"Zim doing what Zim does. Coming through." -- Willie Harris, Sept. 6. 2009.
Ryan Zimmerman's 28th home run of the season, in the bottom of the ninth inning, made winners of the Washington Nationals, defeating their nemesis, the Florida Marlins, 5-4, breaking an eight-game losing streak in the process, before 22,325 Nats fans on Labor Day Sunday.
Zimmerman's no-doubt-about-it shot fell close to the spot where he defeated the Atlanta Braves on the opening night of Nationals Park last season. The blast was two batters after Willie Harris hit a bomb to right to draw the Nats within one.
The Nationals were the beneficiaries of a strong start by J.D. Martin, one of the few "kid pitchers" still standing at the end of the season. He went six and two-thirds innings, and gave up six hits and two walks for two earned runs. He also struck out four, and made two outstanding defensive plays to help his cause.
There wasn't much offense in the game until the late innings. The Marlins held a 1-0 lead until the seventh, courtesy of a Hanley Ramirez solo home run.
But the Marlins scratched out a pair of singles against Martin in the seventh, and interim manager Jim Riggleman went for the lefty-lefty matchup of Ron Villone against rookie Chris Coghlan. Coghlan greeted Villone with a single to right field, plating Cameron Maybin and giving the Marlins what seemed like an insurmountable 2-0 cushion.
The Nats rally started in the eighth, as utilityman Mike Morse lined a single to center with two outs and the bases loaded. His hit scored Elijah Dukes and pinch-runner Jorge Padilla. The ball got away from the catcher, but there was confusion on the base paths, and Morse was gunned out at second.
But old teammate Nick Johnson made things difficult for the Nats in the ninth inning. He laced a two-out, two-run single to pad the Marlins lead to 4-2 off closer Mike MacDougal (W, 1-0, 3.43).
With the lead, Florida called upon their current closer, Leo Nunez. But Harris took Nunez' first offering, a 94 MPH fastball, and sent it into the upper section above the Nats bullpen in right field, setting the stage for Zimmerman's dramatics.
The Z-Man does it again. When this team gets good, it'll be handy to have an all-star with a flair for the dramatic!
Elijah Dukes. He continued his current decent run by going 2-for-2 with a walk.
Villone. Brought in for the sole purpose of getting a rookie left-handed hitter out, he failed.
Nothing really ugly in this one. Big Mac was shaky in the ninth, but it was his first rough outing in a while, as he'd only given up one earned run since the start of August.
Nats off today. Tuesday they welcome the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies at 7:05 pm. John Lannan (8-10, 4.09) hosts Pedro Martinez (3-0, 3.52).