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Zimmerman delivers when Nats need it most

Jul 13, 2014, 12:45 AM EST

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PHILADELPHIA — Ryan Zimmerman has often talked about his ability to stay relaxed in critical moments at the plate, understanding that the pressure in those situations is not on himself but on the opposing pitcher. He’s been able to thrive so many times with the game on the line, though, not only by taking pressure off himself but also by recognizing that often a simple base hit is all that’s needed.

“I think in those situations — I’ve been in a lot of them — and the biggest thing I try to do is keep it simple and not try to do too much,” he said. “Some people try to drive the ball, or some people try to hit home runs. That’s when you get yourself in trouble. You’ve just got to try to make good contact, try and hit the ball up the middle and hopefully good things will happen.”

Very good things happened for Zimmerman and the Nationals in the top of the 10th inning Saturday night. Facing an 0-2 count against Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman, with two on and two out, Zimmerman laced a 100-mph fastball back up the middle, the single that drove home Denard Span and sent the Nats to a much-needed, 5-3 victory at Citizens Bank Park.

It was the 24th game-winning RBI Zimmerman has produced in his career in the eighth inning or later, which is closing in on the Expos/Nationals franchise record. The only players ahead of him on that list: Hall of Famers Andre Dawson (26) and Gary Carter (25).

“If that’s the case, that’s pretty good,” manager Matt Williams said. “That’s pretty special, with the amount of great players that came through the Expos organization. So if that’s the case, that’s a special talent. He takes a single when he needs it.”

Taking a single against the flame-throwing Diekman was no easy task. Zimmerman studied the left-hander as he faced four teammates earlier in the inning — Span walked, Anthony Rendon flied out to right, Jayson Werth grounded into a fielder’s choice (with Chase Utley making an ill-conceived attempt to retire the lead runner at second base) and Adam LaRoche struck out — and came away without much of a firm scouting report.

“The sequences and the pitches he threw to the hitters before, he didn’t really have any pattern,” he said. “He threw Rochie, I think, all offspeed and one fastball. I really didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t faced him much, either.”

Diekman got ahead of Zimmerman 0-2, leaving the slugger with no choice but to sit on a fastball and hope he could react to anything else.

“With two strikes, for sure,” he said. “Because if he throws it 100 and you’re not looking for it, then you’ve got no chance.”

Diekman indeed threw it 100, down in the zone but still a strike. Zimmerman calmly stuck his bat out and drove the ball right back up the middle, sending it into center field and sending Span around third to score the go-ahead run. Werth scored moments later on a wild pitch, adding a key insurance run.

Did Zimmerman realize it had been a 100-mph fastball he had just hit?

“I was just so happy to untie the game and hopefully get back to the hotel,” he said.

The Nationals were able to head back to their downtown hotel in good spirits after a 4-hour, 3-minute marathon. Not to mention a rare extra-inning win. They’re now 3-8 in extras, with their last two victories coming thanks to game-winning RBI from none other than the longstanding Face of the Franchise.

“I don’t care what the record of that team [the Phillies] is, they’re a good team,” Zimmerman said. “They’ve obviously won a lot of games. They’ve won the World Series. They have players who know how to win games. No matter what people say about them, you come in here and face A.J. Burnett and Cole Hamels and have to go through that lineup they have, it’s not easy to win here. So to get that win tonight, a huge win coming back with a day game tomorrow right before the All-Star break, it’s a big win.”

  1. David Proctor - Jul 13, 2014 at 2:32 AM

    “The first time I ever heard a good Werth-less chant was sophomore year in high school, in a basketball game. I poured in 35 that night. So I’m always up for a good ‘Werth-less’ chant.”

    I love Jayson.

    • Eric - Jul 13, 2014 at 2:36 AM


    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      +1 that is great. That fanbase has alienated him. I look forward to see if he attends the 20th Anniversary get together of the Phillies WS win.

      He could pull the “Yogi” on them for a long time.

  2. Eric - Jul 13, 2014 at 2:40 AM

    Love RZimm. So pleased about the news re: JZinn. Enjoyed watching the win tonight as I played GD tunes on stage in York, PA. Good times.

    So, am I the only one who loves that we don’t have an All Star rep? I vastly prefer it to WS victory predictions, SI covers, and the like. It also says something to me about a team-first approach to succeeding.

    Props to MW for navigating a veritable minefield during his first half season plus as a manager. Very excited that, at worst, we’ll be one game out of first at the AS break.


    • Eric - Jul 13, 2014 at 2:42 AM

      PS – the point about the lack of an ASG rep isn’t to say I’m happy that Sori and possibly Rendon got snubbed, just that it’s a very different kind of press, and I like that aspect.

      • adcwonk - Jul 13, 2014 at 6:58 AM

        Another good aspect: the Nats players will have even more of a “we have something to prove” attitude

      • sjm308 - Jul 13, 2014 at 7:36 AM

        Don’t forget the rest factor as well.

    • sjm308 - Jul 13, 2014 at 7:38 AM

      Do you ever play locally and what’s your bands name?

      Watched a great documentary before the game last night that you will love. Check out “Muscle Shoals”

      Go Nats!

      • Eric - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:01 AM

        Rarely locally, unfortunately. We’re playing the 8×10 in Bmore this fall… I’ll get the date. The band is called The Reckoning… Lots up on YouTube if you’re interested.

        I’ll check out that movie, thanks for the rec!

  3. Candide - Jul 13, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    Soriano’s ERA is now 0.97. But he’s not good enough for the ASG.

    Hey, Nats – Mike Metheny doesn’t respect you. Remember that should your paths cross in October.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 13, 2014 at 7:51 AM

      +1. My thoughts exactly.

    • knoxvillenat - Jul 13, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      And Matheny went homer picking his own Matt Carpenter as a backup instead of a more deserving Anthony Rendon.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Jul 13, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    The Nats have several players the look good to the team’s faithful, but none of the position players have matched up all that well against other players named to the team, but Rafael Soriano was seriously trashed in the player’s vote, and even more so by Matheny.

    BTW- It seems that it would be in their best interests to jump on Kendrick early today. As in the first inning
    His lines this year:

    Inning1. . . 10.50 .373 .424 .639

    Innings 2-8. . . 3.34 .255 .309 .382

    • zmunchkin - Jul 13, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      You really believe that Matt Carpenter is more deserving than Anthony Rendon? Here are their slash lines:

      Carpenter: .285 .380 .385 .765
      Rendon: .282 .340 .486 .826

      and then throw in Rendon’s 13 HRs vs. 4 for Carpenter.

      The only reason that Carpenter got picked is because his manager is the guy making the selections.

      And while his numbers are marginally better, ALR does stack up pretty well against both Freeman and Rizzo (and, yes, I know Rizzo was the fan choice). The fact that ALR is a much better defender than either of these guys should count for something.

      • zmunchkin - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:00 AM

        Wish I could edit. Reference to his was to Freeman and Rizzo, not ALR.

      • knoxvillenat - Jul 13, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        And Rendon has 50+ RBI’s while Carpenter has about 33 or so.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Really? Rendon deserves it over Utley and Carpenter.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 13, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        Listen, I’m not trashing Rendon, I love the guy. As I’ve said earlier, Rendon’s star is rising. He is having a terrific year. Splitting time between the two positions cost him in the fan’s voting, but Metheny probably should have picked him. Why Utley over Rendon? Their stat lines are pretty close. Utley was voted in by the fans for his good first half, but also as a gesture honoring a great career. The same has been done many, many times over the history of the AS teams. In my opinion, ALR should’ve been the guy on the Nats from the position players, partially for the same reasoning. He’s been in a tailspin the past couple of weeks, but at the time teams were announced an argument could certainly have been made to justify naming him. As to Carpenter? It shouldn’t surprise anybody that Metheny picked his own guy over more deserving players, as it happens pretty much every year. That’s the AS manager’s prerogative.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 13, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        Joe, thanks for writing this. I don’t blame Matheny for choosing Carpenter over Rendon but he has had opportunities to name Rendon since then and chose other players.

        There’s plenty of teams complaining about snubs but none of them are 1st place teams.

        Send Fister over Henderson Alvarez. Send Soriano. Send Storen.

        Matheny was a jerk about it. He knows the implications.

  5. NatsLady - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:02 AM


    • dcwx61 - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      nice story….remarkable scouting success with pitchers

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:45 AM

        It’s the amazing development along with the scouting. Giolito is getting all the press and Voth is flying under the radar.

  6. dcwx61 - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    WSW probability increases with ASG win
    Nats players have interest in ASG outcome
    Nats player should be on ASG squad. It won’t tire him out to play 2 inns on Tuesday…small price to play.

  7. dcwx61 - Jul 13, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    So Gio bellaches that he doesn’t want to be pushed back a day after O’s game rainout. Forcing Tanner to have extra long rest that could affect his performance. Nice team spirit, Gio.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jul 13, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      And you know this how? Isn’t it plausible that MW wanted to have his four best starters pitch before his fifth starter, who hasn’t been very good lately?

      • dcwx61 - Jul 13, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        i know this.

    • secretwasianman - Jul 13, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Didn’t he play Mr Kotter on the show?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 13, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        I wonder if he was named after him.

      • micksback1 - Jul 13, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        he did,

        remember Horshack, lol

        right you are Mr Kotter huh huh huh

  8. secretwasianman - Jul 13, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    I luv how Ryan takes what the pitcher gives him and goes with it. Too many guys always swinging for the fences. Excellent job last night.

  9. Candide - Jul 13, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Anyone know if a team has ever been completely shut out of the ASG like the Nats this year? I don’t mean that nobody from a particular team got into the game (happens all the time), but rather, that nobody on the team was even on the roster.

    Or is this unprecedented?

    • 6ID20 - Jul 13, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      Well, it happened with the Rays this year too. A non-TB replacement was named for David Price, who was their lone representative.

    • stoatva - Jul 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      I remember the Senators sending some pretty lame representatives during my youth. Don Leppert? Srsly?

  10. micksback1 - Jul 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    RZim was clutch, please take note Bryce

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 13, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Come on Mick. Enjoy it. Bryce had a nice productive out last night to move Desi up.

      There’s other players to rag on if you really want to make a point. Hairston can’t even play defense nor did he do anything with the bat until the bases were empty then removed himself from the basepaths with a bonehead novice baserunning mistake.

  11. scmargenau - Jul 13, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    *taps foot*

    Come on game board! :-)

    A win with a braves loss would be seet!





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