left field. It was Zimmerman’s 21st career homer against the Braves.
Atlanta came back in the bottom half of the inning with three runs off Scherzer. Flowers led off with a double and scored on d’Arnaud’s fielder’s choice. Inciarte followed with a ground-rule double and Adonis Garcia drove both runners home with a double that bounced off the fence.
Washington sent 12 men to the plate and scored eight runs in the fourth inning — one short of the franchise record — to regain the lead. The uprising included a solo homer from Murphy, his 23rd, a three-run shot from Trea Turner, his fourth, and an RBI single from Scherzer.
The rally knocked Jenkins out of the game. The rookie was charged with nine runs on eight hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. In two starts against the Nationals, Jenkins has allowed 16 runs in eight innings.
“You can’t make mistakes,” Snitker said. “You’ve got to do a better job making adjustments on the fly. … It’s part of a young pitcher’s plight.”