The batting helmet was gone. The ball, a first-pitch fastball from Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang, had vanished beyond the left field fence. And in a moment of youthful exuberance, the third baseman leapt into a mob of two-dozen teammates — and disappeared.
Moments later, Ryan Zimmerman reemerged on the dugout steps. The hero in the Washington Nationals’ 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees was ready for his curtain call.
In front of 45,157 fans — the largest single-game baseball crowd in RFK’s history — it was easy for Nationals fans to forget about the disappointment of losing four straight to the Rockies earlier in the week. Back-to-back comeback wins via late game heroics over baseball’s most storied franchise will have that effect.
"We had a tough time this week," Nats left fielder Alfonso Soriano said, "but we came back in the weekend and played very good games."
The day after the Nats rallied from seven runs down to beat the Yankees, they again found themselves in need of another comeback. Trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth and still facing Wang, who had kept the Nats bats in check all game, pinch hitter Marlon Anderson singled to right field with one out. The next batter was Zimmerman, who hit the first pitch he saw into the Yankee bullpen, then threw off his batting helmet after rounding third base and celebrated with his teammates at home plate.
"It felt good," Zimmerman said. "I knew I got it good enough once I hit it. Just to do that, especially against a team like them that you grew up idolizing and watching all the time, it was a good feeling."
Zimmerman’s shot was the first walk-off home run for the franchise since the team moved to Washington.
In the visitor’s locker room, several Yankees expressed disbelief at their inability to finish. The Yankees had taken the lead in the eighth on Alex Rodriguez’s RBI single.
"We were so close, but with one swing of the bat, we ended up being the losers," centerfielder Johnny Damon said.
The Nats can empatize. A month ago, they allowed two walk-off home runs in 72 hours. Now, they seem confident as they embark a nine-game road trip that starts tonight in Boston.
"It’s huge to go out on the road after two wins like we accomplished," Nats manager Frank Robinson said. "We couldn’t ask for much better going out on the road."