Ryan Zimmerman was due, the Nationals were desperate and, with his team down to its last out on Wednesday at Nationals Park, Mr. Walk-Off delivered.
Zimmerman’s two-run home run off Phillies closer Seranthony Dominguez lifted Washington to an 8-7 win and gave the first draft pick in Nationals history 11 walk-off home runs in his 13-year career, moving him into a tie with David Ortiz and Tony Perez for eighth in major league history. Jim Thome hit a record 13 walk-off homers during his 22-year career, while fellow Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson and a guy named Babe Ruth all hit 12. Angels slugger Albert Pujols is the only active player with more walk-off home runs (12) than Zimmerman.
It had been more than three years since Zimmerman’s last walk-off blast against the Yankees in May 2015, which was the longest the 33-year-old had gone without adding to his highlight reel of game-ending heroics in his career. While Washington failed to gain any ground on the division-leading Braves and their margin for error over the rest of the season is slimmer than the distance by which Zimmerman’s replay review-delayed home run cleared the right field wall, the frustrations of the past five months were forgotten for a few joyous moments, thanks again to the Nationals’ face of the franchise.
“We’ve gone through a lot, good and bad,” a Gatorade-soaked Zimmerman told MASN reporter Dan Kolko after the win. “The truth is we’ve got 30-some games left and we’re going to try to win each one, and we’ll see what happens.”
Zimmerman’s walk-off home runs have always provided bright spots in bleak seasons. In fact, he has yet to hit a walk-off home run during a year in which the Nationals made the playoffs. If that somehow changes this season, Wednesday’s walk-off will be remembered even more fondly than it is now. Here are Zimmerman’s 11 career walk-off home runs, ranked:
1. June 18, 2006 vs. New York Yankees
The Father’s Day walk-off that started it all came with one out, Marlon Anderson on first base and Washington trailing the Yankees, 2-1, at RFK Stadium. “I knew it was gone as soon as he hit it,” Zimmerman’s father, Keith, told The Post’s Barry Svrluga, of the ball Zimmerman sent over the left field fence on the first pitch he saw from future National Chien-Ming Wang.
2. March 30, 2008 vs. Atlanta Braves
Zimmerman christened the first regular season game at Nationals Park with a solo home run to center field off Peter Moylan to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning. “The right guy up,” Nationals Manager Manny Acta said. “The franchise player … I couldn’t have written the script any better.”
3. July 4, 2006 vs. Florida Marlins
Less than a month after his first career walk-off home run, Zimmerman set off an early round of fireworks at RFK. With two outs, runners on first and second and the Nationals trailing, 4-3, Zimmerman crushed Joe Borowski’s 2-2 pitch out to left field to clinch a comeback win. Sure, the Nationals were already 13 games out in the division race en route to 91 losses, but it doesn’t get much better than hitting a walk-off home run in D.C. on July 4.
4. August 19, 2011 vs. Philadelphia Phillies
With two outs, the bases loaded and the game tied, 4-4, Zimmerman hit a 3-2 pitch down the left field line for a game-winning grand slam off current teammate Ryan Madson. “He’s one of those great players who’s totally in control in tough situations,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s very calm. The rest of us get a little excited, but he doesn’t.”
5. May 12, 2007 vs. Florida Marlins
A few hundred fans were in the stands at RFK when Zimmerman’s grand slam at 1:42 a.m. on Mother’s Day morning capped a five-run, ninth-inning rally that gave the Nationals a 7-3 victory. The game featured two rain delays totaling nearly four hours. “The best part is when you come around third, and you see everyone there waiting for you,” Zimmerman said after his third career walk-off home run.
6. July 31, 2010 vs. Philadelphia Phillies
The Nationals trailed, 5-4, before Zimmerman’s one-out, three-run homer off Brad Lidge gave Washington a 7-5 win. Zimmerman flipped his bat and looked at his friend Adam Dunn, who was waiting in the on-deck circle. Dunn, the subject of rumors leading up to the trade deadline, received a standing ovation in his first at-bat. “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.”
7. Wednesday vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Zimmerman, who knows the ground rules at Nationals Park better than anyone, was sure that his ninth-inning blast, initially ruled a game-tying double, was a home run. Juan Soto, who had scored from second base on the play, charged after Zimmerman to celebrate with him. Had Soto touched Zimmerman before the home run was confirmed and Zimmerman touched home plate, Zimmerman would’ve been called out. “That would’ve been awful,” Zimmerman said.
8. May 19, 2015 vs. New York Yankees
Zimmerman capped the Nationals’ rally from a 6-2 deficit with a two-run shot off the right field foul pole. Max Scherzer doused Zimmerman with chocolate syrup after the 10th walk-off home run of his career, which came against Andrew Miller. “That was a pretty aggressive celebration,” Zimmerman said afterward.
9. July 26, 2013 vs. New York Mets
Zimmerman helped the Nationals salvage a split of a doubleheader with a one-out solo home run off LaTroy Hawkins to break a 1-1 tie. Afterward, he was on the receiving end of some celebratory punches from Bryce Harper. “Unfortunately, it’s a roller-coaster ride,” Zimmerman said afterward. “We’ve been down a little bit more than we’ve been up this year. But just gotta keep going.”
10. July 6, 2010 vs. San Diego Padres
With the Nationals and Padres tied, 5-5, Zimmerman led off the ninth inning by depositing Luke Gregerson’s second pitch over the center field fence. “He’s unbelievable,” Nationals starter Livan Hernandez said. “Everybody knows he’s one of the best players in the league. This is what he do.”
11. September 6, 2009 vs. Florida Marlins
With no outs, Cristian Guzman on first base and the Nationals trailing, 4-3, Zimmerman hit his 28th home run of the season into the Red Porch to snap Washington’s eight-game losing streak. The Nationals would finish the year with 103 losses, the most in team history.
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