It was the moment the Nationals were hoping for in the ninth against the Mets. Down 7-6, after leading 5-0, it appeared Washington might be headed to a painful loss after New York had rallied twice to take the lead.
The Mets brought in Bobby Parnell and Jesus Flores greeted him with a single into left field. Brian Bixler pinch ran for him and Parnell uncorked a wild pitch while facing pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes. Bixler went to second and Gomes was walked.
After Ian Desmond battled to lay down a perfect bunt toward third base, Bixler and Gomes ended up at second and third with only one out.
Mets manager Terry Collins elected to intentionally walk Roger Bernadina and load the bases for Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ best hitter.
Zimmerman managed to punch a broken bat bloop single over second baseman Justin Turner’s head into right field. Lucas Duda came running in and dove for the ball in an all-or-nothing play.
Duda couldn’t catch the ball and it fell in for a two-run single as Bixler and Gomes easily scored and the Nationals celebrated an 8-7 win over the New York Mets before an elated 34,821 at Nationals Park.
Zimmerman said he caught a break on the game-winning swing. Literally.
“I was pretty lucky,” Zimmerman said. “Parnell has got really good stuff. I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and just get one in. At least hit a sac fly and hit something to the outfield in the air.”
Collins said he didn’t want to have to walk Bernadina in order to face Zimmerman with the bases loaded.
“I know we put him on to try to get a double play,” Collins said. “Bernadina is going to put the ball in play. We are going to end up facing Zimmerman anyway. We might as well just put him on. He broke his bat so it wasn’t that bad a pitch. You just go to try to win the game (there).”
Zimmerman said he understood why Collins decided to put a man on every base, hoping for a ground ball.
“That is the strategic play,” Zimmerman said. “You get a force at every base. I don’t know what I would do in his position either. Every time in any other situation you see the person walk that. I think you just got to go with what you always do no matter if it’s the ninth inning or the fourth or fifth inning.”
It was Zimmerman’s 14th walk-off game winning hit of his career. He said he is still amazed he gets so many opportunities to decide the game in his team’s last at-bat.
“I am always happy to get the chance,” Zimmerman said. “That is the unbelievable part about all this stuff is how many chances I actually get to have a walk-off hit. I have been lucky enough to get a lot of chances. It is amazing that it seems like I always find myself in that position.”