By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 1, 2010; D01
Ryan Zimmerman took one step out of the batter's box and turned to his right. He didn't need to peer out toward center field. He knew, like everyone else at Nationals Park, that the ball he had just vaporized was headed for the berm on the other side of the center field fence, that the game was over. So Zimmerman looked right, flipped his bat and smiled at Adam Dunn.
"He let me know I'm not hitting again," Dunn said. "You don't get to win it today."
Hours after the Washington Nationals made him a happy franchise player by not trading away Dunn, Zimmerman polished off a 7-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies with a three-run, game-ending home run off closer Brad Lidge. Before 38,049, Zimmerman's seventh career walk-off home run and second this season lifted the Nationals to their fourth win in five games and third in a row. With John Lannan making his return Sunday, the Nationals could cobble together a sweep of the reigning National League champs and, remarkably, their first four-game winning streak this season.
Part of the joy Zimmerman derives from playing in Washington comes from Dunn. They play catch in front of the home dugout before every game. They share lockers next to each other. The relief Dunn felt at staying here transferred to Zimmerman. He released any lingering pressure with a bottom-of-the-ninth blast and a quick, memorable glance at his buddy.
"It was a good day," Zimmerman said. "Adam, a lot of us wanted him to stay around. We've got something good going here. He's a big part of it. It's a fun team to be around. When you do something like that, it's fun. It's for the team. It's not just me."
When Dunn walked to bat in the first inning, the crowd showered him with a standing ovation, a sign of its approval that he had not been traded and a reminder to Dunn that he plays somewhere he is appreciated.
"When I retire, that's one of the things that will be at the top of my list to remember," Dunn said. "I can't put into words how cool that was."
In their first attempt at holding a lead without Matt Capps, one bullpen meltdown begat another, with the Nationals unable to hold the lead starter Ross Detwiler left with in the sixth. The Nationals, led by Zimmerman, made it moot and turned Drew Storen, who occupied the mound when they lost the lead in the ninth, into a winner.
"I owe Zim at least a dinner," Storen said.
Michael Morse started the game-winning rally with a leadoff single to center off Lidge. Nyjer Morgan's attempt at a bunt single turned into a sacrifice, and Adam Kennedy drew a six-pitch walk. Up came Zimmerman.
Zimmerman worked a 1-1 count, and Lidge nearly nicked Zimmerman with a fastball in the back leg with his third pitch. He threw the next pitch, a 92-mph fastball, low and inside but over the plate. Zimmerman pulverized it. He clapped his hands and raised his right hand as he cruised around first base. When he reached home, he flung his helmet into the infield and crashed into a frenzied pile of teammates.
"If anybody is going to do it, it was going to be him or Dunn," Detwiler said. "You kind of felt it come on, but it was unbelievable."
No player in the big leagues has more walk-off home runs than Zimmerman since Sept. 1, 2005, his first day in the majors. David Ortiz and Andre Ethier are tied for second over that span with six.
"I wish I could tell you," Zimmerman said. "I just treat it like any other at-bat. I try to think that the pressure is on him and not on me. Just put a good swing on it."
He had saved what had been a dispiriting night. Detwiler allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings on five hits and three walks, striking out three, before handing the bullpen a 3-1 lead. Joel Peralta yielded a home run to Carlos Ruiz, snapping the relievers' streak of 19 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Manager Jim Riggleman charged Tyler Clippard with protecting a two-run lead in the seventh. Clippard walked Placido Polanco with one out. Raúl Ibáñez followed. He tattooed the second pitch he saw off the back wall of the Nationals bullpen, over the right field fence.
Riggleman saved the last out of the ninth for Storen. After he entered with two outs and a man on third, Ruiz roped a fastball into center to score the go-ahead run.
Once more, it was Zimmerman to the rescue. He could cherish not only another walk-off, but also the slugger watching from the on-deck circle and the left fielder and No. 5 hitter, Josh Willingham, standing on the top step of the dugout.
"I want them to stay here as long as I stay here," Zimmerman said. "That's the plan. We know it's a business. It's kind of a relief that they're still here. It's over with."