You really can’t overstate the significance of Ryan Zimmerman’s home run in Game 1 of the World Series.
Zimmerman stepped to the plate with two out in the top of the second, with the score 2-0 in the Astros’ favor after Houston put up two on Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer in the bottom of the first, and Zimmerman hit a 96 MPH 1-0 fastball from Gerrit Cole 413 feet to center field in Minute Maid Park to get the Nats on the board with their first run and first home run in a World Series in franchise history (2005-present).
Juan Soto followed two innings later with a solo shot of his own that tied things up, and the Nationals scored three in the fifth, going up 5-2 in what ended up a 5-4 win.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the series opener, “my eyes got a little watery for [Zimmerman]. He waited a long time to be in this position and for him to hit that first home run and put us on the board was awesome.”
Zimmerman certainly seemed to enjoy the moment, and recognize the significance of what the home run meant to the Nationals in the game and in overall story of the team.
“It’s been a long ride, I think,” the 35-year-old, 15-year veteran said.
“And this year has been, especially to start the year the way we did and the way we’ve been playing the last couple of months. First at-bat to hit a home run and run around the bases, you’re kind of almost floating around the bases.”
Zimmerman had two stints on the Injured List for continuing issues with plantar fasciitis in the regular season, and as a team, the Nationals had to fight back from a 19-31 start to get to the NL Wild Card Game. With a win in that win-or-go-home battle with Milwaukee, a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the NLDS, and a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, Zimmerman and the Nats fought their way to the World Series for the first time.
“In order to be able to do that is obviously what you work for,” Zimmerman said.
“It’s what not only you sacrifice for but what your family sacrifices for. That’s why you play the game, to play on the biggest stage.
“And to be able to get some runs off a guy like Gerrit, that guy has been the best pitcher in baseball for the last, whatever, four months. He’s a special pitcher and we had a good plan tonight, we executed, and luckily for us he made some mistakes.
“I have a feeling we’re going to see him again,” the 2005 1st Round pick continued. “We respect the heck out of them and we know we’ve got a long way to go.”
Soto said that Zimmerman’s blast was the spark that got the Nationals going in Game 1.
“Everybody was a little bit down,” after they fell behind early, the 20-year-old slugger said, “but after that homer everybody think we’ve got a chance.
“After we hit the homer against a guy like that, everybody think we’ve got a chance now.
“He’s been doing really well but he make a mistake, so he going to make it again and we’ll get it.”
Cole, who’d given up one earned run in 22 2⁄3 IP in his previous three starts this month, got tagged for five total on eight hits in Game 1, and the Nationals beat Justin Verlander in the second game of the series, setting themselves up with an opportunity to win the series at home with the next three, starting tonight, to be played in the nation’s capital.
“It was an incredible moment,” Martinez said when the manager spoke to reporters before Game 3. “Just imagine, we’re in Houston, we’re down, they play really well at home. We’re down 2-0. Gerrit Cole is on the mound and all of a sudden two outs and here comes Zimm and hits a bomb. I mean, literally got into one.
“To be the first guy who we all consider is the captain and who’s waited a lot of years to be in this spot, this moment, for him to obviously hit that first home run for us and get us going, you should have seen our dugout. It was electric when he did that. And I’ll admit that I got teary-eyed for him.
“It was an unbelievable feeling. We sat there and we had a moment together where he goes, ‘That was incredible.’ And I said, ‘Well, don’t stop now, you know, keep going.’ He’s swinging the bat well. He said, ‘Oh, no, this is going to be a lot of fun.’ I know he was excited.”
Tonight in Nationals Park, Zimmerman and the Nats get to play the first World Series game in D.C. since 1933, with a 2-0 lead over the Astros going into Game 3.