Ryan Zimmerman has spent his whole professional career with the Washington Nationals. He’s the franchise’s leader in hits, home runs and runs batted in. However, he may not have ever delivered a bigger hit.
In Monday’s game four of the best-of-five National League Division Series, with his team clinging to a 2-1 lead vs. the two-time defending National League champion Dodgers, Zimmerman clubbed a towering three-run home run to give Washington a 5-1 lead.
Nationals ace Max Scherzer scattered four hits and one run over seven innings to earn the victory. Virginia Beach’s Daniel Hudson, a former Old Dominion University standout, slammed the door in the ninth inning.
The Nationals went on to win 6-1 and force a winner-take-all game five Wednesday in Los Angeles.
The 35-year-old Zimmerman, lifted a chest-high 96.6 mph fastball from Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez high into the air in the fifth inning with the Nationals ahead 2-1. It remained there for what felt like an eternity and settled 414 feet later, scoring Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick, sending the 36,847 fans at Nationals Park into a frenzy and making those who didn’t fill the thousands of empty seats at the stadium feel immediately silly.
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It was a signature moment for a Nationals franchise that still lacks a playoff series victory and will seek its first with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. Zimmerman, long ago nicknamed Mr. Walk-Off, hasn’t hit many in recent years as age has gnawed at his game.
Had the Nationals lost Game 4, Zimmerman would have hit free agency this winter without a clear read on his future. He is in the final season of a six-year, $100 million contract. The Nationals will almost assuredly exercise a $2 million buyout rather than an $18 million club option. He could retire and start a five-year, $10 million personal-services contract with the team, though Zimmerman threw cold water on that idea.