That's a surefire way to kill a potential big inning.
The Washington Nationals third baseman put on a defensive show Tuesday night, turning four double plays and just a missing a fifth. His defense sparked a 2-1 victory that extended the Dodgers' skid to five games, matching their season-high.
"We probably should try to stay away from him tomorrow," deadpanned Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, whose grounder to Zimmerman turned into a 5-4-3 double play that ended the eighth inning. "That would be a good idea."
The Dodgers have lost seven of eight and are 0-5 midway through a 10-game road trip. They have dropped a season-high seven straight road games and have fallen two games below .500 in their faltering pursuit of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
The offense, which has scored just 15 runs in the last eight games, was the culprit once again. Derek Lowe (10-11) took the loss despite allowing only six hits in an eight-inning complete game.
"We're having trouble scoring runs, and everybody probably goes up there squeezing the sawdust out of the bats," manager Joe Torre said. "I don't think there's any magic formula other than keep going out there and fighting the frustration we seem to be experiencing."
Lastings Milledge hit his 13th home run and made a diving catch in center field to rob Jeff Kent in the seventh inning for the Nationals, but he and winning pitcher Collin Balester (3-6) were mere subplots to Zimmerman, who was just warming up when he started 5-4-3 double plays in the second and third innings.
"Any ball that comes at that guy is an out, so you don't have to worry about that," Balester said. "I was able to throw a couple of two-seams in to get them to hit the ball over there, and that's where you want them to hit it."
In the fifth, with the bases occupied by bottom-of-the-order Dodgers who had reached via two hit batters and a walk, Zimmerman darted left for a sharp grounder hit down the line by leadoff hitter Matt Kemp. In one motion, Zimmerman backhanded the ball, stepped on third and threw home for what should have been a double play.
However, catcher Jesus Flores thought the play at home was a forceout, so he tagged the base instead of the runner, Nomar Garciaparra, who scored the Dodgers' only run. Balester then retired Andre Ethier and Kent to end the threat.
In the next inning, Zimmerman made up for an overeager error with another sharp play. The miscue came with runners on first and second and none out, when he short-hopped a grounder and whipped a throw that pulled second baseman Emilio Bonifacio off the bag.
That left the bases loaded and nobody out for the second straight inning. This time, Zimmerman rescued his team with an unassisted double play, snagging Garciaparra's line drive and stepping on third just in time to double off Manny Ramirez.
Marco Estrada, who had relieved Balester earlier in the inning, then struck out Lowe to end the inning.
Balester allowed only one run and five hits in five-plus innings. Estrada, Steven Shell, Saul Rivera and Joel Hanrahan shut out the Dodgers the rest of the way, with Hanrahan getting his fifth save despite allowing back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth.
The Nationals, opening a nine-game homestand, won for only the third time in 17 games and broke a six-game home losing streak. They had also lost six straight to the Dodgers and had been 0-5 all-time vs. Lowe.
Zimmerman's final double play came on Russell's grounder in the eighth. His four double plays doubled his career high for one game.
"It was a busy night," Zimmerman said. "I'd rather have that any night than no balls hit to me. It makes it fun. ... They can hit to me every time, that's what I think. That's what you've got to think. I take a lot of pride in my defense."
After the game, Nationals reinstated OF Elijah Dukes (strained calf) from the 15-day disabled list. OF Austin Kearns was placed on the 15-day DL before the game with a stress fracture in his left foot. ... The Dodgers plan to activate RHP Cory Wade from the disabled list on Wednesday. He has been sidelined with inflammation in his throwing shoulder.