Matt Williams removed Ryan Zimmerman from last night’s game for defensive reasons

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Bryce Harper’s return to the Nationals outfield meant Ryan Zimmerman had to shift from left field back to third base, where he was once a standout defender and is now a huge question mark because of chronic shoulder problems.

And last night manager Matt Williams removed Zimmerman from the game with a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning for defensive reasons, putting into focus the third baseman’s throwing issues and what the Nationals are truly dealing with going forward.

Williams shifted Anthony Rendon from second base to third base, where he played regularly when Zimmerman was in the outfield, and brought Danny Espinosa off the bench to play second base.

Asked afterward about the move, Williams told James Wagner of the Washington Post: “At that point, we want our finest defense in there. We want to make sure that in a tight game like that we do that.”

For his part, Zimmerman called it “the right move” and added:

I’m still getting used to playing third again. Like I’ve said the whole time, Anthony has played the hell out of third base and Danny is one of, if not the best, defensive second basemen in the game. If we’re up late in the game, I have no problem doing that. I think it gives us the best chance to win.

So expect to see Zimmerman removed from games in the late innings regularly, which would have sounded crazy just a couple years ago and still seems a little bit weird considering he’s one of the Nationals’ building blocks and owed another $86 million through 2019.

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J.P. Crawford to miss four to six weeks with fractured left hand

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Phillies infielder J.P. Crawford was hit on the left hand by a Luke Weaver fastball in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s 7-6 loss to the Cardinals. He’s headed to the disabled list, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Crawford will miss four to six weeks, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki adds.

Crawford, 23, was on the disabled list earlier this season between April 29 and June 5 with a strained right forearm. He played in only 13 games before having to go back on the DL. In 112 plate appearances this season, Crawford is hitting .194/.312/.333 with a pair of home runs, eight RBI, and 14 runs scored.

Since his return, Crawford had been functioning in more of a superutility role, drawing starts at both shortstop and third base. While Crawford is mending his injury, Scott Kingery should get regular starts at shortstop while Maikel Franco maintains the starting job at third base.