“You doing all right?” Zimmerman asked Ovechkin, after the two D.C. sports legends exchanged a hug and a hand pound in front of the Nationals’ dugout. “I’ll talk to you after.”
There would be plenty for the two D.C. sports legends to discuss.
A couple of hours after Ovechkin’s ceremonial pitch landed in Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton’s glove, Zimmerman delivered the key blow in Washington’s 6-1 win, a three-run home run to deep center field in the fifth inning with his team clinging to a one-run lead. By the end of the game, Ovechkin, who cheered from a section behind home plate, wondered on Twitter whether he should make the trip to California for Wednesday’s game. The Capitals host the Stars on Tuesday and play again Thursday at Nashville, so Zimmerman probably shouldn’t get his hopes up.
“Me and Ovi, we’ve been here pretty much together the whole time,” Zimmerman told MLB Network after the game. “We were here as young guys, we used to see each other out all the time. Now we have families and things like that, and I’ve obviously watched his career, and what he’s done has been amazing. He’s just a good friend. We root for each other and for him to come out here tonight was pretty cool.”
As the faces of their respective franchises for more than a decade, the 34-year-old Ovechkin and 35-year-old Zimmerman were pals long before the Capitals and Nationals’ intracity bromance blossomed in recent years. At one of his first Nationals games, on Sept. 27, 2006, Ovechkin threw the ceremonial first pitch before watching Zimmerman hit a home run against the Phillies at RFK Stadium. Maybe Ovechkin should do whatever it takes to be at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, even if it means he’ll be a little tired against the Predators.
Last June, Zimmerman and Monday’s other Nationals hero, pitcher Max Scherzer, donned full hockey gear at Capital One Arena to pump up the crowd before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. When the Capitals brought the Stanley Cup to Nationals Park three days after they clinched their first title with a Game 5 win in Las Vegas, Ovechkin put his arm around Zimmerman when the teams posed for a group photo in the Nationals’ clubhouse.
For all of their individual and team accomplishments, and their knack for coming through in big moments, Ovechkin and Zimmerman have both experienced their fair share of playoff disappointment over the past 15 years. Ovechkin, who has averaged nearly a point per game in 128 postseason games, didn’t make it out of the second round of the playoffs until Washington’s Stanley Cup run. Zimmerman is now hitting .306 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 23 career playoff games, but the Nationals are still looking for their first postseason series win.
Ovechkin may not be at Dodger Stadium when Zimmerman and the Nationals play for a spot in the NLCS on Wednesday, but there’s no doubt he’ll be rooting for his friend from afar, and ready to celebrate should Washington advance.
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