Mark Hornbaker: Ryan Zimmerman is Nats’ Mr. Clutch

Since his first full season in 2006, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has shown a real knack of hitting walk-off home runs. His latest walk-off happened Friday evening. The Phillies and the Nationals were tied 4-4 and the bases were loaded with Nats when Zimmerman hit a two-out grand slam off Ryan Madson. For Zimmerman, it was his second career walk-off grand slam and his eighth career walk-off home run.

The 26-year-old Zimmerman, who is in his sixth full season with the Nats, has hit at least one walk-off home run in each season. Of the eight career walk-off home runs Zimmerman has hit, six were hit off of division rivals, three against the Florida Marlins, two - his last two - against the Philadelphia Phillies and one against the Atlanta Braves.

It is simply amazing when you start to break down the numbers. Of the 21 home runs Zimmerman hit in RFK Stadium, three were walk-offs. The third baseman didn’t waste any time putting his mark on the Nats’ new ballpark. In the inaugural game at Nationals Park on March 30, 2008, a sellout crowd of 39,389 witnessed Zimmerman’s first walk-off home run in the new ballpark.

With two outs in the ninth inning Zimmerman crushed a line-drive, walk-off home run off of the Braves’ pitcher, Peter Moyland. The home run gave the Nats a 3-2 victory over the Braves. Since that cool evening in March, Zimmerman has hit four more walk-off home runs at Nationals Park.

I believe a lot of baseball fans across the country are starting to realize what Nats fans have known for six-plus seasons: that Zimmerman, the two-time Silver Slugger recipient, is one of baseball’s premier clutch hitters. If you don’t believe it, maybe these numbers will make you change your mind. Currently, Zimmerman has hit 125 career home runs, eight being walk-off home runs. Below is a list of the eight players that have hit 600 or more career home runs, with their homer totals and, in parentheses, their walk-offs.

Hank Aaron, 755 (9)
Barry Bonds, 762 (10)
Babe Ruth, 714 (12)
Willie Mays, 660 (6)
Ken Griffey Jr., 630 (5)
Alex Rodriguez, 626 (9)
Sammy Sosa, 609 (10)
Jim Thome, 601 (12)

With Zimmerman being only 26, there is real good chance he will challenge the following five Hall of Famers - and one future Hall of Famer - that are tied with 12 walk-off home runs: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Fox, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson and Jim Thome.

Mark Hornbaker blogs about the Nats at Nationals Daily News and shares his views on baseball in D.C. as part of’s season-long initiative to welcome guest bloggers to out little corner of the Internet. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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