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Zim walks Nats off into first-place tie

May 20, 2015, 12:22 AM EST

May 19, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) is doused with chocolate syrup by pitcher Max Scherzer (31) after beating the New York Yankees 8-6 at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday night in bottom of the 10th inning, with one of the best relievers in baseball on the mound and a chance to close the gap on first place for the first time this season, the Nationals had a rather fortuitous turn of the lineup as they aimed for their 11th comeback win of the year.

Yunel Escobar led off with a walk and behind him awaited the hottest hitter in baseball. The focus of the 37,355 in attendance at Nationals Park closed in on a matchup of titanic lefties.

One the best slugger in the National League at this very moment. The other a towering 6-foot-7 lefty who mixes mid-90s heat with a slider that comes across his body like a tidal wave.

With Bryce Harper and Andrew Miller of the Yankees going at it, however, on deck waiting his turn was one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history. Ryan Zimmerman watched Harper strike out on a 3-2 slider and then proceeded to hand the Nationals a victory with his 10th career walk-off home run.

Zimmerman is only 30 years old, yet he’s already only three behind the all-time leader, Jim Thome, who has 13 walk-off homers. Right behind Thome with 12 are guys like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and Frank Robinson. The only active players with more than Zimmerman are David Ortiz and Albert Pujols, who each have 11.

That’s not bad company for Zimmerman, who for much of his career has battled injuries and at times played with a lot less talent surrounding him than Mantle and Ruth had.

“I’m just lucky to be in that situation that much. It’s obviously special, and something that once I’m done, I think I’ll look back on and appreciate a lot more,” Zimmerman said. “Right now, I’m just happy for the win and be able to do something to help us win games. That’s the important thing.”

Zimmerman may not be able to appreciate it fully quite yet, but his coaches and teammates sure can.

“Pretty special isn’t it? You don’t realize things like that until it’s pointed out,” manager Matt Williams said.

“It just means that he knows what he’s doing. He hits to the situation like he did tonight. He got ahead in the count and got a good pitch to hit. He’s got power to all fields.”

“It’s amazing. He’s not a real emotional guy. He just doesnt get caught up in the moment and try to do too much,” Drew Storen said. “So he just goes up there and has a professional at-bat, no matter what. Obviously, more times than not, it works out pretty well for him. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Zimmerman’s first walk-off home run also happened to come against the Yankees, that one on Father’s Day of 2006. This homer was a winding line drive to right field that bounced off the foul pole.

“It was real fair at the beginning, and at the very end it started to take a right turn. I knew I hit it good enough, it was just gonna be a matter of whether it stays fair, and I got lucky to hit the pole and sometimes you just get lucky,” he said.

Zimmerman raised his right fist in the air as he ran from first to second and was doused with Gatorade at home plate. Then, as part of a new custom for walk-off wins, he was drenched with chocolate sauce by starter Max Scherzer.

This was Zimmerman’s first time getting chocolate sauced and he’s not sure what to think of it.

“It’s alright. That was a pretty aggressive celebration. But that’s Max, so it’s good,” he said.

Everything feels better when you’re in first place, or tied for it as the Nationals stand after Tuesday’s 8-6 win. After starting the year 7-13, the Nats are 16-4 since. They made up an eight-game division deficit in just 22 days.

“We knew we were gonna play baseball like we were supposed to. There’s gonna be times where you don’t play good like we did at the beginning of the year, the key is obviously to not have long stretches like that,” Zimmerman said.

“When it happens at the beginning of the year, everyone overreacts and puts too much into it. We just kind of stayed the course, kept working hard and doing what we do every day and knew it would turn around.”

  1. scmargenau - May 20, 2015 at 12:30 AM

    Holy moly batman !!!

    #chocolatesyrup

  2. Eugene in Oregon - May 20, 2015 at 12:42 AM

    GYFNG!

  3. Eugene in Oregon - May 20, 2015 at 12:54 AM

    Jacoby Ellsbury to the DL.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2015 at 1:08 AM

    Choc-off! That was great. Amazing comeback and tied for 1st Place on May 19, 2015

    • scmargenau - May 20, 2015 at 1:21 AM

      Graf em all.

      Actually trade high when it makes sense. Ian isn’t needed and if u can get much for either jzim fister or Stras u have to do it

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2015 at 1:23 AM

        Still won’t happen. Continuity and Chemistry. Rizzo is sticking with his core.

      • Hiram Hover - May 20, 2015 at 8:05 AM

        Yes. Trade them all!

        I hear the Marlins are thinking this year is their year!

    • natsfan1a - May 20, 2015 at 9:13 AM

      Zimm had a bit of a syrup mullet going as he walked back to the dugout. 😀

  5. scmargenau - May 20, 2015 at 1:22 AM

    Bah spell check. If I was MNF that wouldn’t count cuz he typos every post. *trade

    And ghost don’t even think about disagreeing, u know it’s right

  6. chazzmichaelmichaelzz - May 20, 2015 at 1:29 AM

    Glad I got to see a Zim walk-off HR in the first game held in Nats Park in 2008. That was a great win. It’s pretty crazy to think Zim averages nearly one walk-off HR per season.

  7. lplipty - May 20, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    Probably harpers worst game in 3weeks

    • rayvil01 - May 20, 2015 at 6:19 AM

      Yes, that homer was awful.

  8. Joe Seamhead - May 20, 2015 at 7:14 AM

    In some ways this come back win was just as impressive as the one against the Braves, just in a different way. This reliever Miller had not given up an earned run all year. Also, I was trying to remember if Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper. Wilson Ramos, and Ryan Zimmerman had ever all homered in the same game?

  9. Hiram Hover - May 20, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    Love to Zim come thru like this. He still knows a few things, after all.

  10. Candide - May 20, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    Does this season feel different from 2012 and 2014?

    As good as the team was those years, I always had the nagging feeling that when it really counted, they could be beaten by another good team, and the Cards in 2014 and the Giants last year proved that. What I saw was a team of free-swingers with little plate discipline, that could score in the early innings and then be shut down after putting some runs on the board early. You usually got the sense that the game was lost if they fell behind in the middle innings.

    This year is different, or at least it FEELS different to me. In past years, after coughing up a 2-0 lead and seeing it turn into a 6-2 deficit, I’d have given up on that game, even if I kept watching. Last night, even when it was 6-2, my thought wasn’t that the game was already lost, but rather that it would be interesting to see if they could come back; I considered it a strong possibility, even when they were four runs down. And when they fought back to 6-5, even though the rally petered out, even though they still trailed, I was convinced they would eventually win somehow. And they did.

    This year feels different. If you’re not leading the Nats by a half-dozen runs in the bottom of the ninth, be afraid; be VERY afraid.

    • Candide - May 20, 2015 at 8:30 AM

      Argh… Cards in 2012.

      • Serious Jammage - May 20, 2015 at 8:41 AM

        Even if you were just correcting a typo, “Argh… Cards in 2012” still makes complete sense to me.

        And I agree with you — no lead is safe against our boys. In April and May I felt like we were the bad guy in a Jason or Freddy movie, the one who walked really slowly but the (terrified) Mets could never really escape no matter how much faster they seemed to be going.

        It’s already been, and will continue to be, a very fun summer.

  11. Section 222 - May 20, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    Good piece yesterday by Chelsea Jane on the Nats’ plans for Difo. Makes perfect sense really. And she points out that we have six rookies on the 25 man right now. They may not all stick for the full year, but they are getting valuable experience. (At least they are dumping Gatorade coolers and learning how to avoid injury in a walkoff dogpile.

    The future is now.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2015/05/19/what-will-the-nationals-do-with-wilmer-difo/

  12. Joe Seamhead - May 20, 2015 at 9:00 AM

    http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_05_19_nyamlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box&c_id=was&partnerId=ed-9241605-55222047#gid=2015_05_19_nyamlb_wasmlb_1&mode=video

    Span’s catch of Gardner’s tailing liner was even harder then it initially looked. He covered a fair amount of ground, but the angle of his glove, with his right arm stretched across his body, makes for a very high degree of difficulty to make that catch. Smooth Operator indeed!

    • Joe Seamhead - May 20, 2015 at 9:01 AM

      oops, maybe one of you can make that a direct link, otherwise just hit ‘video’ and watch it.

      • natsfan1a - May 20, 2015 at 9:09 AM

        For some reason, whenever I think I’m directly linking to a video on mlb.com, it doesn’t end up that way.

    • Steady Eddie - May 20, 2015 at 9:13 AM

      Watching that liner from the field level n Section 136 (RF corner), my first reaction was “no sweat, Span’s got this”; then very quickly turned to “no way, it’s hitting the gap much too fast”.

      What made it most amazing and exciting was Span’s ability simultaneously to put on a burst of acceleration AND tuck his glove at the proper angle to avoid over running the ball. Looking at it on the replay, it seemed that the liner was curving down and in on Span, so to get there fast enough and make that last second adjustment to not lay out completely and have the ball cut under him made it an even more spectacular play than it looked in real time.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 20, 2015 at 9:25 AM

        Agreed, Eddie.He’s traveled further, and maybe even made some that looked more spectacular at first look, but that was as well played as any catch I’ve seen him make.

    • Section 222 - May 20, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      Span’s catch was the Capitol One premier play of the day.

  13. natsfan1a - May 20, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    Went to bed while it was still knotted up, but so nice to wake up to a happy game results email. The Z-Man walked them off, eh? Of course he did. I loved it back in 2006, and I love it now. Don’t ever change, Zimm.

    Watching the Span catch, I was all “ohhhh” and then I was all “!!!!” Don’t ever change, you smooth operator, you.

    How about Difo and his first at-bat/knock? Niiice…

    And the ‘pen? Niiiice…

      • natsfan1a - May 20, 2015 at 10:05 AM

        Niiice.

        The Yankees were like “Can we have a win, Nats?”

        And the Nats were like, um, no.

      • Section 222 - May 20, 2015 at 10:25 AM

        And then there’s this:

  14. natsfan1a - May 20, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    On another note, I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.

    ===

    Adam Kilgore @AdamKilgoreWP · 11h 11 hours ago

    Adam Kilgore retweeted Adam Kilgore

    Well, I’d say the Nats shoved this tweet from three weeks ago up my a–.

    Adam Kilgore added,
    Adam Kilgore @AdamKilgoreWP
    “It’s early” is irrelevant. How often do great teams go 7-13 over 20 games at any point? Eight games is real wood to chop. Even in April.

  15. momhw - May 20, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    After reading Boswell’s column about Bryce and his interaction with MW, it made me wish I could send the comments below to the “flounder fish” about their decision to make a non-player/non-manager their manager. I can just conjure up the scenario of Jennings talking to Stanton about hitting – “well think of how you’d scout a player and then apply that to how you might swing the bat.” Not helpful!

    From Bos – “We don’t talk mechanics. We talk philosophy,” Williams said. “Mid-game things. Stay calm. Know what you can and can’t do. . . . Understand that if he walks, he sets up the rest of our lineup. He is at the center of that. Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos are proven RBI guys.”

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