Solo homers to right by Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper in the first got the Washington Nationals out to a 2-0 lead on the New York Yankees early last night, but Gio Gonzalez imploded in a 40-pitch, four-run fourth which followed three solid innings on the mound in which the left-hander threw a total of 30 pitches and got eight ground ball outs from nine batters (and one low liner back to the mound).
The Yankees added two runs in the top of the fifth with Carlos Beltran singling and scoring on Mark Teixeira's two-run bomb to left, but the rally back from the 6-2 deficit the Nats found themselves in began in the bottom of the fifth.
Danny Espinosa walked and scored one out later on an RBI double by Clint Robinson. Robinson scored on an RBI single by Ian Desmond and Yunel Escobar made it a one-run game with the fourth straight hit off Yankees' starter Nathan Eovaldi, who was lifted after that at bat.
Harper grounded into an inning-and-threat-ending 4-6-3 to end the Nationals' fifth, but in the bottom of the sixth, after a quick inning of work by Blake Treinen, the Nats tied it up when Wilson Ramos got the green light on a 3-0 pitch from hard-throwing Yankees' righty David Carpenter and hit a monster shot to left to tie the game up at 6-6.
"It was a 3-0 count," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said after the game. "Give him the green light and he takes his shot, to his pull side. Again it's just guys understanding what we need in that situation. So he's looking for a pitch to drive, not necessarily hit over the fence, but get in scoring position to allow a base hit to score him. So, that's the purpose of a 3-0 swing, is to get one to hit so you can have multiple bases."
Ramos took all four bases, after taking a moment to admire his work, which extended his current hit streak to 19-straight games.
It stayed tied until the bottom of the tenth, of course, when Ryan Zimmerman came up with a runner on after a Yunel Escobar walk, and hit a 3-1 fastball off the right field foul pole for a walk-off blast and the first runs of the year off Yankees' left-hander Andrew Miller, who'd thrown 17 scoreless (in which he gave up just two hits) before taking the mound in Nationals Park.
"It's pretty special, isn't it," Williams said after watching Zimmerman's tenth career walk-off, which was his first since July of 2013.
"You don't realize things like that until it's pointed out," Williams continued, which makes some sense since he wasn't in D.C. for any of Zimmerman's first nine.
"It just means that he knows what he's doing. He hits to 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, we know that, and tonight he hit the foul pole with it."
Williams was particularly impressed with both Zimmerman and Escobar's approach against Miller.
"Just laying off sliders," he said. "It's a difficult slider for a right-hander. He's crossfire, he's [6'7''] and throws in the upper 90s with a real good slider and it's difficult to lay off of it. Yunel laid off it to walk and then Zim got in a good hitter's count and got a fastball to hit."
The win lifted the Nationals into a first-place tie with the New York Mets in the NL East, but the Nats' skipper said he was more focused on the work they did to win this one rather than the big picture or the current standings.
"I just like the way we're going about it," Williams told reporters.
"Tonight's a difficult climb, because we're down early, and guys battled and you're going to face two of the best pitchers in the game at the end of the game. I just like the way we're going about.
"Their energy. They're playing well. They feel like they're in the game, they battle back. I like that."
The 37,355 fans in attendance, or at least those who weren't cheering for the Yankees, liked it too, and Zimmerman sent them home happy again, reminding anyone who'd forgotten why they call him "Mr. Walk-Off."
We talked about Zim's walk-off, the Nats' win and more on the latest edition of Nats Nightly: