Ryan Zimmerman on If the Nats' Current Hot Streak Resembles 2019 Turnaround

Zimmerman on if the Nats' current hot streak resembles 2019 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Nationals' incredible turnaround in 2019 -- going from a 19-31 record in May to a World Series title in October -- is well documented by now.

But, could history be repeating itself once again in 2021? After another slow start this spring, the Nationals have won nine of its last 10 games and find themselves just four games back of the New York Mets for first place in the NL East. 

So, it's only natural that fans of the Nationals are starting to draw parallels between the two clubs.

Speaking on The Sports Junkies on Thursday, longtime Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was asked if he saw similarities between the 2019 Nationals and the club's current squad.

"It's a great group of guys. It's not the same group as '19, obviously, a lot of guys aren't here," Zimmerman said. "But I think that's what [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] and [manager] Davey [Martinez] and those guys do so well. They build that clubhouse culture where that core group of guys has [those] same characteristics."

In 2019, the Nationals' slow start was attributed to a handful of injuries and just poor baseball. This year, the team was dealt an even worse hand, between a COVID outbreak delaying the beginning of the team's season to injuries to Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Juan Soto, three of the club's best players.

As for how the Nationals have been able to turn it around this year, Zimmerman believes it's been the team's mindset of continuing to look forward, rather than dwelling on what's happened.

"When you get off to a slow start, nobody enjoys getting off to a slow start," Zimmerman said. "But there's nothing we can do about it, so we might as well look ahead and try and figure out a way to turn the page and right the ship. That's kind of what we've been doing lately."

When Washington won the World Series in 2019, they did so on the back of an incredible starting rotation headlined by Scherzer, Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. The Nationals' rotation is still its strong suit in 2021, but it's been a handful of other arms that have stepped up for Washington as of late.

"Our pitching has been unbelievable. That's why we won in 2019. Max [Scherzer] is back, hopefully he can stay back and not have to have any other setbacks or anything like that. Erick Fedde has been throwing the ball unbelievable. Corbin, too," Zimmerman said. 

Corbin was one of the Nationals that was sidelined to begin the season due to COVID, and when he returned to the lineup he struggled. But lately, the left-hander has picked up his velocity again and has been throwing the ball really well.

"[Corbin] was basically doing spring training starts in his first couple starts in the Big Leagues, which is tough to do," Zimmerman said. "You can see in his last five or so starts now, he's throwing 93-94 again, not 89-90. He's been unbelievable. The pitching is doing great."

As for the Nationals offense, much of the turnaround can be attributed to the hot streak -- that's putting it mildly -- that Kyle Schwarber is on right now. Since moving to the leadoff spot, Schwarber has hit nine home runs in his last 10 games. Over that span, he's also raised both his on-base percentage and slugging percentage over .100 points.

"Schwarbs has been unconscious," Zimmerman said.

With Schwarber setting the lone from the leadoff spot, Zimmerman feels that the rest of the offense is focused on just keeping the line moving, rather than trying to do too much with each at-bat.

"We're just starting to get these singles and get it to the next time. I think at the beginning when we were struggling a little bit, we might have been trying to do too much as an offense," Zimmerman said. "Everyone was trying to hit that three-run home run when they got the chance, instead of getting that single to right and getting the next guy up. .. We're just starting to play a little bit better baseball."

As the Nationals continue to heat up, the clubhouse is having fun again.

"Winning is contagious, too. It's a lot more fun to win," Zimmerman said. "People's confidence grows. [Wednesday's 13-12 win over the Phillies] was the perfect example. We were down so many times, but you just keep grinding away and all of a sudden you come out with a crazy win. I think we're now one game under .500 right now. We're right where we need to be."

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