Bryce Harper’s big blast got all the headlines, and deservedly so, but it was Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s home run that lifted Washington to a 6-3 lead over Chicago’s Cubs after Harper tied things up. Zimmerman stepped up with two on and one out against left-hander Mike Montgomery in the eighth, and hit an 0-1 change to left field in Nationals Park.
When did Zimmerman know it was gone?
“When it landed in the flower bed, I guess,” he joked. “I know I hit it pretty good, but I hit it really high. [Willson] Contreras hit one earlier in the game kind of similar, hit it really high and then it just kept going. The wind died down a little bit towards the end, but the wind was actually blowing out pretty much the entire game. Just happy to put a good swing on a pitch and maybe got a little lucky. Who knows?”
It was particularly satisfying for Zimmerman, whose well-documented struggles at the plate against the Cubs were a topic of discussion in the lead-up to the NLDS, after he’d gone 1 for 23 against Chicago in six games in 2015, 4 for 32 in 2016, when Joe Maddon avoided Harper and went at Zimmerman throughout an entire series in Wrigley Field, and 4 for 24 in the regular season in 2017.
“Maybe I'm due; the odds are in my favor, unless I'm just going to keep going 0-for,” Zimmerman joked.
“They have good pitching, man. They do a good job. [Kyle] Hendricks and Jon [Lester] did a great job tonight. They just don't make many mistakes over the middle, and when a big league pitcher is doing what he wants to do, it's hard for anyone to get hits. It felt nice to obviously get a big hit. But yeah, to do something against them, since I haven't really done much, ever, against them, I guess.”
Zimmerman was asked if he was able to take in the importance of the moment as he rounded the bases with 43,860 fans, (minus the Cubs fans in attendance), erupting.
“I couldn't tell you anything about that run around the bases,” Zimmerman said. “I think, obviously, this franchise over the past five years, has changed a lot.
“We used to lose 90 games every year and now we're expected to win 90 games, and if we're not successful in the Postseason, it's a failed season.
“I think we all enjoy that pressure, we want it. It's just been fun to be around and be a part of it. Tonight was a special game.”
“It couldn't happen to a finer guy, number one,” Dusty Baker said after the win.
“And he's a franchise guy here. Bryce is coming on strong. But it's great to have Zimm come through in those situations, because he's been known to come through for years and years, you know, especially late in the game like that.
“You could tell he was psyched, and the fans are psyched; everybody was psyched except probably Chicago people.”
In a matter of minutes, it was a big turnaround, with the Nationals limited to just one run through the the first 16 innings of the series before they exploded for a five-run inning.
Instead of heading to Chicago overnight down 2-0 in the series, the Nationals evened things up.
Zimmerman was asked about the feeling in the dugout before the comeback, and what it would have been like going to Wrigley Field one loss away from a first-round exit?
“Not ideal, going to Chicago, 0-2,” Zimmerman deadpanned. “You know, we've answered questions about that all week, and you know, every year is a new year. Different teams, different players, different people having different years. You know, you can learn a lot from your past, but for me, the past is the past. You know, this team has nothing to do with the teams in the past. Completely different feel, completely different season.
“So we just kind of go out each day and try and win that game, and it's been that way throughout the season. Try and win each series, and now we're there. We've got three games; try and win the series.”