Zimmerman's hitting streak ends at 30
Third baseman goes 0-for-3 with pair of walks, receives ovation
SAN FRANCISCO -- When his hitting streak was all but officially over Wednesday and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman walked back toward first base in the top of the ninth after grounding into a fielder's choice, Giants fans at AT&T Park stood and cheered.
Zimmerman's hitting streak ended at 30 games, 26 shy of Joe DiMaggio's all-time record that has stood since 1941. But a standing ovation, even with Zimmerman on the road, was in order.
"They know baseball, they love baseball," Zimmerman said. "It was special. Anytime you can get people telling you good luck and people cheering you on the road, it means something. It was pretty cool."
Zimmerman went hitless in three at-bats and walked twice, one of those an intentional pass. The streak may be over, but Zimmerman's appreciation for DiMaggio's feat won't ever end.
"It makes you realize how much better 56 is than 30," Zimmerman said. "That's a long time. ... To get a hit every single game. There's got to be a little bit of luck involved, obviously, but that's not wasting at-bats, not swinging at bad pitches.
"It's hard to do every game, put four good at-bats together, especially with the talent that you face on the mound. For him to do that for 56 games in a row is pretty unbelievable."
Zimmerman's 30-game streak was nothing short of remarkable, too. He is just the seventh player since 2000 to have a streak of at least 30 games. Giants starter Barry Zito played a major role in bringing it to an end.
Zito kept Zimmerman off balance with plenty of offspeed pitches and the occasional well-placed fastball. He went 0-for-2 against Zito with two walks, including the intentional walk in the seventh.
"He's throwing a lot harder than he was last year," Zimmerman said of Zito. "He's throwing the changeup a little bit more to righties."
In his first at-bat, Zimmerman came up with runners on first and second with no outs in the first inning and hit into a double play. He fell behind Zito 1-2 then hit a hard one-hopper to second baseman Emmanuel Burriss, who was perfectly positioned just a few steps to the left of the base.
Zimmerman came up again in the third with two outs and runners on first and second. This time he worked a nine-pitch walk off Zito, who got ahead of Zimmerman 1-2. He swung and missed once and fouled off four pitches during the at-bat.
Zimmerman's struggles against Zito continued in the fifth inning when he came up with two outs, and Nick Johnson on second, and grounded out softly to shortstop. Zito missed inside with a fastball on his first pitch then fed Zimmerman a steady diet of offspeed offerings. He swung at, but missed, a 75-mph changeup, watched an 81-mph offering in the dirt then grounded out on a 73-mph change.
Zimmerman faced Zito one more time, with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh. Zito bounced his first pitch to the backstop for a wild pitch, with both runners advancing. At that point, Giants manager Bruce Bochy ordered an intentional walk. Zimmerman said he had no problem with Bochy's move.
"That's the game," Zimmerman said. "They're trying to win the game. They're not trying to cater to my hit streak. That's part of the game, and I got another chance. I had five chances to do it. I missed some pitches. That's what cost me."
Bochy said that once Zito threw the wild pitch, he had "no choice" but to intentionally walk Zimmerman.
"You are behind in the count and you have the hottest hitter in baseball up there," Bochy said. "You are trying to limit the damage."
Zimmerman's final at-bat of the game came in the ninth against right-handed reliever Pat Misch, who was recalled from Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday and made his first appearance Wednesday. On an 0-1 pitch with no outs and runners on first and third, Zimmerman grounded sharply to shortstop Edgar Renteria, who flipped to second for the forceout.
"It was a good pitch," Zimmerman said. "It almost snuck through there. They made good pitches. It's tough to get hits."
Maybe so, but during his 30-game streak, Zimmerman made it look easy. That's why the fans rose as one to cheer him.
"I thought that was very classy," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "You don't get that everywhere you go. The streak was nice while it lasted, but it's all about winning, it's about the Nationals.
"He put us a little bit on the map because of what he did. The main thing is he's going to start another one on Friday."
That sounds like a good plan to Zimmerman.
"I tried to keep it a secret for as long as I could," he joked about the streak. "It was fun, though. I enjoyed it. It was a fun ride. I'm not relieved that it's over because I would have liked to do it as long as I can."
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.