for this game

Zimmerman's walk-off homer gives Nationals win

Mar 31, 2008 - 5:26 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- In the first regular-season game ever at Nationals Park, Ryan Zimmerman made sure the home fans left happy.

Zimmerman clubbed a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Washington Nationals a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the season opener for both teams Sunday night.

"You can't really write up a script better than that to end the game," Zimmerman said of the fourth walk-off blast of his career, all of which have come in Washington. "It turned out perfect.

"The biggest thing we like about this is it's about the fans as much as it is about us. To be able to do something for them like that, I think they deserve it just as much as we deserve the win."

Zimmerman lined a 1-2 fastball from Braves righthander Peter Moylan (0-1) into the first row of the Red Porch in left-center field.

"I've never really hit the ball out of the infield against that guy," Zimmerman said. "I was trying to just get a ball up in the zone and try and get a base hit, bring Nick (Johnson) up, and extend the inning a little bit.

"I knew I hit it well, but I didn't know if it was going to be high enough. I thought it might hit off the wall. I was talking to it a little bit on the way to first."

The ball was caught by a fan wearing a glove and a Nationals jacket - the first homer for the home team at its new park.

"Yeah, we actually already got it," Zimmerman said of the ball. "It's nice to have. The guy was nice enough to pull off a little trade, and now it's mine."

Zimmerman swapped an autographed jersey for the treasured ball.

"I'll let my parents have it," he said. "It's one they'll never forget."

Zimmerman provided the Nationals' only walk-off homer last season - a grand slam off Jorge Julio that lifted Washington over Florida on May 12.

"I enjoy being in those situations and I've been lucky enough to have a few hits where I've ended games like that," Zimmerman said. "The fans are very knowledgeable in this city. They know when you do well and when you do bad. It's nice to be that guy that they want up there. You take pride in that and it's a tough spot to be in. So anytime you can do that, you've got to cherish it."

The Braves tied it at 2-2 in the ninth when Mark Teixeira doubled off the wall in right center. Pinch runner Martin Prado later scored on a passed ball by Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca.

Jon Rauch (1-0), who got Jeff Francoeur to bounce to second to end the inning, was awarded the win.

"It's not exactly how I pictured it happening," Rauch said. "I know I'm a better pitcher than that and I made a really poor pitch and an extremely tough pitch for Lo Duca to handle and it got away. But a win's a win."

Johnson's RBI double to right drove home Cristian Guzman with the first run scored at Nationals Park with two out in the bottom of the first.

The RBI was Johnson's first against the Braves since September 19, 2006. He missed all of last season recovering from a fractured right femur sustained during a collision with right fielder Austin Kearns at New York on September 23, 2006.

"(Jeff Francoeur's) got a (heck) of an arm out in right field, so I thought I would take a chance and snuck one in there," Johnson said. "I felt good in spring training so now I can go out there and just have fun and play and push it. I'm feeling good. Plus we got that win in the end, which makes if feel even better."

Kearns followed with an RBI single to right-center field that scored Johnson for a 2-0 lead.

Chipper Jones hit the first home run at Nationals Park - a line drive into the first row of the Red Porch in left-center field - that pulled the Braves to 2-1 in the fourth.

"I guess for sentimental purposes later on, after I'm done, when I'm sitting there with my kids watching a game at Nationals Park, I can brag that I hit the first one in that ballpark's history," Jones said. "It's kind of a cool sidebar, but I'm not overly gushing about it right now."

Nationals lefthander Odalis Perez, who was signed by the club only five weeks ago, allowed four hits in five innings. He left with a 2-1 lead after throwing only 70 pitches, including 43 for strikes.

Braves righthander Tim Hudson, who retired 19 consecutive batters, allowed two runs and three hits in seven innings. He struck out three and walked none.

"He couldn't have pitched any better tonight," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He just didn't have any luck in the first inning at all.

"(Hudson) was outstanding - just flat-out dirty," Jones said. "They kind of bum-rushed us there in the first inning with two broken-bat hits. Normally they don't fall. They fell tonight. ... (Zimmerman) put us out of our misery."

Washington righthander Saul Rivera worked two hitless innings with one strikeout and Ray King and Luis Ayala bridged the gap to Rauch.

Rauch was forced into the closer's role because Chad Cordero was unavailable due to tendinitis in his right shoulder.

"During batting practice, I felt something pop in my shoulder and I had a sharp pain that just ran down my arm," Cordero said. "At that time I was thinking maybe because it was cold and I hadn't stretched out and my arm wasn't loose. ... They gave me a shot of cortisone right before the game. Right now I'm listed as day-to-day and I should be back out there Wednesday or Thursday."

Dmitri Young, the Nationals' lone All-Star last season, did not play in the game but enjoyed the show.

"We won, that was the important thing," Young said. "'The Franchise' stepped up and did what he had to do - game-winner - perfect way for the first game."






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    FINAL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 5 1
    WASHINGTON 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 4 1 (FINAL)

    BATTERIES: ATL - TIM HUDSON, WILL OHMAN (8TH), PETER MOYLAN (8TH) AND BRIAN
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    LUIS AYALA (8TH), JON RAUCH (9TH) AN

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    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SOLO HOME RUN BY RYAN ZIMMERMAN (1) TO CENTER WITH 2 OUT IN
    THE 9TH OFF PETER MOYLAN.
    FINAL SCORE: WASHINGTON 3, ATLANTA 2

    Braves 2, Nationals 3  Bot 9, 0 OutsMar 30 10:43 PM


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    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    PASSED BALL BY PAUL LO DUCA ALLOWED MARTIN PRADO TO
    SCORE.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, NONE ON, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 2
    WASHINGTON 2 TOP, 9TH
    DUE UP FOR ATLANTA: B MCCANN (.333, 1-FOR-3)

    Braves 2, Nationals 2  Top 9, 0 OutsMar 30 10:37 PM
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    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SOLO HOME RUN BY CHIPPER JONES (1) TO CENTER WITH 1 OUT IN
    THE 4TH OFF ODALIS PEREZ.
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 1, WASHINGTON 2
    DUE UP FOR ATLANTA: M TEIXEIRA (.000, 0-FOR-1)

    Braves 1, Nationals 2  Top 4, 0 OutsMar 30 9:14 PM


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    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY AUSTIN KEARNS SCORED NICK JOHNSON.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, A KEARNS ON SECOND, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 0
    WASHINGTON 2 BOTTOM, 1ST
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: P LO DUCA (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

    Braves 0, Nationals 2  Bot 1, 0 OutsMar 30 8:44 PM


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    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    DOUBLE BY NICK JOHNSON SCORED CRISTIAN GUZMAN.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, N JOHNSON ON SECOND, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 0
    WASHINGTON 1 BOTTOM, 1ST
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: A KEARNS (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

    Braves 0, Nationals 1  Bot 1, 0 OutsMar 30 8:42 PM
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