WASHINGTON, D.C.: After twenty-three frustrating innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the nation’s capital, in which Washington scored just two runs total and never held a lead, Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run home run to right off reliever Ross Stripling to put the Nationals up 3-1 in the sixth inning of Sunday night’s series finale in D.C., which was being broadcast on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
It was Zimmerman’s 32nd home run of the season, one shy of his career-high set in 2009, and his 96th, 97th, and 98th RBIs on the season, the most he’s driven in since 2009 as well, when he drove in 106. I know, I know, “RBIs!”
Dodgers’ lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Nats off the board through 4 2⁄3 innings on the mound in the third game of three for LA in D.C., but Zimmerman and the Nationals finally got to the Los Angeles’ bullpen in the sixth with Anthony Rendon walking and Daniel Murphy singling to bring Zimmerman up with two on and no one out.
Just listen to the sound of this Ryan Zimmerman crush job. pic.twitter.com/Jy26vMpPEJ— MLB (@MLB) September 18, 2017
“Rendon had a good at-bat – how he spit on that 3-2 slider was pretty solid by him,” Stripling said of the walk that started the rally.
“That was one of the better pitches I threw tonight for sure. And then Murphy hit a ball up the middle that I just missed, Corey [Seager] just missed. And then 3-1, I challenged Zimmerman with a slider and it ended up being up-middle and, obviously, he got a hold of it.”
“I had thrown two down and away and he spit on them,” Stripling said, returning to the 3-1 pitch to Zimmerman.
“They were called balls and then tried to throw one more over the plate to try to get a ground ball, at least put the ball in play, and it just ended up getting too much meat of the plate.”
“His nitro zone is up above the belt,” Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts added. “[Stripling] went 3-1, got behind him. He tried to go cutter across the belt and when the ball is up in the zone here at this ballpark, Zim, that’s his nitro zone and that’s what he did to us a couple of times tonight.”
Zimmerman did it again in the eighth, as Roberts mentioned, taking a 96 mph 0-2 fastball from right-hander Josh Ravin for a ride to right for an opposite field blast, his 33rd of 2017, tying his career-high in what’s been an incredible bounce back season for the 32-year-old third-turned-first baseman.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked after what ended up a 7-1, sweep-avoiding, win, about how big a home run that was Zimmerman and the Nationals as a team.
“It was big,” Baker explained, “cause we were behind. We were getting shut out, having trouble scoring runs, and that was a big home run. And Zim had a great day, and boy, it was an exciting game to watch and manage, and it was on national TV, so it was about time we kind of made a good showing on national TV.”
"Kind of a relief to get a big hit,” Zimmerman said in discussing his emotional reaction, as quoted on Twitter by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“A lot more of emotion than I usually show for a September game, but who knows?"
After a few injury-plagued campaigns, and a down year in 2016 that had some people, according to Baker, questioning whether he should sit Zimmerman, the 32-year-old is having one heck of a comeback campaign, with a .301/.356/.561 line, 29 doubles, 33 homers and 99 RBIs on the season after his 3 for 4 game against the Dodgers.
“Last year he was hurt, starting out hurt,” Baker said, “and I’ve always been told if you start the year off hurt, it makes for a long year, you’re playing catch-up the whole year, and you’re never really caught up, and there were people telling me to bench him and stuff, and I knew this guy was a long ways from through and he has some good years ahead of him, and it couldn’t happen to a finer guy, cause he doesn’t alibi or complain or anything, he just plays ball and not only that he’s one of your best citizens as well as your best players.”
Zimmerman, who’s taken the majority of his at bats in the clean-up spot this season, was penciled in as the No. 5 hitter in Baker’s lineup tonight, with Anthony Rendon in the three-spot after batting sixth for the most part so far in 2017.
Baker said the idea to switch things up, as it often does for him, came to him in the middle of the night while he was up thinking about lineup configurations instead of sleeping.
“I just had a premonition, an epiphany I guess last night, in the middle of the night,” he said, “and I was like, ‘Well, [Daniel Murphy] has been struggling some and Anthony had been going good, and Anthony is deadly on left-hand pitchers especially,’ so I just made the move and it worked, and Zim, like I said, he doesn’t complain or alibi, a lot of times guys would be a little upset about moving down in the order, but it wasn’t exactly moving down it was Anthony moving up, and so he came through and made us all look good.”